Amazon is sending mixed messages of late about its hardware projects. On the one hand, we have leaked reports of mass layoffs, while on the other hand I have also uncovered recruitment videos.
The WSJ broke the layoff news yesterday, reporting that:
flamed out with critics and consumers last year in its first attempt at a smartphone. Now, rather than forge ahead, as it has with other projects, such as its Kindle tablets, the online retailer is retrenching.
In recent weeks Amazon has dismissed dozens of engineers who worked on its Fire phone at Lab126, its secretive hardware-development center in Silicon Valley, according to people familiar with the matter.
The layoffs were the first in the division’s 11-year history, these people said. But the precise toll on its roughly 3,000-person staff couldn’t be learned, in part because Amazon typically requires employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement in exchange for severance payments.
The layoffs should not be generalized to imply that all of Amazon's hardware efforts are facing cutbacks, because Amazon is also actively recruiting employees for its other divisions.
Over the past few months Amazon has been posting videos on Youtube which highlight the work of various parts of the company.
There's a bunch of videos on Lab126, as well as videos for Ivona (Poland, TTS), Evi (UK, voice recognition for Alexa/Echo), and the Kindle EU team.
There was also a promo video for Amazon's screen tech sub, Liquavista:
When that video was first noticed a couple weeks back, it caused a flurry of speculation. Many at Mobileread wondered whether it was a sign that Amazon was about to do something wonderful with Liquavista screens.
Given that this is but one video in a series, I don't think we can draw that conclusion, but it is a sign that Amazon hasn't forgotten the screent ech company they bought in 2013.
Speaking of speculation, here's a rumor I didn't really expect to come true.
Buried in the WSJ story on the Fire Phone team layoffs were a couple brief mentions of other devices that Amazon has under development which Amazon may have culled along with the Fire Phone.
It seems Amazon has an iPen prototype in the works, as well as a larger tablet:
Amazon has also halted or scaled back other development projects, according to people familiar with the situation, including a smart stylus internally called Nitro, which translates a users’ scribblings into digital shopping lists; a device dubbed Shimmer for projecting images on walls and other surfaces; and a tablet code-named Project Cairo, with a 14-inch screen.
That Project Cairo tablet sounds an awful lot like the 12" tablet rumor that Digitimes reported earlier this week. True, the screen sizes are different, but there's a high probability that a team working on a plus-sized tablet would be experimenting with several screen sizes with the goal of shipping a single model.
Alas, it doesn't look like we're going to see that Project Cairo tablet any time soon.
image by kodomut