Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why the iPad will eventually make Amazon a software company

I wrote yesterday that the iPad is the best Kindle yet -- you sent me some e-mails about that, so let me expand.

The iPad runs a Kindle application that is easily as functional as my Kindle 2 though not quite as fancy as the iBook app. However, the iPad features a backlit, easy-to-read IPS screen that seems at least as easy on the eyes as electronic ink and requires not external lighting source. In addition, the color qualities of the IPS screen make the browsing experience much better -- looking a book covers in grayscale electronic ink seems prehistoric when compared to the full color of the iPad screen.

Although I elected to purchase the iPad without the 3G, the Whispernet over wifi flies -- there is no wifi option for the Kindle, so you are stuck with Sprint coverage and Sprint speed if you want data connection to your Kindle. The 3G version of the iPad works worldwide and, although there is a worldwide Kindle version available, those of us that purchased the original Kindle 2 are limited to using it within the United States. I will say, however, that it was nice to be able to pop on to the Kindle 3G and purchase a book in an airplane (before they closed the door, of course) if I happened to run out of books on a trip -- wifi only will cause me to have to make sure that I download what I need over the airport wifi before I board (or start flying an airline that has in-flight wifi).

One of the major differences between the Kindle 2 and the iPad is the physical size and I have to admit that I have not yet tried using the iPad in all of the places where I use my Kindle 2. The Kindle 2 is very much the size of a regular hardback book (much thinner, of course), while the iPad is more towards the magazine side of things. However, I did have the chance to compare the iPad to the Kindle DX and it seems equally as manageable from a size perspective -- of course, the iPad has no need for the fixed keyboard that the DX has, so the iPad feels like it has more screen real estate.

On to the title of my post: I honestly believe that Amazon should/will become a software purveyor instead of a hardware purveyor. At the time that Amazon wanted to push the e-book market hard, there simply was a vacuum as it related to hardware/readers, so they created one -- the hardware drove the core business sales, which were the books. Since releasing the Kindle 2, Amazon has churned out Kindle reader software for Windows, OS X, the iPhone/iPod Touch, and BlackBerry, effectively dissociating the Kindle branding from the hardware and associating with e-book consumption via multiple hardware platforms.

Operating under the assumption that Apple will continue to drive the price of the iPad down as they release future versions (did $99 seem too cheap for an iPhone when it was first released?), it may become too costly for Amazon to compete with Apple, and the big question is whether they really want to. One strategy, probably an attractive one, would be for Amazon to release one more hardware revision of the Kindle as a bridge between the price of entry for the iPad and the current price of the Kindle. Ultimately, Amazon could focus on continually refining software and expanding the platforms that they use as conduits to sell books and magazines, and get out of the manufacturing business.

It is important to note that Amazon has an awful lot of software offerings already such as EC2 (elastic compute cloud, which allows you to use its servers to create virtual servers) and S3 (simple storage solution, which allows you to pay pennies on the GB to store files on its servers) -- you can find a full list here. For those of you that might question the software strategy, it is important to understand that software is already a part of the strategy, not something new; manufacturing/product design was the real departure.

Here's to hoping Apple continues to allow the Kindle app on the iPad.

1 comment:

Robert Pöhler said...

Nono, Amazon will not become a software company. I often read books in the evening inside my bed. There is no problem when I go sleeping - but I think it's not very good when I would sleep on an IPad :)