Saturday, March 26, 2011

Amazon sells Android apps - why this move and what's the impact ?

This week, Amazon opened its Android app store.
Why is Amazon moving in this direction ? Is it just for money earned selling these apps ?

There are probably much better reasons for this move.

First, Amazon is by far the most successful Digital Shopping Mall in US and Europe. As any shopping mall, there is no reason why not to sell a product which is sold somewhere else. Amazon can not sell Apple iPhone and IPad apps since Apple behaves as a high end brand, restricting sales in its digital, fully controlled experience iTunes store. It's thus about "one-stop-shopping" and comprehensive digital goods proposition.

Second, through this move, Amazon clearly positions itself in the M-commerce business. Amazon becomes fully relevant for Android mobile users and the market place can collect mobile phones numbers of their current customers or recruit new customers. This critical information added to the Amazon account will further enable the giant to further close the loop, possibly engaging in mobile advertising or couponing.

That leads to the third and probably the main reason. Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon form the FAGA quatuor heading to the same M-commerce expected nirvana, each attacking from a different angle. Google already partially controls the mobile platform real estate, a very good advertising machine and an emerging cash desk. Apple has a fully controlled platform real estate, an emerging advertising machine and an efficient cash desk. Facebook probably has the most efficient platform real estate, (now even extending to feature phones through latest acquisition), including the most innovative advertising machine and is currently building a cash desk.
Amazon is the king of E-commerce, already having all ingredients online but missing presence on mobile. Through this Android store, Amazon penetrates for a low budget an efficient mobile platform real estate to complement a too small Kindle footprint. Amazon is thus strengthening its position in this FAGA quatuor.

The next question concerns the impact on device vendors and mobile apps ecosystem. Will this help or arm Google ? Does it impact Apple ? What about Amazon selling windows phone 7 apps  or Blackberry apps ?

This Amazon Android app store on one hand is an additional factor demonstrating to consumers the openness of Android ecosystem. It can only thus increase relevance of Android phones. On the other hand, it probably arms Google in its quest to spread its Google Checkout, so important in the FAGA war.

Apple is probably not directly impacted, keeping their closed ecosystem and currently suffering (a lot of people would like to suffer this way) the consequences around censorship and too obvious dominance.
BlackBerry apps mainly concern business and are probably less relevant for both Amazon and Blackberry.

The open question remains for Windows phone and especially in the context the Nokia deal. Nokia stopped its unsuccessful OVI store. Amazon could probably be a good partner for Nokia selling special Windows phone apps. But will Microsoft authorize this or will Seattle monster engage in FAGA war to make it FAGAM ?

Future will say ...

Benoit Quirynen

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

IPad 2 - price points are set for competitors

Today, Steve Jobs announced the IPad 2, the feature list and the prices for the new device.

The main features are sitting in the engine, except the so expected cameras (front and back) that are now on board. But the most important part is the price which stays the same.

This now shapes the market for till end of 2011.
No one can sell a successful tablet more expensive than IPad 2. The only reason buying another tablet than IPad 2 is a lower price.
Let's make a tour of the challenged tablet vendors:
- Motorola Xoom equiped with Android : similar feature set as IPad 2, probably less powerful CPU, certainly poorer batteries and higher price. This one is xoomed to fail.
- RIM Playbook : poorer features, probably less powerful CPU, certainly poorer batteries, same prices as IPad 2. They can perhaps survive focusing on corporate market but it will be bloody challenging and they will eat their margin anyway through rebates on volume based deals.
- Samsung Galaxy : Samsung announced a 10.1 inch in MWC and will announce a 8.9 inch at CTIA end of March. Since Samsung did not yet publish any price, they still get a chance.

Let's take the positive angle. What could be a competitor of IPad 2?
- a device in the range of 300$ or 300€,
- 9 inches minimum,
- a USB able to plug any USB webcam,
- a USB able to plug any USB dongle, even 3G/4G,
- decent screen (could be less robust),
- decent CPU (even slower than IPad),
- WiFi only,
- Android 3.0 Honeycomb on board.

If nobody shows up, IPad 2 will have 90% market share at the end of 2011.
This will strengthen their domination of which they often abuse.

Who'll be the first ? Medion, ASUS, an EEETablet, Samsung, LG, Nokia (just kidding for the last one).

Future will say.