Today’s Kindle announcements made one thing clear: if any Android tablet manufacturer is going to hold their own against Apple’s iPad or the flood of upcoming Windows slates, it’s Amazon.
It’s weird to type that, because what Amazon announced today wasn’t that impressive. The new Kindle Fire and Fire HD look a hell of a lot nicer than Amazon’s first tablet, but they’re still not up to the build quality of an iPad or a Transformer. The software isn’t that good, app selection is mediocre, and the core carousel interface isn’t exactly inspired. The screen is good, but Apple and others have better. The price beats the competition, but it won’t stay that way for long; Asus’ and Samsung’s prices are a hairs breadth away from Amazon’s, and what’s to stop them from shaving another seventy-five bucks off come Christmastime?
No, Amazon has the edge because they have something no one else in the Android ecosystem, not even Google, has—focus. They don’t just want the Fire and the Fire HD to succeed; they need it to. Amazon is a massive conglomerate, the Internet’s 1990’s Microsoft. They sell server space, shoes, books, IMDB subscriptions, free shipping, and local daily deals. They run a Netflix competitor and an iTunes Match clone. They knocked off Dropbox and bought Audible. You name it, they probably do it, or will do it, or have done it. Like Google, they try everything once and most things twice.
But unlike Google, Amazon has decided to put everything together in one product. IMDB, the bastard stepchild Amazon bought for a lark? It’s now powering contextual trivia searches in your movies. Audible audiobooks? Amazon will read them to you while you look at your e-ink copy. All of those media services everyone forgets come with their Prime subscription? It’s all at your fingertips on the brand new Kindle Fire. The original Kindle Fire was a portal to Amazon content, just like the Kindle was a portal to Amazon’s books. Sure, it was integrated with all of Amazon’s other stuff, but just because that’s how Amazon justified selling hardware at a loss. The Kindle Fire then didn’t feel like the future of Amazon; it felt like the future of the Kindle, one small part of Amazon, an unfocused web giant.
With the new Fire, things feel different. It feels like Amazon is making the Fire line the priority of the entire company, not just the content departments. Any service they have, no matter how unrelated it might seem, is going to find its way into Amazon’s tablet line up. Bezos has made selling the new Kindle Fire the priority of his entire company. And you know what? What Bezos wants, Bezos gets. Early Amazon succeeded because Bezos focused the entire company on books. He wanted to transform a single industry, and he did. Since then, Amazon has stretched out, grown, gotten bigger. But in the process, it’s gotten slower, messier. It was starting to lose its focus and its edge. Now, things are changing. There’s a goal line, a plan, and a flagship product everybody has to get behind. The Amazon that is is becoming more like the Amazon that was. And the Amazon of the old, the ruthless bookseller that drove everybody out of business? That’s not a company I would bet against.