Amazon's Kindle Fire Curates The Cloud

For digital storytellers, the world is about to get a whole lot more interesting. For content consumers--which is pretty much all of us--there’s a chance things could actually start to fall into place.

There's a movement underway to shift storage from devices to the cloud. There are a number of reasons for this, but the fundamental driver is the massive growth in both the volume of content we each expect to have at our fingertips and the size of the files that HD videos and RAW photos generate. 

So the enthusiasm from both the technical folks and the marketing folks to herald the coming of the cloud is pretty much a lock.

But what Amazon has figured out--and is implementing with prescient timing--is that the cloud alone is not enough to solve the blur of data that is swamping our devices and our digital lives. What consumers want is a Curated Cloud, and that's what the Kindle Fire delivers.

If Amazon gets it right, we could be shifting from a hardware-centric world to a new phase in the evolution of the web, where content moves to center stage.

With a price of $199, the new 7-inch device is poised to be THE consumer electronics hit of the holiday season. Amazon's powerful lead in the e-book business, where it holds a commanding 80% market share, is complemented by the video-streaming service that Amazon has built into its annual $79 Amazon Prime subscription service.  Prime video will now give Netflix a serious competitor. As of now, Netflix has the larger collection, claiming 51,000 titles for streaming. Today, Amazon has 11,000 titles. But Netflix is about to lose Starz, which includes Sony and Disney films. And Amazon just announced deals with Fox and CBS. Expect Amazon to move aggressively to land more video content deals.

Each Fire tablet comes with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime, giving the Prime Instant Video offering millions of new users to sample the service.

Perhaps most interesting is Amazon's use of the cloud to dramatically change the way the web feels on a modern browser. Amazon has done more than build a new piece of hardware; they’ve added an entirely new entry in to the browser market, named Silk.  "We re-factored and rebuilt the browser software stack and now push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud," Jeff Bezos said at the launch. "When you use Silk--without thinking about it or doing anything explicit--you're calling on the raw computational horsepower of Amazon EC2 to accelerate your web browsing."

This use of the cloud to move computing from the device to shared servers gives Amazon access to data about user behavior that allows for optimization on the fly. Most wireless connections have a latency of 100 milliseconds, but Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) claims latency of 5 milliseconds or less to most websites. For example, Amazon points out that delivering the home page of cnn.com requires 161 files served from 25 unique domains, representing the complexity of modern websites.  

"The browser observes aggregate user behavior across a large number of sites," said Jon Jenkins, the director of software development for Silk. "For instance, we might notice that people who view the New York Times homepage, often go to the New York Times business page afterwards. Our browser is capable of detecting these aggregate user behavior patterns and actually requesting the next page you're likely to need before you even know you need it."

For Amazon, this moment is the coming together of their three most powerful corporate assets. Their Amazon Web Services infrastructure, know as AWS, has a low profile among all but serious tech geeks, but is reportedly the single largest provider of cloud computing services. Amazon's content business is both large and diverse, including books, movies, music, and publications.  And in the e-reader business, Amazon is the clear leader with 52% of the market, with Barnes & Noble's Nook commanding just 21%.

Web services. Content. Devices. This is the perfect triangle.

By connecting these services, and using the Silk browser to both improve performance and gather user insights, Amazon is in a unique position to deliver a truly unique consumer experience. And because Amazon will control both the operating system (a unique flavor of Android) and the browser (Silk), Fire will do more than access the cloud or leverage cloud resources; it will provide both the intelligence and the interface to access the Curated Cloud.

Imagine turning on your Kindle Fire to find the music from your collection, the books you’ve read, the magazines you’ve subscribed to, and the websites you browse on a regular basis pre-loaded on your device. Not the whole web, but your web. Not the big noisy Cloud,  but your Cloud content.

Facebook now has 140 billion photographs stored; that’s too many to browse. Watching all the video posted on YouTube today would take you eight years--and that’s just today. Twitter has 10 billion tweets.  If the cloud is an unfiltered warehouse of content, it’s a big warehouse filled to the rafters with exabytes of undistinguished data. 

Consumers don’t want more content, they want less. They want their content, stored and served coherently and contextually. And that’s the Curated Cloud that Amazon is promising to deliver.

That's a cloud worth waiting till November 15th for.

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[Image: Courtesy Amazon]

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