What Apple has done with the iPod and the iPhone is simply incredible. You have a cult following for both products, and people simply can’t remember how they lived without them. Apple has not only created innovative designs with both products, but its customer-centric strategy has led to an eco-system that now expands into multiple markets. Amazon is no Apple, but it is still one of the most innovative companies in the world which knows what it’s doing. Considering where Amazon has been and where it’s gotten, there is no question that Amazon has the potential to push its competitors like Apple has in its own market.
But how close is Amazon to having a product such as iPod? The Kindle is probably the first step for Amazon to try and test a few markets. Amazon has done a decent job integrating its online store with the Kindle and wireless system behind the Kindle is simply the decisive against Amazon’s competitors. But Kindle is no iPod. It’s more useful than an iPod (if you are old school like me). But to the young generation, reading a book is like visiting an art museum. It’s fun once a year, but not much fun after. iPod on the other hand is about fashion, entertainment, and much more. So what does Amazon need to do to make the Kindle the next iPod?
- Target the younger audience: Amazon is doing the good job with bringing top books to the Kindle platform, but it simply has not properly targeted college students. By bringing more college text books and working with colleges and universities to promote the Kindle, it can become a part of the young’s everyday life.
- Add Entertainment Features: the Kindle is more about education and learning than entertainment. Sure you can entertain yourself with a good novel, but other forms of entertainment are still preferred. I wonder if Amazon would consider working on a product that can handle the Amazon Unbox video system. Amazon has done deal with Tivo in the past, but making Kindle a portable video player would be the next step. Let’s not forget that educational videos have become very popular in the past couple of years.
- Add Community Features: I have talked about the need for an SDK for the Kindle several times on this blog, and I think Amazon will introduce that very soon (depending on the success of Kindle 2.0). But Amazon simply needs to develop a cult following like Apple. Apple is a very good case study for any company, so Amazon should borrow a page from their book.
- Add Interactive, collaborative Features: let’s say you read a good book and you want to share a sentence that you have liked in that book with a friend of yours on Facebook? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to do that on your Kindle? How about sharing your class notes with your fellow classmates wirelessly? This probably would put a huge burden on the whispernet, but I think it’s worth it (even if offered as a premium feature).
Amazon can not just put its hope on people suddenly becoming heavy readers again. By accepting that fact, Amazon can follow the path that iPod has in the past few years. But at the end of the day we may see a clash between the iPod/iPhone and the Kindle. Is that inevitable, that’s a question for another day.