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Amazon Phone - or TV?

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September 12, 2012

Amazon Phone - or TV?

By Doug Mohney
Contributing Editor

Hot on the heels of its new tablets, Amazon may now be looking at introducing a smartphone, if rumors are to be believed. I'll go farther and wager the company might consider going bigger as well as smaller with a "Smart" TV offering. 

It sounds crazy at first blush, but there's good reason for the e-commerce giant to consider it.

At last year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)), it was clear that any consumer electronics manufacturer working with LED displays could easily move making smartphones to tablets to "Smart," Internet-enabled TV sets. After all, when you start with a core of the Android (News - Alert) operating system and the same electronics, a tablet is nothing more than a super-sized version of a smartphone. 

Take away the "touch" and the cellular radio, add a bigger screen plus USB ports, a couple of digital TV tuners and maybe a SD slot and Ethernet – SmartTV.

Why would Amazon even think about getting into the fickle, mass-market world of flat screen digital television sets? It's about selling services and branding. Amazon wants to be everywhere, regardless of platform. An Amazon TV would be an Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet writ large, providing a default gateway upon bootup into the Amazon ecosystem of books, movies, music and physical goods purchases. 

Why shouldn't you be able to seamlessly and painlessly watch a movie purchased on a Kindle Fire HD or your PC in your living room without having to wrestle with a third-party player/device?

Amazon would love to increase its market share in movies and music, so an integrated TV purchasing and storage management experience – think iTunes for the rest of us – makes a lot of sense. Buy it on Amazon, watch it anywhere: phone, tablet, PC or TV. 

Since it's stored in the cloud, content management and digital rights management is handled directly by Amazon. 

But it's also the in-your-living-room branding that would also help Amazon. Sit down in front of the TV, turn it on, and suddenly you remember you need to order the birthday gift, the new air filter and so forth.  

"I'm right here; I'll order it from Amazon before I start watching TV, or do it really quick between commercials," you think as you pick up the Amazon TV remote and use the conveniently-placed "order" button along with the slide-out keyboard to quickly complete your shopping.

Amazon-enabled TV shopping in the home combine with free and/or same-day delivery is a powerful tool. Add in some subtle on-screen reminders and some targeted advertising based upon your purchasing preference and location in the world to tweak and Amazon starts taking a bigger bite of sundries, clothing and other items you'd normally purchase outside of the home. The key here is that Amazon would increase its ability to scoop up purchases through a customized experience.

Would consumers go for it? If Amazon offered a reasonable deal on a new LCD widescreen TV and wasn't heavy handed on promotional ads – preferably allowing customer to opt-out at no charge – I could see people buying one.  

After all, I'm not sure which came first: The Sears catalog or Sears-branded appliances.

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