Steve Jobs and Apple have been sitting on comfort street given the company's dominance in the mobile space. While competitors are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to give Apple a run in mobile, Amazon, a company not seriously competing with Cupertino, could become a major threat, and easily.
The success of the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad have pushed Apple firmly into the mobile space. While Android is making a historic run against Apple in the smartphone platform war, Apple is still on top of the mobile heap, and has reached it with just a few products. Jobs and Apple are definitely the forces to be reckoned with, and I believe Amazon is the company in a good position to do take it right to them.
Infrastructure and Ecosystem
Apple used the iTunes ecosystem to drive sales of its mobile gadgets, a strategy that has been successful. Customers get locked in to the content sales system for music, video, apps and now ebooks. This ecosystem stands in the way of those trying to compete with Apple in mobile, as it makes the cost of entry quite significant for most companies. Competitors need a music store, video store, app store and ebook store to challenge Apple's dominance.
Amazon has one thing that Apple lacks, a massive global retail infrastructure. It is already in place, and a big leg up for an Amazon entry into mobile. The Amazon MP3 store is already operating and competing with the iTunes store. Amazon offers video-on-demand (VOD) commercially, and the Kindle bookstore may be the biggest ebook retailer in the world. All that is missing is an Amazon app store, and that was just kicked off by the company. To break into the mobile space in a big way Amazon needs to seamlessly bring all of these online retail operations into one entity.
The company already makes its own gadgetry with the Kindle line of ereaders. What if they carry that experience forward and produce a full-fledged tablet? That's the hot area in the mobile space currently, as witnessed by all the tablet activity at the CES this week. An Amazon tablet could be produced running Google's Android platform, which is an easy (and cheap) entry into the mobile arena. It could be a Kindle branded tablet, but if it was up to me I'd go with a simple Amazon Tablet brand. There are already Android apps for the MP3 and Kindle stores, so those could be preinstalled on the Amazon Tablet. The key is the tablet wouldn't just be used for consuming Amazon content, it would facilitate buying it, and that's Amazon's core business.
An Amazon Tablet could instantly put the company in direct competition with Apple in mobile, but Apple does have the iTunes application. Sure, iTunes has become a bloated piece of programming that often infuriates users, but it still makes the mobile experience relatively seamless for Apple customers owning mobile devices. Amazon would need a desktop client to make its Tablet compete, and there's an easy way to get one.
All Amazon would have to do is buy the doubleTwist Corp., producer of the doubleTwist app for Android and other platforms. DoubleTwist is essentially iTunes for Android in its current form, and could handle the Amazon Tablet from day one. The program already integrates Android devices with the Amazon MP3 store and the Android Market, all Amazon would have to add is conduits into the VOD and Kindle operation. Or perhaps it makes sense to leave the Kindle stuff as it is, already handled well by the Android Kindle app. The point is producing a tablet and acquiring doubleTwist would give Amazon an instant end-to-end ecosystem in the mobile space. This would be instant competition for Apple, and formidable competition at that.
Amazon has been rumored for a while to be working on a tablet, so this is not just a product of my fervent imagination. The company launching its own app store makes sense when taken in this context, doesn't it? As magical as Apple may be, it would make the world much more interesting if giant Amazon fired a Tablet across Apple's bow.