Amazon is a huge and hugely influential online retailer. But of late it has become something much more than that: a purveyor of hardware. Not just any old hardware, but well-made hardware that people actually want to own. The question is: after the Kindle eBook reader and the Kindle Fire tablet what hardware could be next on Amazon’s wish list?
Amazon released its first Kindle in 2007, and while it wasn’t the first or only eBook reader on the market it was the device that brought eBooks into the mainstream. With ultra-competitive pricing Amazon was able to sell millions of Kindles and then make money from the sale of eBooks. There have been several iterations of the hardware since, with the new Kindle Touch being the latest.
Kindle Fire Tablet
Alongside the Kindle Touch Amazon also unveiled the Kindle Fire, a tablet in the mold of, but not competing with, the Apple iPad. Priced at just $199, the Kindle Fire is affordable to those millions of people who covet an iPad but simply cannot justify the price tag. Amazon is likely losing a small amount of money on each Kindle Fire sold, but like with the Kindle will make money from the sale of digital content after the hardware is in the hands of consumers.
Alongside the registration of trademarks for the Kindle Fire came a separate company name, with ‘Seesaw’ playing host to the Android tablet and its associated products. This could simply be a bookkeeping tactic, splitting the tablet business from the main Amazon brand in order to protect it and open up the possibility of selling it off in the future should things not go as well as hoped. Or it could be the start of a whole new business for Amazon, one in which the online retailer is a true hardware manufacturer.
Smartphones? Laptops? TVs?
With an eBook reader and tablet under its belt, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Amazon will produce more hardware in the future. Essentially any device which connects to the Web, and can handle the consumption of digital content, is ripe for Amazon to dabble in. A smartphone is the most obvious next step, with many people now using them to do much more than simply communicate with others. But laptops and netbooks are also a possibility. And how about an Amazon-branded television? On that score Jeff Bezos and Co. could even beat Apple to the punch.
The key for Amazon, whichever direction it heads in next in terms of hardware, is to keep prices low and quality high. If it can achieve that blend then it could become a true hardware giant.