Tag Archives: Amazon

Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post

““We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient,” he said. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post, too.””

Jeff Bezos sounds like he's prepared to carry on losing money at the Washington Post.

How much cash does Amazon have in the bank?

Not that long ago, there was some noise about the amount of cash that Amazon – a company whic rarely makes much profit – had on hand:

Record Christmas takings have swollen Amazon’s cash pile to as much as $9bn (£5.7bn), the online retailer is expected to declare on Tuesday in results that will inflame the debate over its tax contributions around the world.

(via Amazon expected to reveal cash pile of up to $9bn after record Christmas)

But here’s the thing: Amazon’s cash isn’t like the cash held by a company like, say, Apple:

Most cash that Amazon.com generates comes not from earnings, but from the fact that it receives payment from its customers much faster than it pays its suppliers. During 2011, 76.8% of Amazon.com’s cash provided by operating activities came from the expansion of accounts payable (source: 10-K). Given that Amazon.com’s revenues are expanding fast, this effect translates into a larger cash hoard on its balance sheet.

(via Amazon’s Cash Is Not Amazon’s Cash – Seeking Alpha)

This isn’t cash that Amazon can invest in infrastructure, or product development. It’s just cash that it holds for a short period of time.

What, exactly, is Android?

Toward a More Informed Discussion on Android | TechPinions:

“Android is in no way shape or form the same as OS X, Windows, iOS, Windows Phone, or RIM’s Blackberry OS. When we speak of those operating systems we are speaking of a unified platform controlled by one company whose platform share represents the total addressable market, via single SDK, for developers. Should a developer want to develop for any of those platforms, all they need do is get the SDK for that single platform. Android, however, is an entirely different beast.

Android is not actually a platform, it is an enabling technology that allows companies to create platforms Because Android is open source, all the term Android refers to is the AOSP, or Android Open Source Project. Anyone can take this core code and create their own custom operating system using Android as the core. Google created and manages the AOSP but also has their own version of Android. Amazon does this and has their own version of Android. Barnes and Noble does this and has their own version of Android. I would not be shocked if new entrants as well take the Android platform and make it their own for their own needs as well.”

This is the thing that gets overlooked, all the time. Android is not a single, unified operating platform: it’s a set of semi-compatible platforms, built around the same technology.

Amazon’s version of Android is to Google’s version of Android what FreeBSD is to Ubuntu. You can probably get the same apps to run – but be prepared for some tweaking.

Amazon’s Ad-supported Kindle Price: Too High?

TUAW on the release of an ad-supported Kindle from Amazon:

“Still, the $114 price point seems a little silly; $99 would be a much better psychological buy-in point.”

I think that $25 is a fair reflection of the value of the ads. Remember, these ads are home-screen only, and not in the books. Pundits constantly over-estimate the amount of revenue that ads can bring in, and the expectation that Amazon could price a Kindle at $99 based on these kinds of ads is wrong.

No one in the world knows more than Amazon about pricing for a profit.

In praise of Kindle

Getting the out-of-box experience right with consumer electronics is hard, which is why so many companies get it wrong. With the Kindle, Amazon has produced a customer experience that Apple would be proud of. In fact, it’s arguable that the integrated experience of Kindle is actually better than anything Apple has done.

Open the box, there’s the Kindle. On screen is a message, telling you how to plug it in to charge and how to turn it on. This message isn’t printed on a cheap sticker – it’s actually on the Kindle screen. One of the advantages of eInk is that you can put something on screen and it will stay there, without drawing power, until the screen is refreshed.

When you turn it on – and like Apple products, it has enough charge to do so straight away if you wish – it’s registered to your account. All your books are there, in the archive, ready to be downloaded. You don’t have to configure anything, because the 3G connectivity is set up.

And there’s a welcome message from Jeff Bezos, personalised with your name. Surprise, and delight.

Then there’s the design of the Kindle itself. With its third iteration, Kindle has crossed the chasm between portable device and just “device”. It’s like a wallet, or a set of keys: We don’t call them “portable wallets”, or “portable keys”, because the portability has reached such a stage that it’s intrinsic to what it is.

The same is true of Kindle. It’s slim and light enough to slip into a bag and forget, just as you would a wallet or a set of keys. It adds so little weight that you can effectively forget its there.

The design of it is beautiful, yet functional. The one jibe is the row of keys, which are small and a little clunky. Everything else feels and looks great.

Even the power charger goes above and beyond. Like the Apple iPhone chargers, it’s like a slightly over-sized plug. In fact, it’s so much like a plug that you probably would struggle to spot it on a four-way block – which is probably why they’ve printed a neat little Amazon logo on it.

The integration with Amazon is, as you’d expect, seamless. Buy a book, boom – it’s downloaded in seconds. The experience of managing the Kindle, subscriptions, and so on on Amazon’s site is clear and easy.

Of course, the price you pay for this integration is buying books from Amazon and nowhere else. You can’t loan the books to anyone else, and there no way (yet) for someone to gift you a book from your wish list. But given that the prices of the books is so low, most customers won’t care. These are, like the original paperbacks, throw-away books. If I can’t read them in 50 years time, will I really care that much?

If you’re considering getting an iPad primarily to read books from Amazon, consider getting a Kindle instead. The iPad can do lots of things that the Kindle can’t, and never will be able to do. It’s a crappy browser, it doesn’t do email, there’s no apps. But it’s also much, much cheaper and unless you’re reading in low light (where the Kindle’s e-ink screen fails) it’s generally a better reading experience.

Even if, like me, you’ve got an iPad already, I’d still consider getting a Kindle if you’re a voracious book reader. It can slip into a jacket pocket, and go with you when you don’t want to carry a bag. It’s ideal for those situations when you’ve got to take a laptop, and don’t want the extra weight of the iPad. And the syncing is completely silent, completely invisible, and totally in the background. You never have to worry about whether you’re started the app and synced your books, which isn’t true of any other Kindle platform.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to read.

Amazon caves in to Macmillan, pouts and sulks

Macmillan E-books – kindle Discussion Forum:

We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.

Someone should tell them that companies which have a monopoly over their own ebook-reading hardware and use DRM to tie books to that platform really don’t have a lot of a ground to be pouting over “monopolies”.

Amazon seems keen to try out new models for books

Amazon appears to be applying for a patent on inserting adverts into ebooks, and predictably some people aren’t particularly keen on the idea. But it seems to me that Amazon wants to do is explore different ways to get people to buy books.

Imagine this: when buying an ebook at Amazon, you get two options. First, you can buy it at the usual price. Or, optionally, you can get it for free – with ads distributed all the way through it. These ads could change over time, so you would get fresh ads on re-reading the book.

That sounds like an interesting model to me. Not one that I’d go for, but it certainly might appeal to some.

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How the Amazon debacle shows the dark side of social networks

There’s no point in recapping how the “Amazon de-lists GLBT books” meme developed, because other people have done a far better job than I. But what it illustrates ably, I think, is the dark side of social networks and how they spread news.

There’s a meme which appeared a while ago about a statement a kid made about news, which has been passed on as a truism about the new media landscape. He said “if something is important to me, it’ll find me”. Behind that is a simple idea: if news matters to me, it will matter to my friends, and they will pass it on to me. If someone isn’t a friend, I’m probably going to be much less interested in it – so there’s no point it getting to me.

If people you know and trust tell you something, you are much more inclined to believe it, and less inclined to stop and think critically about what they are saying. That’s the way we’re wired: we trust our tribe to tell us that we’re in danger, or that there’s a new source of food, or that going that-a-way leads to water, and that-a-way to a nasty other tribe.

Then add in another factor: our reverance for the written word. We have a couple of thousand years of cultural history that makes us much more likely to believe something we see in text. Bibles, text books, newspapers, fake diaries of Hitler – if it’s written, we’re much more gullible about about.

Finally, add in a third factor: the impossibility of making a nuanced, balanced statement in 140 characters.

As social networks increase in influence, this is going to happen more and more, and sooner or later individuals will be physically hurt because of it. Like every village, the global one can turn from warm community to pitch-fork wielding insanity as fast as it takes someone to misread “paediatrician” as “paedophile”.

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