Sources in a WSJ article indicate Amazon has several hardware projects in the works that are collectively referred to as the Alphabet Projects. Perhaps most intriguing among them is a smartphone that reportedly will have a screen that can produce 3D images without the use of special glasses. Combined with complex eye-tracking software, the phone’s screen will produce the 3D images at almost any angle, producing a holographic image effect with items seeming to float above the screen. Another benefit of the technology will be the ability for users to navigate content on their phone using just their eyes. The high-end phone is just one of several devices that may signal a new strategy for Amazon in getting content into the hands of consumers.
Joining the high end phone is another smartphone device that is a step or more down from being a top-tier phone, a set-top box for streaming content, and an audio-only device. The set-top box would be similar to units from Roku or even the Xbox 360, both of which enable users to stream content from Amazon’s library. If Amazon can expand its footprint in the living room with a device that heavily favors its own content, it would help the company compete with Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming video services.
Meanwhile, the audio-only device would provide another entry point for people to access the content in Amazon’s music library. This could open the door to Amazon competing with subscription services like Pandora or Spotify, but with a device users could hook into their home audio systems instead of tying up their smartphone for that purpose.
Although the mobile device landscape is largely dominated by Apple and Google, Amazon continues to hang in as a solid performer. To succeed in improving its position relative to top performers, Amazon will have to battle with incumbents on several different fronts. Still, Amazon has built up a considerable portfolio of digital content from books to music to movies and television. Much like Google sees hardware running its Android operation system as a means to an end, the end being more people accessing their services, Amazon may be poised to do the same thing. This would be consistent to some extent with the model Amazon already uses for its Kindle devices, where the hardware is sold at cost and Amazon makes its money on the content sales.