Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos
,, by Brian Caulfield, September 29, 2011  —  Will Amazon‘s new tablet computer hurt the iPad? Maybe. Apple‘s 8th employee, Chris Espinosa, writing on his personal blog Wednesday, posed a much more interesting question: what does this mean for everybody else?

That’s because the real news Wednesday wasn’t Jeff Bezos‘ cheap tablet computer. It’s the next generation — or maybe last generation — browser, Silk, that will come with every Kindle Fire tablet.

Silk’s a next-generation browser because it relies on assistance from Amazon’s formidable cloud computing service, EC2, to crunch the web down to a manageable size and zap it content to tablet users.

It’s a last-generation piece of technology because it harkens back to the old client-server model of computing, with client software closely linked to code running on a powerful server that does all the heavy duty lifting.

And in exchange for all that lifting, Amazon is putting itself in between its users and the rest of the web. Are there privacy implications? Sure, but I doubt Amazon would do anything truly stupid with all the data it’s able to gather. So far the company is making right noises about usage data being “anonymous and stored in aggregate.

The competitive implications are more intriguing. How much data will Amazon be able to use about where its users — in aggregate, of course — shop? What they buy? What they spend?

It’s no surprise that the Kindle Fire puts Amazon’s movies, music, and electronic books in front of users. Apple does the same with the iPad. The real master stroke is how neatly Amazon has turned the World-Wide Web itself into just another app. Or as Chris Espinosa writes:

“Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.”

Fire isn’t just about beating competing retailers by offering a tablet computer they can’t get, at a price they can’t match. This might just be about using that tablet computer to get an edge when to comes to selling everything else, too.


Amazing Amazon





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