Amazon has finally decided to scrap the Fire phone. Or have they? Jack Wallen responds to Amazon's lack of commitment to fully embracing failure.
The Fire phone is officially a complete and utter failure. So bad was the first release, that Amazon has finally announced they are shelving future phone plans.
But not completely.
Who knows, there could be a future in reviving past failures, right? In order to avoid fully embracing this utter failure, Amazon is simply moving the development of the Fire phone from its Silicon Valley location, Lab126, to its Seattle offices.
For the three people out there disappointed in this news, you have to understand that the first iteration of the Fire phone came in at a loss of $170 million dollars. So it should come as no surprise that Amazon has finally made the right choice to (temporarily?) abandon the smartphone business.
Good call Amazon.
If you managed to get your hands on a Fire phone, you might have had the same experience/reaction as did I. The interface was interesting, but the application of the pseudo 3D UI was poorly executed. It was gimmickry where gimmickry wasn't necessary. It was all form over function. Even so, there were bits of the device that held quite a bit of promise. I suspect those better bits might find their way into upcoming products.
Such as a tablet with a 3D display.
That's right, Amazon is hoping to develop a tablet with a 3D display. Seriously, Amazon? With the massive failure that was the Fire, I have to question your logic with pushing the idea of another device whose primary selling point is part of what doomed the Fire phone. Although this rumored tablet will use a completely different technology than did the Fire phone, it's goal is still to make images pop out of the display.
Even 3D television has failed. And unless Amazon is planning on releasing a tablet/VR device combination, this new tablet is, most likely, doomed before a prototype ever finds its way off the assembly floor.
There is one piece of hardware that Amazon sells that has been a resounding smash hit...the Kindle. Amazon has another piece of tech that is starting to catch the attention of the media, their take on the Internet of Things... Echo. Here's an idea that Amazon might consider. Focus on those two items and continue to make them best in breed for their class. The Kindle is already the de facto standard e-reader and Echo is a very elegant solution to problems we had no idea existed. Why not just funnel all that effort and bottom line into those items. Who knows... maybe even get them working together. Imaging having a Kindle with the ability to work in conjunction with Echo to read books to you as you work in the kitchen, or on the job (on the job, those books would be manuals of course).
Amazon is not only dropping production of the Fire phone. They are also scrapping a smart stylus, called Nitro (good call), a projector called Shimmer (that will, gasp, project images on a wall), and a secret tablet (codenamed Cairo).
Even with these failures, Amazon is moving forward with another gamble - a high-end kitchen computer called Kabinet. This piece of technology will be able to accept voice commands (similar to Echo) and serve as the primary hub for your internet connected home.
Amazon ... don't. We don't need Kabinet. Especially when you can just roll in whatever functionality you've planned with this device into Echo. Better yet, connect Echo and that Kindle Fire HD, create a few kitchen-specific apps, and you're golden.
I understand that every company must innovate. But Amazon's problem is they want to be everything to everyone and that, almost without fail, is a recipe for disaster. A few more 170 million dollar losses and Amazon will find themselves having to bail on hardware all together. That would be a shame. Why? Because the company has proved they can pull off some pretty spectacular hardware. Even though the software side of the Fire phone was a disaster, the hardware aspect was quite nice. The device was rock solid and well designed ... it only suffered (mightily) from a poorly executed UI. And the Kindle speaks for itself (as does the Echo).
The Fire phone could have succeeded had they:
- Sold them unlocked from the start
- Not focused the UI on proprietary products and services provided by Amazon
- Used a more familiar (read: stock) Android platform
In the future, Amazon needs to understand that, in general, people already fear change. To come out with a device that completely dismisses what works (in favor of a gimmick) is to admit defeat from the beginning. Successful innovation requires a device bridge what consumers already know and understand to the unfamiliar. The Fire phone failed that simple test completely. Even someone with a profound understanding of either the Android or iOS interface had trouble "getting" the Fire phone UI. That is all on Amazon.
Although they haven't truly "axed" the Fire phone all together, I would suggest to Amazon they pitch that bathwater and quickly rip the bandage from the wound so the pain is short lived. Don't hold on to the idea that the Fire phone was ahead of its time and keep it tucked in some Seattle office holding hopes you can resuscitate it later.
Let it go, Amazon. Let it go.