Amazon announced several new devices today, ranging from a $79 eBook reader that uses electronic ink to a $199 tablet with a 7 inch IPS display called the Fire. One thing they talked about that immediately grabbed my attention was the web browser that comes preinstalled on Fire. It’s called Silk and it’s supposed to improve your browsing experience because it ties into Amazon’s cloud services, so it’ll be able to do things like compress images, text, that sort of stuff. This isn’t really anything new. The folks at Opera Software have been doing this since 2005 on mobile devices with Opera Mini, and more recently they’ve included their web compression technology, known as Opera Turbo, in their desktop browser. It’s incredibly useful if you’re stuck on EDGE, out in the middle of the woods, yet you need to get access to some information.
In January 2010 Opera purchased an advertising startup called AdMarvel. Because of Opera’s technology that leverages servers in the cloud to optimize web browsing, they managed to collect an incredible amount of data about their users’ web surfing habits. Opera has yet to make full use of AdMarvel, for reasons we don’t quite understand, but enough about those crazy Norwegians. What’s Amazon going to do with the data they collect about everyone who uses a Fire?
Looking at Amazon and Google, they’re practically the same company, they even make money in an incredibly similar way. With Google you search the web, visit a website that looks interesting, click on an AdSense link on said website, and both Google and the publisher of the content you’re reading earn a little money. With Amazon you search their store, find something that looks interesting, buy the item, and more often than not it’s shipped to you by an Amazon affiliate. Said affiliate gets paid for the merchandise and Amazon gets a small cut for making the transaction happen; they do the same thing for their digital assets. Both companies also have vast server farms that store data to be analyzed in order to improve search results.
Because you’re logged into your Fire at all times, Amazon not only knows where you go on the web, but what you’ve purchased from Amazon itself. They can combine that data and do several things, one option being to use your web history to predict what items you’re interesting in purchasing. They’d be foolish not to use all the product reviews you’ve been reading for a camera you’re thinking of buying to offer you a special deal on your next DSLR the next time you load up Amazon’s homepage.
Another option, and a huge gamble, is for Amazon to eat Google’s lunch by becoming an online advertiser. At Google’s most basic level, they know what you search for. Start using their services, and they know what sort of things you talk about via email, what sort of things you share on their new social networking service Google+, and where you spend your time should you have an Android device. Amazon, with the Silk browser on Fire, will know what you’re Googling for since they’ll be recording your traffic, but more importantly they’ll also know each and every site you’ve visited. Wouldn’t you, as someone who makes cameras, want to create an ad for your latest flagship model that can follow a reader from site to site to site?
The devices Amazon announced today, they’re interesting, but it’s the Fire that could signal where the company is going in the future.