Amazon is planning two devices, the first of which is the previously rumored ‘expensive’ version with a 3D user interface, eye tracking and more. Both devices were under the ‘Project B’ moniker before the news was leaked on WSJ earlier this year. The expensive model’s code-name has since been changed to ‘Duke’ and now ‘Smith’ — and a release is not planned this year.
The ‘Smith’ project includes a device that sounds like a bit of a hardware beast. The screen itself is not 3D but the device features four cameras, one at each corner of the device that will be used to track eye and head motions in order to move the interface around to ‘give the impression’ of 3D. Instead of using the phone’s internal sensors, like Apple does with iOS 7, it would base the movements off of the user’s point of view. Theoretically, this will provide a more accurate 3D representation of the screen’s contents.
The Smith smartphone sounds like the hardware is so complicated that it might never see the light of day. And if that doesn't kill it, the anonymous Hacker News source says that the development team has been having problems with retaining staff:
They wanted to have it launched already but had difficulties with both software and hardware, and then lots of key players left the company - a common problem at Amazon is retention, having the lowest record of any tech company.
But even if that smartphone never sees the light of day I still think we'll see a Kindle smartphone. That's what the original anonymous source says and I believe it.
My belief in a Kindle smartphone stems not from rumors but from 2 widely available facts:
- Amazon sees their gadgets as a means to sell more stuff, and
- More and more stuff is being bought from smartphones than ever before.
Tell me, have you ever read an interview of Jeff Bezos? One thing you'll find in almost every interview is a statement along the lines of:
Bezos said Amazon does not make money on the devices themselves, but the company does hope they will usher users toward Amazon's main business: creating and delivering digital content, like Kindle e-books, movies, TV shows, and music.
"We think we're better aligned with our customers if we make money when people use our devices, not when they buy them," he said. (source)
That's been Amazon's policy ever since they dropped the price of the Kindle in mid-2010, though I don't know for sure that it was an expressed policy until the Kindle Fire launched in late 2011.
And when you combine that policy with the latest news about mobile purchases the conclusion is obvious:
Mobile transactions on Adyen's third-party payment platform grew 27 percent from May to August, as the Amsterdam-based company reported that such transactions now account for 17.5 percent of all worldwide digital purchases processed via its global payment solution.
Worldwide purchases originating on mobile devices represented just 13.8 percent of all digital purchases on the Adyen platform at the end April, the company said.
Amazon is working on a smartphone. In fact, I'm kinda surprised that we haven't seen one already.
After all, it wouldn't take much effort for Amazon to license a smartphone design and slap their logo on it. It might not work too well, but that didn't stop the Kindle Fire, did it? Furthermore, Qualcomm is on good terms with Amazon and they are used to licensing their smartphone designs to hardware companies. I'm sure they would be happy to help Amazon build a decent cheap smartphone.
And yes, I know that in the past I have denied or disbelieved the rumors. That was before I knew for sure that Amazon could make money by selling stuff via the smartphone. It was the piece of the puzzle that was missing.
I half expected to see a Kindle smartphone at last year's launch event, but was disappointed. I couldn't quite put my finger on the reason why I expected to see it but now I think I know.
It just makes too much sense.