A little while back, 37signals' DHH published a post talking about the fact that he doesn't need the 200,000 apps in the Apple App Store. The ten apps included with the iPhone meet the majority of his needs. The established wisdom, however, is that you cannot win without thousands of apps. That's why new phones like Nokia's N9 are helplessly chasing this silly idea of a giant platform of apps. People rush to buy a bunch of apps and never use most of them again. Why bother creating such a huge platform of apps?
Jason Fried responded with a counterpoint that 200,000 apps is what people want. It isn't about the need, it's about the want Jason says. It's not that people really need all those apps, it's the fact that they might want one of them sometime down the line. The power of buying one thing (iPhone) and turning it into anything you want (music, movies, garage door opener, blood test) in a matter of seconds is a tough one to resist. That's why 200,000 apps matter. People aren't sure what they might need in the next few years, but they know one of the iPhone's apps will come to the rescue for whatever they need to do. They are comfortable with buying a device they can turn into anything with different apps.
Which brings us to Amazon, their launch of Kindle Fire on Wednesday and the following quote by Jeff Bezos:
In the modern era of consumer electronics devices, if you are just building a device you are unlikely to succeed,' he says 'Today it is about the software, the software on the device and the software in the cloud. It is a seamless service'this is Kindle greeting you by name when you pull it out of the box. Some of the companies building tablets didn't build services, they just built tablets.
Bezos gets it: devices are our window into the cloud. It's not about the device, it's about the services tied to that device. Apple tightly controls the end-to-end experience on the iPad. It looks like Amazon has also built a device whose experience they will have tight control over. Amazon is not selling Kindle Fire, it's selling millions of books that are accessible on it, thousands of magazines, movies, songs, and apps that are accessible on the device.
The Kindle started out as a device to deliver millions of Amazon books, now it's a device that delivers all digital media Amazon has. To speak to Jason Fried's point, there are millions pieces of Amazon content you could read, watch, play with on the Kindle. What Bezos is telling us is that we might not know what we want to consume years from now but rest assured if it's a book, magazine, movie, song, or game Kindle will have it.
You don't build a business with the device, you build a business with the ecosystem of software and content the device gets you access to. The device is just the vessel/channel for the content.