Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Latest on the Amazon Smartphone

It’s real, says Bloomberg.

  • July 10, 2012

No longer just a chimera, that Amazon smartphone I’ve mentioned here before now looks to be real, per Bloomberg’s predictably anonymous “two people with knowledge of the matter.” The phone would reportedly run on the Android operating system; it seems a pretty fair bet that it would look remarkably similar to the Kindle Fire, which runs a “forked” version of Android designed to funnel users into Amazonian content.

A number of commentators are skeptical of the value of an Amazon smartphone–Time’s Jared Newman, for instance, sees “many problems” with such a device. And it’s true if Amazon wants to offer, in effect, a premium smartphone (read: an iPhone-like device) at non-premium-smartphone prices, it will have its work cut out for it. It’ll need apps, apps, apps, most of all. It’ll need a great camera. It might even need a virtual assistant. But Amazon certainly seems up to the challenge; its recent acquisition of an innovative mapping service seems a first step down this road. But it’s a sound point that Amazon doesn’t have the same hardware chops as Apple; its legacy is in e-reading, first and foremost–content delivery. A fully fledged communications device, which is what a great smartphone is, is a whole different beast.

What should we expect next from Amazon? Patent plays. If it’s going to enter the tangled, litigation-frenzied world of the smartphone, it’ll need a strong patent portfolio to fend off the trolls (and the legitimate complaints). Bloomberg reports that Amazon already mulled buying a bunch of wireless patents from InterDigital, but the latter ultimately decided to sell them to Intel Corp. for $375 million. Amazon recently hired an IP/VC/PE guru named Matt Gordon.

If you were Amazon, which limping phone company would you swoop in to acquire? Whose patent portfolio would you stalk? Do I hear RIM? Do I hear Nokia? Onlookers like Jacob Steinberg of Seeking Alpha are debating the merits of each. Nokia has a large patent portfolio (some 30,000) and strong relations with over 100 carriers worldwide. Deliciously, if Amazon were to buy Nokia, it would collect licensing fees from Apple. RIM might come a tad cheaper, but it seems unlikely that Amazon would want to get involved with the BB10 operating system, when it’s already invested in forking a version of Android for its purposes.

More acquisitions seem likely in the near future; then we can really begin to extrapolate and Frankenstein together a vision of the smartphone Amazon has planned.

AI is here.
Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.