CXO

Amazon to develop 3D smartphones. Why?

Amazon has plans to develop 3D smartphones. Somebody please give me a reason why this is a good idea.

There was a time when company executives were suspicious of IT's proposals because they felt like IT wanted new tech just for the sake of having new tech. In other words, there wasn't a clear line from proposed tech purchases to business benefit.

Then came smartphones and tablets, and the executives got "the bug." Of course, that tech was also useful-execs could check email from the airport or while standing in line at the grocery, download documents, etc. It had a definite business benefit.

Every now and then I get a press release about a new tech product that convinces me that there are people out there who still don't get the business value thing. That was the case yesterday when I got an email announcing Amazon is said to be developing a new line of gadgets, including what could be revolutionary in the cell phone industry: a 3D phone.

Let me say upfront that I love Amazon. In my book, there is no other company out there that uses Big Data better. When I log in to browse some books, there's always a list of books Amazon recommends for me based on my previous reading. And you know what? They're always on the money. For a lazy person like me, who may not feel like browsing around looking at what's out there to read, this is a time-saver and a great service.

Now let's talk about 3D phones. Or let's not. Because there is absolutely no need that I can see for one of those. This, to me, is a prime example of tech for tech's sake. I don't even think 3D adds much to a movie, much less anything I'm going to be looking at on a smartphone.

The press release quoted a tech expert as saying, "It makes sense for Amazon to venture into the smartphone arena, particularly with a groundbreaking feature like 3D viewing. If Amazon's 3D phone is what we think it is, it will be another example of utilizing sensory technology to make devices more useful, not to mention it will be a starting point for more developed 3D software in the future."

My take is that, no, it makes no sense at all for Amazon to venture into the smartphone area. I don't see how it's even tangentially related to their business model and to what makes me like them so much. He claims that the technology they'll be using--retina-tracking software-will makes devices more useful. (He says this technology won't require the "goofy looking glasses" you have to wear at 3D movies. An ironic statement, considering Google's recent entry in the tech field.)

And last, is this really a starting point for "more developed 3D software in the future?" No. That ship has kind of launched already, right? This, in my opinion, is just a weird side trip.

But I could be wrong. Use the discussion on this blog to set me straight if you see a good use for 3D smartphones.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

108 comments
dlawler
dlawler

While my verdict is also still out on 3D as a need, I have to say that the business case is compelling for providing the phone. If you are Amazon and you compete with NetFlix for digital content distribution, and you have to live on a Google OS and search engine and where you compete for shopping dollars wouldn't you want to provide that device so you could better leverage your offerings?

jferrel
jferrel

I read your articles and like them all. You sound like you got up on the wrong side of the bed, so I'll keep this short (like that were possible!). What we are seeing more and more is that technology IS business. If you thought about a smartphone as a traditional business add-on, then everyone would own a Blackberry - the older ones. They are/were very functional phones with email, document sharing, etc. But now smartphones are e-readers, Netflix viewers, and Facebook up-daters that just happen to also read your email. I loved the week-long battery life on my Casio flip-phone. There was no need for an Otter box. But nobody was making money off of me like they are now with my S3. Technology for the sake of technology is not good - unless it's profitable, THEN it's business.

alzie
alzie

Well, maybe its a solution looking for a problem, but hey itll make a really neat toy. Now, add to that dual rear cams at the right spacing, and youll be able to snap your own 3d pix and vids. That could sell like hot cakes! Ooo Ooo wait, dual front cams for 3d video chat! Sexting will never be the same!

rbhebron
rbhebron

i think, its the most logical move in the Amazon business.. remember when they introduced e-books.. they created the kindle.. a device meant to be a e-book reader that enhanced the user experience and down the line the volume of books and revenue of amazon.. what better way than to also introduce a smartphone, amazon style.. this is merely another form factor that shud enhance user experience and ultimately revenues from amazon.. however, i must agree that a 3D smartphone phone, if screen viewing is concerned, does not give any business value proposition, both to amazon and the user.. perhaps what it really means is - they have somehow developed a system that enhances the user experience by providing an app that delivers a 3D method/way of searching for books & products from amazon.. if so, this would really be super coool... i.e. being able to see visually & in-depth all the possible alternatives and options of your preference or choices right from the screen, vertically and/or horizontally related... not just suggestions in 2D view, which they already do..

nidhiarora
nidhiarora

Tech for its own sake always finds takers. I see no utility to a lot of tech stuff out there, but other people do. I agree that amazon's current biz model is not driven by this market. But neither was IBM into services some years ago. We dont know which way this tide will turn. I would cautiously wait and watch.

db625
db625

I'm sick of weaving around people staring at their phones while walking down the street. Imagine people walking down the street *cross-eyed and totally immersed* watching 3-d?!??

rexrich2k
rexrich2k

A few years a go when the TV manufactures start to push 3D to their LCD TVs I went into a higher-end store and I asked the sales guy, what do you think is your best TV and he took me over to one. So I asked him, what makes you like this one? One of the first things he pointed out.. it was 3D capable. I guess I hadn't given it much thought because I just started thinking then and argued with him that 3D is just a gimmick. One of his points was how 3D photography was so awesome. I think 3D photography is a prime example of how added 3D is just a gimmick... Unless otherwise intended, Photos should be; !! FLAT !! Why? .. Its too much for my head to extrapolate on at this moment. So why do you think our everyday photos should be Flat? That should explain why at its roots 3D generally equals, Gimmick.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

And every time I hear someone talking about 3D movies or 3D game consoles I think of Second City TV and John Candy doing their 3D bit. (Yeah I'm that old, go Google it.) They did the best demonstration on why 3D doesn't matter ever.

ondcross
ondcross

Cell companies have eliminated unlimited data plans. More data = sooner to surpass data limits which pending on which company you are talking about translates to bookoo moolah. Note strong disdain and sarcasm.

mikeg
mikeg

Why does this matter well maybe there is no reason, but then maybe there is a really great reason - the patent's it could generate for Amazon. Hmmm, licensing those to their competitors would be a great money maker....hmmmm.... but then what do I know.... I just know that mega-corporations - like Amazon - need to make as much money as possible because that is what it is really all about - the "MONEY".... But then again, what do I know?!?

rcollins
rcollins

JohnOfStony - agree with you about 3D. Holograms - even single images - could be fun though..

inandoutbev
inandoutbev

I would not even consider this unless the 3-d could be switched off. 3D gives me a headache & is relatively worthless anyway. Now if they could bring a 5" rugged Kindle Fire with CMDA chip & a ram boost with an SD and USB & Charging contacts on the bottom for a dock so the micro USB doesnt fail after its 500th charge they may have something...Oh no additional ads & bloatware on this one either & I'd purchase mine w/o contract for 299 please-(the most important part) it'd be an instant hit

dmunoz
dmunoz

I think every move an organization makes is with a purpose and it's usually income related $$$. I don't consider 3D to be something out of wack for a smartphone. Remember that people use smartphones for several reasons, including reading email, browsing the internet--which includes videos, images, and so forth--text messaging, chatting, and the list keeps growing. Nowadays, adults and kids use them to play stuff that nobody even would think it would be possible and gaming is a huge industry already taking a big step at introducing 3D into their platform. These are basically mini computers built to do everything you can do from a regular desktop or laptop computer, so executive's type of duties isn't the only purpose of having a smartphone. These devices are already competing with tablets, laptops, and video consoles. Do you remember the time in which people talked about High Definition as being just a "techie" stuff? Well, it turned out that now most people who have tried HD don't want to go back to regular definition as images are crystal clear. I know I don't! There is a big niche market of people who are willing to pay big bucks to use the latest of the latest in technology. A proof of this is people spending almost $1K every time Apple releases a new iphone, Samsung with their Galaxys and Nokia with their Lumias. They have all included 2-4 core processors in their smartphones. Is this really required? Even a desktop computer works fine with 2 cores and from experience I can tell you that CPU is usually never the bottleneck in a computer unless you're running several and I mean "several" processes at a time which compute a lot of data. Having said this, I think innovation pays good money for the one who decides to ride on the venture and taking into account that our society is full of people willing to consume whatever goes into the market, I don't foresee this to be a failure but an opportunity. Best,

tjsobieski
tjsobieski

They want to have a phone separate from other phones because it's NOT primarily a phone, but a device to sell Amazon's content: movies and such

garyleroy
garyleroy

Now phone zombies can wander around using 3D glasses to stare at their phones, and no one will recognize them when they hold up the checkout line or run into you with their shopping cart.

j357757
j357757

2 word reason for 3D Smartphone development: Patent rights

brentkingery
brentkingery

You say you don't know why Amazon needs this, but in your article you mentioned "eye tracking" technology. If you're trying to figure out what the consumer is most interested in, it sounds like something that tracks eye movement would be a really good indicator of what they are most interested in.

BOUND4DOOM
BOUND4DOOM

I think you need to really look into Amazon a lot more deeply than you are. To me Amazon is a Google competitor in a lot of arenas. I see Amazon as a tech company that happens to sell books. When you think of Cloud Computing, you probably think Google and Microsoft. However simple fact is Amazon leads the world in Cloud infrastructure, abilities, and services. When you look at the success of Kindle as a tablet, then it only makes sense to get into the smart phone arena. I am actually surprised they haven't yet. Then again I have a full suite of Amazon applications on my phone. Amazon has a lot of very smart people employed there. So really this makes total sense.

Jianju
Jianju

It's a bit self-centered to say, "Why would they do this?" when the reasons are all around you: people want it. People pay extra money to go to 3D movies. They spend big bucks on high end video-cards. And yes, some people want those same features in their ultra-portable devices too. I absolutely want to be able to create 3D graphics that I can view anywhere, & show to my friends. As a kid, I *loved* my vue-master! (If you don't know, ask your parents what that is.) Had someone told me it was pointless, & that I could just look at a poster on the wall instead, I would have laughed at them. It is NOT the same!

dimonic
dimonic

Because this is a game everyone must play. 75% of the world's population have a cell phone, and smartphones are trickling down rapidly. The game is massively dominated by Apple and Google, each of who have a vested interest in their own cloud platforms. Amazon's business is cloud, but they cannot depend on their competitors to provide the devices that get people to their cloud. They need their own (branded) smartphone, just like they needed their own tablet. Ultimately it will be a subsidized (or break even) gateway to the Amazon eco-system, just like their very succesful Kindle tablet. And just like the Kindle, they are looking for stand-out features in a crowded market. 3D might not look like a knockout feature, but I am prepared to be surprised by Amazon. They have done it before.

john_perez
john_perez

I can think of two items immediately: 1) The introduction of 3D video-phoning via a smartphone. 2) The more likely reason: The ability to sell more exciting video games which can be played on Smart phones.

ctaylor
ctaylor

If Amazon hopes to get into the patent troll wars, it would help to have a selection of 3D patents in the arsenal rather than be sidelined. I do forsee the expansion of 3D technology for entertainment purposes in the coming decades. With this anticipated expansion come anticpated patent royalties. 3D patents would give Amazon the business case to build the portfolio to be on the royalties receiving side rather than the royalties paying side. I'm guessing there is more money to be made on the royalties side over time than on the smart phone side of the balance sheet. Amazon's core business should be able to finance this investment in the future quite well Recent changes in US Patent law allow a patent to be awarded to the first person to register an idea, not the first person to have the idea and definitely not the first person to concretely implement the idea. Attempting to realize the idea will allow them to develop more ideas and arguably more patents.

ChallengerTech
ChallengerTech

Why don't we wait and see what they come out with...before we run it into the ground. They may actually come up with something useful that fills a need.

richard.goodwin
richard.goodwin

Didn't HTC do this with the EVO 3D and LG with the Optimus 3D back in 2011?? I played with the Optimus 3D and I must admit that the 3D Photos it took were rather neat - especially as it used a lenticular display so you didn't need glasses to view them.

rexyosu
rexyosu

Is your beef that Amazon is entering the cell phone market, or that they are working on a 3D phone? I agree that it seems odd for Amazon to venture into the cell phone space, but the more options the better. Concerning the latter, I had an Evo 3D and loved it. The 3D aspect of the phone was basically a toy, and you couldn't really view the pictures unless you had a 3D TV (which I don't), but I really liked it.

codemonkey1
codemonkey1

Technology has reached the "Good Enough" plateau on several fronts. Screen display seems to be one good example. On screen keyboards, not even close -- what a frustrating experience. Here is where innovation is necessary to keep me from smashing my 2D or 3D or 4D screen with my 3D hammer -- think much improved voice recognition for data entry -- even the simplest thought of saying each letter is better than typing each letter on-screen...

steve_jonesuk
steve_jonesuk

My phone is an LG Optimus 3D, with glasses-free 3D screen and a dual-lens camera. I love it. The lack of 3D games is a bit of a shame, but having a 3D camera with you at all times, plus the screen to view your pictures and movies without glasses is fantastic. The phone itself isn't even that good, but the 3D means I wouldn't trade it for anything. I don't even have a 3D TV; the fit, I feel is much better for a phone. Have those people who are knocking it, actually tried a 3D camera with glasses-free display? Future displays will almost certainly be 3D (I'm thinking AR glasses), so even though there (sadly) seems not to be a significant market for 3D phones right now, Amazon could be getting in on the ground floor of things to come.

ChuckK
ChuckK

Interesting proposal - but why not converge with a device like the Nintendo 3DS? Different audience, potentially larger customer base.

yars
yars

...when many people (including myself) asserted that integrating a digital camera into a mobile telephone was both unnecessary and stupid. I guess I was wrong. I politely suggest that the marketplace will determine whether or not 3D is a brilliant idea or a waste of silicon.

TYoung2222
TYoung2222

The only positive I can think of with 3D a smart phone is the possible development of interactive apps. We all have seen these futuristic programs being utilized on the latest Star Trek or an older movie like Minority Report with Tom Cruise also comes to mind. If Amazon creates a 3-D smart phone then surely 3rd party companies will increase their productivity in 3-D applications. I can imagine some really interesting possibilities within this scope of technology. Either 3-D or holographic imaging coming from a phone in the palm of my hand that has useful productivity applications, I personally think would be very cool. As far as watching movies in 3-D I could really care less mainly because of the bulky uncomfortable glasses that the movies theater wants you to pay an extra $5 for then recycle at the end of the show so they can clean and sell to the next horde of movie goers. Cheers...

trilithium
trilithium

Thomas J Watson thought the world would need about 5 computers. Western Union could not see the value of the telephone. There was a time when it was thought that the telephone was so important that every major town would have one. Give up any idea that we can see beyond the ends of our noses. Perhaps the real way forward is: Build it and they will come. (Or not.) And that is in fact the evolutionary approach. It is what Nature does. It tries experiments to see if they work. If they don't, no big deal. But if they do, they open up whole new worlds. I am not suggesting that Amazon's concept of a 3D phone will open up whole new worlds. It may well not. But I am very hesitant to suggest that we decide what will work in the future based on what we know now. That way, we would never have left our caves.

Henry 3 Dogg
Henry 3 Dogg

Last night I went to see the new film of The Great Gatsby. On booking, I was offered times for the 3D showing or the 2D showing. I'm not the slightest bit interested in 3D in cinema unless, perhaps , it's SciFi or something like that. The Great Gatsby - Forget it. But it wouldn't matter that it was shot for 3D. Take one eye image and that should be fine. Watching it in 2D wouldn't detract from the film and this was hardly the case of a film with no story needing a gimmick to sell. Turns out this assumption was wrong. Watching the 2D version of the film, the Cinematography was dreadful. Or to be more specific, the Camera was doing things for 3D effect that when viewed without 3D were just WRONG. Some of this was plunging off buildings up getting in far too close and personal to a small dog, but other bits were long zoom and pan shots that just didn't work. And I think there is a lesson here. Don't assume that gimmicks won't detract from the normal use of the product.

kgc
kgc

There was a time not so long ago when the first computers were being developed that a UK government adviser forecast that the computing needs of the UK could be met with 3 computers. But what did he know, he was only an expert. On the basis of that opinion I could meet the whole computing need of the UK from my home office. Similarly, a local newspaper recently berated Coventry City Council for spending money to provide its officers and councillors with personal phones for business use. Opinion is cheap but it doesn't necessarily make it right. Nobody will be forced to buy 3D phones but if some bright spark comes up with a "Killer app" that makes everybody want one then Amazon may well clean up the market. Or they could lose a shed load of money. But it is their money to lose so good luck to them. I confess at the moment I can think of no reason why I would want such a device.

TheLondoner
TheLondoner

Having started my IT career on valve driven computers I've seen (and sometimes been involved in the development of) more crazy techie products than most! But since I have been involved in sourcing non-tech products, particularly from China, I have realised that we are still the new boys on the block! How these guys can produce such a bewildering and vast quantity of rubbish beats me. Even more amazing is that, presumably, they are able to sell it to someone! So come on, lets grow up and join the rest of them, churning out a load more products that almost no one wants. You never know, it may be a winner in the end! Now were did I leave my card punch, got some JCL to knock up?

robinsdr
robinsdr

A 3D smart phone makes sense only if it creates a hologram image and does not use standard LCD or LED screens. David Robins Binfire Corp

jack.klaber
jack.klaber

3D is a buzz word! Just take f.i. "Crest 3D White" toothpaste......

vikasumit
vikasumit

Even if we they use 3D without glasses, but will it workable in different light conditions. TVs are usually sitting at corner of room with fixed light, but with smartphone they are moving all around. Also, I really don't see it's application in real time. Will you want to see a 3D graph in Excel on your phone? I would better drag it on wall through projection and watch there in 2D then watching [making it more complex for my brain] to understand 3D graph in 5" screen. So, not really buying the idea of 3D phone, except that it sounds like awesome idea, but no utility without other useful technology like projectors, Star wars like communication Projection with touch.

NZJester
NZJester

3D movies and 3D tech seam to be making a comeback but versions of 3D have been around for years. 3D movies have been around since 1915. If I had had the money back in the late 80's I could have purchased a set of 3D glasses for my Amiga computer and there was earlier more primitive 3D computer tech. The main problem is 3D does not work well for everyone. If you have problems with your eyes and need to wear corrective lenses then 3D can sometimes be quite a hassle for you. A lot of people with poor vision and even some people with good vision can have problems with 3D giving them headaches if they watch it for to long. As long as 3D still gives people headaches and does not work well for a large portion of the population it will stay as a gimmick that will never really catch on!

meski.oz
meski.oz

A real 3d phone and camera, perhaps. I'm thinking holograms, though, and this probably is not going to do that.

firstaborean
firstaborean

I have a long-enough memory to recall Quadraphonic LP records and even before. Publicity for quad records was accompanied by many exclamation points. Some equipment and even some of the records sold, but would you regard it as a success? 3-D TV's are the new quad records, and a 3-D smartphone is just one step less useful. I agree entirely with the article. 3-D 'phones just might be as bad as RCA's Dynagroove records. Remember those? Remember RCA?

scottl
scottl

Because there exists somewhere the idea there are not nearly enough brain dead imbeciles on the street already. Going to be like a George A. Romero film. Maybe this the start of the zombie apocalypse Scott

Dukhalion
Dukhalion

Ever since the scifi tv series Earth 2, I have been dreaming of 3D phones, with virtual reality both for meetings, watching 3D movies and games.

david.hardy
david.hardy

You may be right in the limited appeal of such a device to business users. But considering that everyone has their own mobile phone beginning at about age 5, the consumer market will probably eat this up. I don't see a lot of business benefit to phones with Beats Audio either, but there is a big market for them in the consumer sales side.

jastbury
jastbury

Entrepreneurial companies will do what they want to do when they feel it's right. They neither need, seek, nor care about our approval. Entrepreneurial companies are the lifeblood of our economy. That is why this is a good idea. Being cynical for the sake of being cynical is a bad idea, especially in journalism.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Perhaps the Gatsby movie traded away 2D watchability to use 3D as a gimmick. I read the book years ago and found it utterly tedious and seriously in need of a gimmick. Maybe they should have projected it upside down or as a color negative. But don't blame 3D filmmaking as merely a gimmick for action stories. Hitchcock's 1954 Dial M for Murder was shot natively in 3D, yet provided an excellent intrigue story in visually satisfying 2D. However, on my home system, the 3D version emphatically adds intimacy and immersion despite the rather static encounters in a story that takes place almost entirely in one room. Was 3D a marketing gimmick for the movie? Perhaps. But it also added appreciably to the viewing experience of the story. In comparison, Ridley Scott's 2012 Prometheus, larger in time and space by millennia and light-years, looks great in 2D. There are many scenes where the interior spaces and the immensity of visual detail are merely interesting or perhaps even cacophonous in 2D, but are insightful and easily comprehendible in 3D.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

"They neither need, seek, nor care about our approval. Entrepreneurial companies are the lifeblood of our economy." Wow, you actually believe that? Entrepreneurial companies don't throw money away senselessly, that's what makes them successful entrepreneurs. They are all backed by private or public investors/stock holders. In order to retain funding from an investor/stock holder, you must provide a specified return on investment in a specific time frame or else the money dries up, for good. Your dream that they are free spirits with endless money and not a care as to what they develop is just senseless. Nobody would back them and thus they would no longer be entrepreneurs, they would be basement geeks again.