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Jobs Is Gone But Another Anti-Luddite Looms Large

Amazon Honcho Jeff Bezos Unleashes Fire

Today someone posted on one of the gazillion LinkedIn groups that I belong to saying that Apple’s gadget model is the opposite of Amazon. The phrasing stems from an article analyzing the launch of the Kindle Fire.  I don’t remember the rest of the question but that phrase “opposite,” stuck with me. Is Amazon’s gadget strategy opposite of Apple’s? I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.  Here’s my response:

I don’t know if Bezos’ strategy is the “opposite,” of Apple’s but I do think Amazon takes a divergent philosophy to the world of the consumer. It’s sort of like the age-old battle of wits between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives put more stock in the individual and Liberals put more stock in the government. Amazon puts more stock in the individual’s appetite for products, Apple puts more stock in the consumer’s appetite for technology.
Amazon leverages technology to help consumers buy products for happiness. Apple sells technology products to help consumers achieve happiness.
As a renegade Google engineer recently revealed in his manifesto against Google+1’s product launch Bezos decided long ago that he wanted Amazon to be a platform for whatever the consumer wanted to do verses offering them a product to do what Amazon thought they wanted to do. It’s the distinction between Facebook and Google (so the engineer pointed out). Now which one will succeed in longevity? Well the jury is still out.
Amazon really doesn’t care how many Kindle Fire’s it sells because it’s not a product company – it’s a service company. It’s providing a platform for its consumers to read, watch, create, shop whatever and the Fire is just another part of its platform.
Bezos’ says at Amazon “our goal is nothing short of building the world’s most customer-centric Company” it’s not product company, it’s a portal for people to buy whatever product they want including digital products.
Apple – on the other hand – is offering a product for its customers to do specific things – listen to music, watch movies, create and design. But it always starts with a product and then adds the services later. ITunes was created AFTER the iPod, Apple didn’t create a music sharing service it created a product that could use a music-sharing service. The distinction is important.
Our society has been dominated by products. Products that allow us to do whatever. But Amazon is shifting this economy a bit with its smorgasbord of a platform. It’s offering not one product or a line of products but access to a gazillion products through its platform making the bet that there will always be products people want to buy through them.

I suspect people will get tired of buying a new phone, computer, tablet every year but they will never get tired of buying a multitude of products over time.
This is where Steve Jobs’ death illuminates a HUGE gap in Apple’s business-model – now that they’ve trained the consumer to expect miracles in technology they have to keep making miracles!
Amazon doesn’t they just have to figure out ways to sell miracles to a waiting public.



2 thoughts on “Jobs Is Gone But Another Anti-Luddite Looms Large

  1. Luddite. Looms. Funny!

    I’m not sure I agree with your take. Apple makes products they themselves want to use. Amazon doesn’t take the same care to perfect its products. And they just want to sell anything to anybody. And their lackadaisical attitude with scanning books for the Kindle store, but refusal to edit the poor-quality OCRs that result is ticking off a lot of authors.

    The first Kindle was a design disaster. And that’s design in the big sense. Not just how it looks, but how it works. Clunky buttons, wasted space around the screen, no color (National Geographic in black and white?), etc. Can you imagine Apple being so sloppy? That’s caring about the user experience. It’s technology as a tool to do what the user wants. Not tech for tech sake. Apple strips away every little detail that isn’t necessary, so I think it’s unfair to characterize them as technology-focused. They are much more focused on the intersection (as is said about a thousand times in Issacson’s bio of Jobs) of technology and the humanities.

    And as for Apple’s business model? There is no gap. He’s built a company that contains his vision for products that’s complete and ready to continue after he is gone. Now we’re going to see just how good a job he did. Don’t listen to the pundits out there who say Apple is a one-man operation. They have never been that, and they certainly are not that now. They kept giving advice to apple through the years (be more like HP, IBM, Dell (cough)). And they happily ignored such ill-informed advice and did it their own way. They will continue to do so for years to come. Amazon’s Fire is great, because it fills a niche much narrower than what the iPad fills. (You won’t see any hospitals showing patients their CT scans on a Fire – EVER).

    Posted by Eric | November 2, 2011, 12:39 pm
  2. Good points Eric. I agree with you Apple is indeed an extraordinary company and didn’t get that way because of one man. But we have a rare look into their future because we’ve seen what Apple did without Jobs when they fired him and we’ve seen what Apple did with Jobs. And unless Jobs wrote down every idea he ever had and locked it in an Apple vault I think it’s going to be a while before the company produces such revolutionary products as the iPad and the iPod.

    Posted by writingprincess | November 8, 2011, 11:35 pm

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