Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kindle Thoughts

So we now have the Amazon Kindle and Bezos has at last put his own personal ‘Midas touch’ behind the ebook. Does this mean we have an ‘Oprah moment’ and the kiss that turns the ugly ebook reader into a Prince and the ebook into a commodity?

The Kindle’s greatest strength is its greatest weakness. The wireless EVDO connection may appeal to the US market, but will not migrate without change to other markets. It’s like going backwards to the old SIM card days. But will the great free offer of wireless connectivity make the difference in a US market that is gradually going community wireless anyway?

So you have just bought an iPhone and now ask yourself, do I want the Kindle at an extra $399? It can’t be used as a phone, doesn’t play videos or games, or audio and is basically tethered closely to Amazon. You can read newspapers and documents but you can do that on any PDA and decent phone today. The new Amazon interface may appeal but at $399 and $9.99 a book it doesn’t stack up. It may hold 200 books but will cost you $2,400 with Amazon to get there!

It is just not sexy in its design and although better than the prototypes, it shows its 3 year germination period. It reminds us of that Michael Douglas film, where he is walking down the beach talking into a mobile phone that resembles the brick - clunky. We have all seen the convergence of technology which has forced even narrow players such as Blackberry to widen their offer. We have seen the design of the iFamily and frankly this is not even in the same park.

Those who argue that ‘if Amazon can’t make it work, no one will’ are both right and wrong. We would agrue that Bezos is not Midas and does not have divine authority he is also not a manufacturer or designer. We must also remember that Bezos is a long game man and believes in commitment to long-term plans, so his nerves are a lot more resilient in the short term than the current ebook market watchers.

What remains an issue, is content. Even with 200,000 titles the volume remains small in comparison to the printed world. Unlike music there is not easy digital tap to be turned in the book market and today we talk about ebooks in a vacuum of content. This will change, but it will be several versions of the Kindle before the volume is there.

Finally we would suggest that the Kindle is for those that bought a Sinclair 5 and those who are already are ebook evangelists and those who believe we are close to the tipping pointy.