I just finished recording a great discussion for the soon-to-be-launched, if not long-awaited, OutsourcedCMO show in which we not so much dissect, as gloss over, Amazon.com's retail reign in spite of economic turmoil. It's an interesting discussion that spans the history of online direct selling, including the online cambrian era in which the first macroscopic retailers emerged from the boom/crash sludge, to the phanerozoic era, in which abundant online retail life exists and many such life forms are trying to figure out whether or not they should actually kill one another.
I, for one, don't think that they should. Kill one another, that is.
Whatever does this have to do with Amazon and the Kindle?
The Kindle is a brilliant platform -- right, I said it, it's a platform -- because it greases the skids on a whole category of products that Amazon already owns outright: books. They have boatloads of them. They are known for books. They've been doing books forever. And other than Google, there is no other company making such hay about making books available electronically. You can't underestimate this point: There is no cognitive leap required to go from thinking about Amazon the book seller, to Amazon the ebook seller.
But, platform? According to NYTimes, Amazon is working on making the Kindle format open to mobiles.
“We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones,” said Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon. “We are working on that now.”
If the Kindle initiative was about channel and platform development more than just unit sales, they succeeded on many fronts. First, the device ain't bad to hold and look at. Second, they throw in absolutely sexy always-on wireless from Sprint bundled in the cost of the device. Third, they give you access to a massive library of content, including the web, with no real strings attached. It's hard not to be sucked into the Kindle movement, even if you don't actually own a Kindle.
And there's the rub. Opening up the platform to iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and so on, suddenly has greased the skids yet again, providing content to devices Amazon no longer has to support. Will Kindle on iPhone kill the Kindle device? Probably not, but who cares? Amazon has already won on the platform.