No incentives for hardware makers to partner Amazon

Web giant now offers hardware, software and content for Android users, but since it makes its own devices and has limited global presence, hardware vendors have little reason to partner the Kindle maker, note analysts.

The launch of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet which runs on Android, coupled with its new Silk browser and appstore, indicate that the Web giant has created a compelling alternative to Google's own Android offering for consumers. However, analysts say hardware vendors are unlikely to be as attracted as Amazon still manufactures its own devices and its global presence remains limited.

According to Jessica Kwee, research analyst at Canalys, while Amazon has taken steps to provide a viable Android alternative to Google such as opening the Amazon App Store to distribute Android apps, there are reasons hardware vendors are unlikely to take the bait with regard to packaging Amazon's content with their mobile devices.

First, the U.S. online retailer has yet to make its services available to other hardware makers, Kwee explained in a phone interview with ZDNet Asia. Currently, only users of Amazon devices such as the Kindle e-reader can access and download content from the company.

In addition, the fact that it manufactures its own mobile devices mean that other hardware OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have "no incentive" to partner with the company, she explained.

Second, Amazon also has limited presence globally compared with Google's Android, which is more widely available, the analyst noted. As such, device makers planning to partner Amazon would have a smaller reach compared with their link-up with Google, she added.

Amazon currently ships its Kindle device to over 100 countries internationally, but there are no details yet on whether its Fire tablet will be shipped to these markets too.

Ovum's practice leader, Adam Leach, earlier stated that Amazon was positioning its own services above those of Google's by using its own Android appstore and mobile browser Silk, essentially creating its own variant of Android.

"This will have significant implications for developers wishing to deploy Android applications to the device if the two platforms do not remain compatible. It will also force consumers to choose if Amazon's set of services are more valuable to them than Google's when buying a tablet," Leach noted.

Giving consumers new options
Dickie Chang, senior market analyst at IDC Asia-Pacific, however, believed Amazon might find success with its Android ecosystem. He told ZDNet Asia that should Amazon succeed with the Kindle Fire, other hardware OEMs then would "definitely consider" collaborating with the Web company.

"I think Amazon creates an option for consumers as they own rich content. It is time to compete both from hardware and content side," Chang said.

That said, should Google continue to provide more valuable services and content such as Gmail, calendar and maps, then consumers will choose its Android ecosystem, he added.

Kwee concurred, noting that the two companies are actually playing in different fields. Amazon, she noted, is targeting consumers that are primarily focused on media consumption, while Google's audience is wider given the services they provide.

Ultimately, though, Chang said Amazon is a "special case" because it utilizes Android OS and, yet, possesses a huge library of its own content.

"We are watching if this could be duplicated in other place or vendors," the IDC analyst said.

Google declined to comment for the article. 

Hardware makers ZDNet Asia spoke to were noncommittal about their future plans to collaborate with Amazon for Android content.

A Samsung spokesperson said: "Samsung remains platform-agnostic. We are open to collaborate with multiple partners who share a common objective of delivering unique content and services for the best interest of our consumers. "

Sony Ericsson, another strong Android device partner, declined to comment.


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