WSJ: Amazon Testing Smartphone


Lorraine Luk: Inc. is working with component suppliers in Asia to test a smartphone, people familiar with the situation said, suggesting that the Internet retail giant, which sells the Kindle Fire tablet computers, is considering broadening its mobile-device offerings.

Officials at some of Amazon’s parts suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Seattle-based company is testing a smartphone and mass production of the new device may start late this year or early next year.

[…]One person said that the screen of Amazon’s smartphone currently being tested measures between four and five inches.

Thus, with nary a moment of hesitation, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed last week’s Bloomberg report.

With regard to the oft-rumored Amazon phone itself, the sole element of concern I have for Amazon’s future as a hardware manufacturer resides with its use (or misuse) of its own Lab126 division. Lab126 has held the responsibility for the entirety of Amazon’s e-ink Kindle line — both in terms of hardware and software — since its inception. With the Kindle Fire, however, Amazon evidently viewed its entry into the tablet space as less of an investment and more of an experiment, thereby foregoing thorough Lab126 development.

Considering the Kindle Fire sits atop Amazon’s all time best-selling products, I would imagine the experiment has proceeded rather successfully. Thus, with the viability of an Amazon-branded tablet in mind, it seems fair to presume that Amazon’s forthcoming sequel to the Kindle Fire will be developed internally. With Lab126 developing the entirety of the product equation, my general inclination would broach cautious optimism for the impending tablet — much more than I would’ve otherwise.

For all of this, with rumors swirling around the shrouded Amazon phone, I simply wish to express my sincere hope that Amazon does not repeat its Kindle Fire strategy. Amazon could easily adopt a basic hardware chassis — much like it did with the BlackBerry PlayBook’s enclosure for the Kindle Fire — and shoehorn its software into this environment. Problematically, however, such an endeavor is half-baked at best.

Heaping further concern onto the already significant pile, if the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are to be believed, Amazon is shopping around in the Asian technology market for this product. Although this may well be for manufacturing purposes, the alternate possibility is that Amazon is embarking upon a similarly experimental project to the Kindle Fire. Lab126 is not mentioned in either article.

For the technology industry, June, 2012 marked a tidal shift in the binding developmental process beneath the marketplace. Both Microsoft and Google disregarded precedence in their respective niches within the tablet space and sought to develop their own hardware and software internally. Considering Amazon is working with its own off-brand version of Android, the commerce giant would do well to observe such a shift and embrace such a fundamental tenet of the newfound industrial hardware strategy.