By Michael Mulvey on April 11, 2014 10:18 AM
Amazon continues to chip away on tradition retail stores.
People are all up in arms about Google buying Nest and knowing even MORE about you, but don't forget about Amazon:
Drawing on its massive store of customer data, Amazon plans on shipping you items it thinks you'll like before you click the purchase button. The company today gained a new patent for "anticipatory shipping," a system that allows Amazon to send items to shipping hubs in areas where it believes said item will sell well. This new scheme will potentially cut delivery times down, and put the online vendor ahead of its real-world counterparts.
Hey, Amazon, I do want that Rancilio Espresso Machine, but I can't afford it, so don't you dare ship it to me.
An Amazon employee from 1997-2004, Eugene Wei spells things out for people who still parrot out the lazy argument around Amazon's profitless business model:
Amazon has seen that lowering its shipping costs and increasing the speed of shipping items to customers is like a shot of adrenaline to customer's propensity to buy from them, and so it has doubled down on building more and more fulfillment centers around the world. When I joined Amazon it had one fulfillment center. Today it has dozens just in the US alone, and I would not be surprised if it has more than 100 fulfillment centers worldwide now.
That is a gargantuan investment, billions of dollars worth, and it takes a significant bite out of Amazon's free cash flow. Add in its investments in infrastructure to support a growing AWS client base, and Amazon has again hiked its fixed cost base to a higher plateau. But for Amazon this is nothing new, it's just the same typeface bolded.
But Jeff [Bezos] is not wired that way. There are very few people in technology and business who are what I'd call apex predators. Jeff is one of them, the most patient and intelligent one I've met in my life. An apex predator doesn't wake up one day and decide it is done hunting. Right now I envision only one throttle to Jeff's ambitions and it is human mortality, but I would not be surprised if one day he announced he'd started another side project with Peter Thiel to work on a method of achieving immortality.
As Eugene points out, the people who bitch and moan about the profitlessness of Amazon sound a lot like the people who bitch and moan about the slow, deliberate iterations Apple has with its products.
When Apple makes a new product, usually the message is, "Can you believe how great this is?"
And when Amazon makes a new product, usually the message is, "Can you believe how cheap this is?"
Very smart and interesting developments happening right now at Amazon's Kindle Event in LA.
They're clearly putting a lot of thought behind what reading and video-watching experiences should be (and taking advantage of their properties like IMDB in interesting ways).
But the realization I'm left with is that Amazon (still) sees the tablet primarily as a consumption device. Yes, they include Exchange email support and calendar integration, but those are secondary. Perhaps this consumption focus is due to the fact that not only do they want to sell their own content, but also because they've forked the Android operating system and thus can't guarantee Android applications (ones for productivity, not consumption) will work on it.
It will be interesting to see how well these new Kindles do in the market.
The latest update (3.2) to the iOS Kindle app is out, and it is steadily improving on the iPad, although in incremental steps. The most significant change iPad users will see is the introduction of changeable margins, mirroring a feature already present for Android users. Users can now select between three different options, illustrated below:
The first option, on the left, is close to the margins in the regressed update I covered in June, but there is a more comfortable amount of white space above and below the text. It's a little crowded, but much easier on the eye than the blocky mess from the end of spring, which caused howls of protest on the app's store page.
The best readability comes with the other two options. The second option is identical in width to the July update, with the text moved up slightly, while the third has left and right margins identical to that which was banished in the June update, with the leading opened up some. All in all, these three represent fine options for a user to choose from. In the future, it would be nice to see the app incorporate different fonts. The iBooks app, Apple's answer to Kindle, lets a user choose from seven different fonts, while Stanza, the now unsupported reader app that Amazon owns, lets the user choose from all the system fonts that were available at the time of its final update in 2011. Once again, it boggles the mind that Amazon has a readily available reader app that is better designed and continues to draw nothing from it, that a user can see, at least.
Another feature from Stanza that I love is the ability to change the brightness of the screen with a finger swipe, rather than having to go into the options menu. It's great for maintaining flow while reading. Curiously, the new Kindle update touts improved brightness controls, but what they seem to have done is lock the brightness with the iPad. That is, if a user changes the brightness controls within the Kindle app, it changes the brightness across the entire iPad, not just within the app. This is very odd.
Still, Kindle version 3.2 for the iPad is keeping pace with reader apps in general, as they go through the long process of becoming viable alternatives to printed books. Presentation is key. As soon as all reader apps figure this out, users will benefit greatly.
Prior to payment and delivery, the US State Department has torpedoed its $16.5 million contract with Amazon, proposed in June, for Kindle e-book readers. The contract is headed to a normal Request for Information process, rather than the no-bid award that Amazon was initially selected to fulfill. The program was intended for use in overseas language programs, and any device chosen would have to support wireless connectivity, central management, text-to-speech, long battery life and a number of other requirements.
Translation: the US State Department realized the Kindle sucks.
Next time, Amazon. Next time.
After howls of protest in the app store from users, Amazon walked back some of the changes it made to Kindle for iPad. Seen above are screenshots from an update Amazon released to the app store last week. The margins surrounding the text that had been eviscerated in the name of readability have been somewhat restored. However, the new, intrusive toolbar interface remains. The user reviews that the previous update had gotten are doubtless behind the changes, showing that companies do indeed respond to heavily negative feedback from customers.
In reading those customer reviews, there is nary a review that praised the narrow margins of last month's update. So Amazon changed it. But there were also hardly any reviews that were critical of the toolbar, so Amazon left it as is. Make no mistake, the current toolbar is a downgrade compared to the previous iteration, but it was saved because the new margins were so atrocious that users completely missed the toolbar. Mediocrity is invisible when it stands next to hideousness. Next, Amazon is going to have to figure out how to keep the app from crashing.
If enough people make enough noise, things can change.
My money is on Amazon un-sucking their iPad app because this uproar.
People want a good reading experience, who knew?