Amazon has responded to Friday's rumor about a Kindle smartphone, and it looks like I was correct when I wrote that the "planned" smartphone was a lot less definite than some might think. And it won't be free, either:
A spokesman for Amazon.com Inc. said Sunday the online retail giant won’t launch a smartphone this year, and that if it did launch one in the future, it “would not be free.”
I told you that the "free smartphone" would probably turn out to be a "subsidized smartphone", and now it seems that I got that one right. I also suggested that the rumor on Friday was much more likely to be an idea being batted around Amazon HQ than a real product under development, and so far it looks like I was right on that point as well.
On a related note, Michael Arrington posted on Friday's rumor and pointed out that the idea of "free" Amazon hardware had been around since at least 2010 without ever actually making it off the whiteboard:
In 2010 I had a good source saying that Amazon was trying to figure out how to give a free Kindle to its Amazon Prime members – the best and most loyal Amazon customers who pay a yearly fee for free shipping and (now) premium digital content.
They had the same problem then – they’d do it, said my source, “Just as soon as they can work out how to do it without losing money.”
I’m not sure they’ll ever figure it out. Hardware costs and software development isn’t cheap. And if the product sucks because the hardware is dated or the software is iffy, then people won’t really want it. The kind of customer who’ll live with a sub par free product probably isn’t who they’re targeting.
I had missed the connection to the earlier free hardware rumors, but that doesn't change the fact that the current rumor is just as nebulous as the previous rumor, thus proving Hoffelder's Razor:
Any time a rumor about a hot tech product floats around for more than a year it is safe to assume that the rumor is less about a "product" and more about an "idea" which may never have gotten off of a whiteboard.
At this point all signs point to the Kindle smartphone still being far more of an idea than a product, even though the rumor has been circulating for a year or more. That strikes me as a good reason to discount the rumors for the indefinite future, don't you think?