Opening Amazon's Walled Garden Could Prove Tricky

from the wireless-worries dept

Mike Arrington offers some unsolicited advice to Amazon about how to expand the market for the Kindle. In a nutshell, he thinks Amazon should aggressively license the Kindle hardware specs to third parties, and allow authorized vendors to use the Kindle brand. Amazon would require licensees to use the Kindle store, and would share the associated revenues. There’s a lot to be said for a plan like this. The key to long-run dominance of many high-tech industries is to be the platform around which other firms build their products. Amazon’s got a solid product with a fair amount of buzz at the moment, but that could easily evaporate if another company comes along with a more compelling product. Getting a lot of third-party vendors to build products around the Kindle ecosystem could help establish it as the standard e-book platform.

The difficulty with opening up the platform is that the Kindle business model—particularly the wireless aspect—depends on limiting the Kindle’s functionality. Amazon is able to offer free cellular access for the life of the product in part because it controls the applications that will run on it, and can therefore guarantee to cell carriers that users won’t start running bandwidth-hogging applications on it. And Amazon is willing to pick up customers’ bandwidth bills in part because it charges premium prices for content, some of which is available for free off the open Internet. So if Amazon licensed the Kindle name to third parties, it would have two choices. It could tell the vendors they’re on their own in terms of negotiating their own wireless plans, which would be a headache for the vendors. Or, if Amazon wants to bring third parties in under its own wireless umbrella, it will presumably need to impose some draconian restrictions on the functionality of the Kindle clones. And how many vendors are going to want to sell Kindle clones that have all the same limitations as the original?

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Opening Amazon's Walled Garden Could Prove Tricky”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

ebooks are not inherently tethered. I have hundreds of PDFs of school books, gaming books, and just plain novels that I’ll have on my laptop, PDA, flash drives, home computer, pvr, and wherever else I want them. it is a lot better than carrying 50+ pounds of books everywhere. it is only when people start making them use a proprietary format that problems arise.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Striking Their Own Wireless Deals

Instead of every licensee striking their own wireless deal to load content into their “Kindles” (as Amazon has with Sprint EV-DO networks), why would these licensed devices not use other radical “tethering” technology: USB, flash memory cards? The price could be substantially lower.

I mean, the EV-DO thing is nice, but is it necessary? Surely some consumers would think not.

Tagbert (profile) says:

It would be better to open the ebooks

It would be better in the long run if Amazon would open up the kindle to other ebook formats (the DRM kind. it already supports the non-DRM formats). We really need a common ebook format that can be used on all devices while not scaring off the authors and publishers. (PDF is too rigid for this) Of course it would be best for end users if we could just drop the DRM, but that doesn’t seem likely for now.

The kindle is a great device. Those who own them, love them. I read more now that I have the convenience of carrying a small library with me. I still read paper books,to , but the kindle is an appropriate alternative.

bluebearr says:

Sounds like a simple problem to solve:

“You can license our platform. You can piggyback on our deal with the carriers – but only if you run this bandwidth-throttling app. For free, we’ll give you this width of pipe. If you want more pipe, you have to pay us more. If you don’t like our prices, feel free to negotiate your own deal with carriers.”

Would this be so terrible?

Michael Long (user link) says:

Better solution

I have a better solution: Port the Kindle SOFTWARE to other platforms.

Why not have, for example, a Kindle application on the iPhone? Ilium and Stanza have already shown that the iPhone makes a good (if not great) ebook reader. Battery life isn’t a significant issue. I managed to read for about five hours one day last week (that kind of day), and still had a half charge on the phone.

Amazon simply needs to determine if it wants to sell 200,000 or so Kindles, or sell ebooks to 8 or 9 MILLION iPhone owners.

Make software for Blackberries, Instincts, and more, and suddenly you’re talking some significant numbers.

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