Amazon.com (Nasdsaq: AMZN) already has speculators buzzing about the leading e-tailer's Sept. 6 media event. The easy-money wager is to bet on new Kindles to be introduced. Given the success that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is having with its spec-sheet-superior yet similarly priced Nexus 7 tablet, Amazon doesn't have a choice but to refresh its Kindle Fire. Updating its cheaper e-readers at the same time just makes sense.
The long shot bet is that Amazon will break into the smartphone market -- and that idea isn't all that ridiculous. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this summer that Amazon was working with Asian component makers on its own mobile phone.
However, let's go beyond the pageantry of the gadgetry. We're now less than two weeks away from when Amazon peels back the curtain, and here are a few things I would love to see.
1. Put out a "free" subsidized Kindle
Newspaper and magazine publishers are wasting ink and paper on fading circulations, and the opportunity for publishers to play the card that wireless carriers often play -- offering free hardware in exchange for a two-year digital commitment -- is within reach.
I've been arguing for years that this should happen, and it makes even more sense now as e-readers and tablets continue to get cheaper while digital subscriptions hold up. All it takes is one major newspaper with national appeal to get the ball rolling.
2. Give us actual sales numbers
Amazon used to love giving us big numbers. It would spell out exactly how many Harry Potter books it was selling. Then Amazon began selling its own products, and it shut its piehole.
One of the more frustrating aspects of following Amazon in the Kindle era is that it doesn't divulge any meaningful metrics. It's tragically amusing to see Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) tell you exactly how many iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs it sells in any given quarter, only to see Amazon offer up vague measuring sticks.
"Hey, boys and girls, we sold more e-readers than last year, and did you know that there's a rover taking pictures on Mars?"
Apple is living proof that actual numbers don't put you at a competitive disadvantage. Get on it, Jeff Bezos.
3. Improve Prime Instant Videos
Amazon's digital smorgasbord that it makes freely available to Amazon Prime subscribers will never rival Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) , and right now it's just too cumbersome to use. Amazon's growing the number of appliances that can tap into the collection, but the process needs to be more seamless. I was one of Prime's earliest subscribers, and I still don't know whether I can even make a Netflix-like queue.
Netflix is streaming a billion hours of content a month. How's Amazon doing?
4. If a smartphone is coming, subsidize Amazon data
There doesn't seem to be any inherent demand for an Amazon smartphone. There are too many companies doing Android too well for Amazon to stand out. What would stand out is if Amazon exempted its content from bandwidth tallies.
The country's two largest carriers continue to move away from unlimited data, and that opens the door for Amazon to offer a device where all of the time spent on Amazon's store -- but more importantly streaming Amazon videos or tunes on Amazon Cloud, or even playing Amazon's new social game -- aren't on the carrier clock.
If Amazon is willing to take a hit that it can monetize in other ways, it would be a real differentiator. More importantly, it would help Amazon's fledgling digital music and video services gain traction.
5. Launch an aggressive school initiative
For many students going back to school, this is the year that their institutions are "going iPad." It doesn't seem to matter that iPads cost twice as much as the smaller Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 tablets. Apple's the company that nailed it by providing a secure marketplace for electronic textbooks, and schools are willing to pay a premium to make it happen.
How can this be happening? Amazon seemed to be the pioneer when it reached out to a few colleges during the early Kindle years. Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) even runs college bookstores. How can these two e-reader leaders let Apple move up to the head of the class?
It's too late for this school year, but obviously the majority of the country's classrooms will still be on traditional textbooks for at least a few more years. Now is the time for Amazon to get loud and get better about pushing the Kindle Fire into classrooms, exposing the overpriced math of going iPad instead.
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