By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated April 14, 2014.
Once known for selling books on an e-commerce platform, Amazon is now a bona fide hardware maker -- and it's reportedly rolling out an innovative smartphone.
Amazon forged into hardware with the Kindle. After the success of the Kindle e-book readers it rolled out the Kindle tablets, including the Kindle Fire, followed by the recent launch of the Fire TV set-top box. Some may wonder why Amazon started with a tablet before launching a smartphone. But when consumers see what the phone can do, they may decide it was worth the wait.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is readying to roll out a smartphone in the second half of 2014. The Journal cited "people briefed on the company's plans" with leaking the news. One thing is certain, any Amazon smartphone play would meet with strong resistance from rivals Apple and Samsung.
"Amazon hopes to distinguish its phone in a crowded market with a screen capable of displaying seemingly three-dimensional images without special glasses, these people said," the Journal reported. "They said the phone would employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram, the people said."
Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment, but if the reports are true it would mean the company is entering the smartphone fray at a time when market research firm IDC predicts the sector sales growth rate will sharply decline. Despite the high growth expected in many emerging markets, 2014 will mark the year smartphone growth drops more significantly than ever before, with only a 19.3 percent year-over-year growth, according to the firm's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
"2014 will be an enormous transition year for the smartphone market," said Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. "Not only will growth decline more than ever before, but the driving forces behind smartphone adoption are changing. New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and 'premium' will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth."
We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, to get his take on the rumors. He told us an Amazon smartphone could be another Kindle-like business. But there are no guarantees.
While Apple, Samsung and Google have found success in the space, Kagan said, many other companies are struggling for market share. In fact, after these big three the next largest player is Microsoft-Nokia, and it only has a few percentage points.
"Remember when Facebook launched their smartphone? It failed. Also remember a few short years ago when the cable television industry thought they could enter and succeed in the wireless business? They failed as well," Kagan said. "They sold their spectrum to Verizon Wireless. Wireless has a history of rewarding only some companies."
Will Amazon be a big winner on the wireless front, or will the company fail like Facebook, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and handset makers that challenged the dominant players? Kagan, for one, is hoping Amazon's smartphone succeeds, but only time will tell as the market continues evolving.