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?