Amazon’s Fire: the hard fight to be the #2

From I more.com:
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It’s fair to say I’m annoyed at Amazon. I’m bullish about their chances in the market and I (maybe stupidly) believe Bezos has a trick up his sleeve for us second-class citizens (and Prime subscribers) outside the US.

Taking shots at the iPad mini is a dumb move. It will sell squillions anyway. Amazon needs to be looking a lot closer to home for their real target. If someone can be swayed away from the Apple brand then they’re as likely to buy Asus, Samsung or Google in tablet form as they are Amazon*.

But their marketing is all aimed at what Apple considers to be a break-even business. Likely the margins on iTunes probably look good to Amazon (used to 4% margins and having just swallowed a $274M loss) and that’s going to be their bed. The über geeks seem to be flocking to the Nexus 7 and regarding the Kindle ecosystem as an equally walled but less fruitful version of iTunes.

We’re in a renaissance of technology where an advanced tablet device only costs much less than £500 and yet fits in a pocket or bag, communicates with the world and lasts a day on a single charge (which itself costs pennies). Much like the Sinclair Spectrum from 1982, these are devices which will create new types of citizen.

*I used to use this argument with the Mac a decade or so ago. If someone could be persuaded not to buy Windows, then they were ripe for Apple, Sun and whomever was selling Linux PCs at the time. Breaking the incumbent grip was the first step.

That simple lack of one physical button makes the Fire HD a much less user-friendly device.

Sam Radford writes:

Now, to be fair, it’s a half-decent tablet. If you have limited budget and limited needs, I can totally see why you’d be tempted by this device. And, if you’ve never owned or used an iPad, it would be very easy to think you’re getting a great deal.

Physically, it feels every bit the cheap device that it is.

The lack of a physical home button on the Fire HD was also quite disorientating.

That simple lack of one physical button makes the Fire HD a much less user-friendly device.

One thing the Nexus 7 seemed to have nailed was the quality of the device. It was, without a doubt, the nicest hardware I have ever seen in that form factor. It was just pleasing to the touch and the screen ratio means it would fit in more pockets than either the Kindle Fire HD or the iPad mini. The software, on the other hand, was rubbish. I’ve long established that I’m not interested in using half-baked software that promises to be release quality. I don’t want to have to make the Beta allowances for a flagship device and it’s equally important for the people who think Jelly Bean is great to appreciate that I disagree. It’s simply not good enough.

Similarly, the Kindle Fire HD just looks like a media browser. It’s agnostic on the media, presenting recently used apps and movies and books with a disturbing equality. These things are not the same. To say that I’m keen on finding a jacket-pocket tablet is an understatement. But I’m reserving the right to be cautious and to test every device. Buying cheap hardware is something I simply won’t do (it took ages to sell our HP TouchPad).

There are now four major forces in Tablet computing. Google (outsourcing their manufacturing but not the design), Amazon (soon to make their own), Microsoft (making their own) and Apple (surprise surprise). Between them, one will make a device that will suit your particular needs.

I’m reserving judgement for my next purchase until after I see the iPad mini. I’ve seen the Kindle Fire HD up close, I’ve played extensively with the Nexus 7. Nothing yet fits my jacket pocket.

A heap of interesting links from the last couple of weeks

3D printable versus Net Censorship

The Pirate Bay now has a category for 3D printable objects but I can’t verify this because some genius seems to have blocked my access to that site.

3D printing is a fad with a difference. Comparing it to the Augmented Reality fad from the last couple of years, it looks like 3D printing will be used for things other than just advertising. People are actually making stuff. They’re using complex programs to design the structure and then actually making stuff.

While it is entirely possible that the sum total of 3D printing may be the proliferation of plastic crap, the ability to create small objects which may be useful for learning or even for medicine cannot be ignored.

From the skull picture above it would seem almost “now-ist” rather than “futurist” to think that all hospitals should have their own 3D printers. As a tool for education, manufacture or even just leisure, I believe that 3D printers are reaching unprecedented levels of affordability for people in developed regions.

MakerBot retails for $2,200, you can get a PrintrBot for as little as $399. For $1,299, the Cubify model seems amazing.

The success of the 3D printing revolution will be based upon access to the skills to make the designs and if you do not have the skills, then the access to pre-made designs. Blocking access to these designs is potentially economic sabotage.

Hotels

At some point in the future, hotels may catch up the rest of the world and realise they are not meant to be the curators of all content within their walls.

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These ports, which look inviting to the visiting geek, have all been disabled. How utterly pedestrian. All I have ever wanted from a hotel is to be locked into their nonsensical menus to rent from a limited selection of movies (with discretion par for the course). The whole decadence of staying in a hotel is to be found within these menu systems and not within the comfort of the room, the selection in the minibar nor the tiny single-serving bars of soap.

Hotels

At some point in the future, hotels may catch up the rest of the world and realise they are not meant to be the curators of all content within their walls.

20121027-232151.jpg

These ports, which look inviting to the visiting geek, have all been disabled. How utterly pedestrian. All I have ever wanted from a hotel is to be locked into their nonsensical menus to rent from a limited selection of movies (with discretion par for the course). The whole decadence of staying in a hotel is to be found within these menu systems and not within the comfort of the room, the selection in the minibar nor the tiny single-serving bars of soap.

Brand Power

Reuters

The result is that most of the millions of people who buy an iPad mini will never seriously consider any of the alternatives. They know what works for them, and they trust Apple to deliver. That’s the power of the Apple brand. Amazon also has that power — as a retailer, just not, yet, as a hardware manufacturer. Most Amazon customers don’t bother checking prices elsewhere any more: they’ve happily locked themselves in to the relationship.

I’ve said this is before, Apple and Amazon have my credit card on file. If you ignore either, you’re an idiot.

Apple’s Game. (via @KuraFire)

The Biggest Lies Start With: Startups need…

I’ve been ruminating this blog post over the weekend and then an article on Techcrunch just spurred me to put the thoughts into electrons.

I’ve been guilty of using the words “startups need” many times. There’s always something they need whether it is access to better talent, better markets, better funding alternatives. A startup is like a newborn baby; it needs access to certain resources, it wants access to other resources and, despite our feelings on the matter, it can get by perfectly well missing out on others.

90% Failure Rate And Why This Is Still Great

The article states that 90% of incubators and accelerators will fail to provide the massive high-growth companies they aim to. And that is okay. Because the important thing with this market is not the guarantee of success, but the taking of chances. And the important thing to realise is not what startups need, but what “we” need.

In a Northern Ireland context, startups who intend to grow fast will either have a rapid expansion programme based on sales or they’ll leave. Because the sort of cash that enables pre-revenue growth simply isn’t available here. We, speaking as the Northern Ireland private sector collective, need these companies to start here, to develop here, to be funded here and, most importantly, to stay here.

By turning this conversation around, it helps our leaders understand the stakes. This is not about small companies trying to get as much out of the government as possible in a market where local private investment is risk-averse, property-focused and afraid of technology. This is about the government putting in steps to avert their own doom. Governments thrive on taxes and without the taxes gained from “adding value”, from those productivity benefits from expert workers, governments can find themselves unstuck.

There’s a limited window now for the government to do what it needs to do for its own sake. Not for the sake of the startups, not for the sake of a few entrepreneurs or their investors, but for the sake of every civilian in the province.

We need to make smarter finance more accessible, we need to make markets more accessible, we need to ensure that the best people to hire for the knowledge economy are found here. By doing this, and only by doing this, can we ensure that startups will be created here in the volume necessary for our continued affluence.