Friday, September 07, 2012

It was a Good Week For Amazon and a Bad Week For The Rest

Well it was a good week for Amazon and a disappointing one for the rest. That may sound a bit harsh but what is becoming clear is that even the strong players and pretenders often lack Amazon’s vision, customer focus, market understanding and delivery and in some cases many of these.

So what was so good for Amazon?

First they raised the device bar and ‘Fired’ everyone up for Christmas. New fire tablets, better Kindle ereader and Fire devices coming to UK. The announcements weren’t earth shattering, but well communicated and sufficient to nullify the opposition. It was if they were being innovative, as the reality was that they were just doing the same as their main competitors in the ereader device market and raising their tablet bar in order to compete better with their real competitors in the tablet arena; Apple, Samsung and Google. They also claimed that the original fire had captured 22% of the US tablet market which should be a significant wake up call for all given its basic features.  

The interesting twist was their media focus. They own: Audible, the leading audiobook player, Lovefilm, a leading European on demand film service, ABE the largest rare and second hand book marketplace, Book Depository a significant global book retailer, are a growing publishing force both for established and new authors and of course are the largest global ebook and physical bookseller buy any measure. They now are clearly starting to intertwine these offers, using ‘Prime’ to generate loyalty and with yesterday’s announcements starting to build a differentiator that will be hard for others to follow let alone compete with. Their new announcements on X Ray and their new serial programme are clear indicators of them pushing the boundaries.

Then we have Judge Cote approving the DOJ settlement with three publishers which some would suggest leaves Apple, who can afford to play hardball and the other two publishers who perhaps can’t afford too, looking exposed.

They also announce that they will be taking on 600 more staff in a new depot at Hemel Hempstead, 3,000 temporary staff over Christmas and creating 2,000 new jobs in the UK. All of which was not lost on David Cameron who welcomed the announcement. How to influence people in high places!

To top it all the share rose 2%.

Nokia never seem to learn. Just when some said that their new Lumia 920 smartphone running the new Windows platform may be one to watch they scored a stupid own goal. It appears that the video which was claimed to have been shot using the new phone was fake and created using a higher quality camera. The result, their share dropped a further 6%.

Having announced three new devices you would think Kobo would have had a good week. However, when you step back, the week will belong to Amazon who clearly upstaged the a poorly timed announcement from Kobo. The one thing you don’t do is beat your chest and declare you are a winner when the opposition is about to wipe the smile off your face. Kobo’s offer is now an also ran and like their service they are seen as having a poor competitive offer. Rakuten need to step up their investment and focus on building a real differentiator if they have any hope of competing in the major markets. It is clear that Kobo now have a narrow media offer and devices are not going to make any difference whatever they price them at. They are competing on the wrong thing, but perhaps like other forgotten pretenders such as Sony, that’s all they have got.

Barnes and Noble now know that they left it too late to venture outside of their comfort blanket – the US. They now have got strong established and committed opposition in the UK and that’s before they even spend a dollar trying to build their profile.

Apple are oblivious to bad weeks but even they must be wondering if agency was wise and why they continue to fight the inevitable. They have their own announcements coming up and the iPad nano (remember they said they would never shrink the screen) and a new iPhone are bound to play to the fans delight, but unless they start to get real on pricing there will soon be a serious price gap with the rest. This was easy to defend when they stood out but as the others improve, like with smartphones, people will start to look seriously at others.

However Apple appears to have bitten the hand that feeds it in their zealous patent actions against Samsung. It is claimed that Samsung is withholding memory chips for the initial shipments of the new iPhone because of a disagreement about pricing. Apple obviously doesn’t like to be dependent on Samsung , but there is only so much volume Apple can get from elsewhere. The Korea Economic Daily reported Apple’s exclusion of some Samsung components earlier today.

It’s a sign that we only have 19 weeks to Christmas. The cards are starting to appear in the shops and despite the potential Indian summer we are starting to think about presents.

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