Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Technology Hardware

Amazon's Echo Chamber 112

An anonymous reader writes: The announcement this Thursday of another dubious piece of hardware from Amazon led Dustin Curtis to write an article critical of Amazon's hardware strategy, saying the company just doesn't understand what makes a device good or bad. Curtis says, "With, it can heavily and successfully promote and sell its products, giving it false indicators of success. It's an echo chamber. They make a product, they market the product on, they sell the product to customers, they get a false sense of success, the customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it, and then Amazon moves on to the next product. Finally, with the Fire Phone, customers have been pushing back.

The media strategy that seems to be driving Jeff Bezos to make mobile consumption devices (with Amazon's media stores and Prime video/music) is flawed. No one makes money selling media for consumption anymore. That market is quickly and brutally dying. The media market is now so efficient that all profit is completely sucked out of the equation by the time you get to the consumption delivery system, to the point that it is barely possible to break even."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon's Echo Chamber

Comments Filter:
  • Oh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @01:54PM (#48341087) Homepage

    I thought this article would be about the sound chamber inside of the Amazon Echo, now I'm disapointed ... []

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the echo chamber is right here on /. and everywhere else in the media. Amazon doesn't care about this product or our criticism, Amazon cares that it's the holiday shopping season coming up and they have people talking about Amazon. Last year it was drone-package-delivery-that-was-and-is-not-going-to-happen-anytime-soon, and this year it's this...

      It's called PR folks, it's extremely effective and over and over again, supposedly sophisticated tecnhnoratie fall for it and fall for it.

      Why let them control the c

  • Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @01:55PM (#48341097)

    Netflix made 71m off of the 'there's no money to be made slinging content' game, and who knows how much Apple makes off music, either in content distribution or hardware. Yes, they made a product less desirable for their market and they're paying for that mistake, oh well.

    • Yeah. I'm a cable cutter w/ Amazon Prime and I'm quite happy with the video content. I don't watch much TV, but when I do I enjoy the commercial free content, even if it is a bit older. If you never watched it, it's all new to you.

      Commercials are like cigarettes. Every one you watch takes five minutes off the end of your life. Of course, just sitting and watching TV does that, too, I'm just saying. []

      Gotta go for a walk now. :)

      • Re:Uh (Score:5, Informative)

        by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:12PM (#48341209) Homepage Journal

        Re: Cable Cutting
        The Amazon FireTV (the full size square, not the HDMI dongle) is a fantastic device for $99 and XBMC has native support for it now. Once you bump the buffer from 20MB to 500MB and remove the bandwidth cap XBMC + Amazon Fire TV is a fantastic device for streaming the largest uncompressed 1080p video. It also handles your standard 100MB-4GB video files without cache modification as well. Also it does stuff like Netflix, Amazon Prime (aka HBO), most Android apps (like BombSquad, a Smash Brothers clone), you can side-load APKs without rooting it etc etc Amazon did a great job with the device and I use it daily instead of owning a cable box.
        Absolutely zero interest in an Amazon branded phone though. I heard their Fire Tablet or whatever was pretty fantastic for the time but the market has moved on and even the $79 chinese branded tablets are competitive these days for most users.

        • Re:Uh (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 08, 2014 @07:27PM (#48342523)

          Amazon devices sales are terrible because they don't have Google Play app marketplace. End of story. Everyone who wants to get locked in to a content ecosystem where they are forced to buy devices from one source already owns Apple products. Amazon devices are a media appliance, not computing devices. They have a shitty app store. That isn't going to change any time soon. An Amazon Tablet or Phone is only useful as a portal in to Amazon Prime and Kindle content. It's 1 dimensional. Why would anyone want to own one when they can buy a Nexus phone and tablet and get Google Play AND Amazon Kindle AND Amazon Prime AND Barnes & Noble?

          I love Amazon, do 100% of my purchasing of physical goods via Prime. I get 25% of my print media through Amazon because their DRM makes it difficult for me to transfer their content in to my preferred ereader app: Google Play Books. I have a digital bookshelf in one place and I don't want to have to search through 3x different apps to remember where I purchased my ebook.

          • Right, my semi-closed system must be worse than your semi-closed system... FFS, any dev can upload their app to both, if they want both sets of users.
          • Amazon devices sales are terrible because they don't have Google Play app marketplace. End of story. Everyone who wants to get locked in to a content ecosystem where they are forced to buy devices from one source already owns Apple products.

            Ironic.. You're saying it's bad because it doesn't have the official marketplace for Android, yet you're talking about being locked into a distribution system?!!

        • by jbolden ( 176878 )

          I'm with you. I bought it for $99 and my daughter absolutely loves it, uses it all the time. I've used it more than enough to be worth the money, as has my wife though the split is like 90/5/5%

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They are probably just denying the problem exists since they don't like the solution.

  • Who is that? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:01PM (#48341123)
    Who is Dustin Curtis, and which multibillion dollar company did he found?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am wondering the same: []

      Apparently he's a genius because he designed a blogging platform with no features and no user interface because that's some how fucking genius and makes your brain work better.

    • by miknix ( 1047580 )

      I was wondering the exact same thing! Why did this article hit the front page, slow news day?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fnord666 ( 889225 )

      Who is Dustin Curtis, and which multibillion dollar company did he found?

      Exactly. The article is nothing more than a glorified facebook post by some unknown. WTF it is doing on Slashdot is anybody's guess. This is a new low.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Just some guy who realized that his given name, Dustin Thewind, had been sort of jinxed by the band Kansas a couple decades back.
    • by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @04:16PM (#48341751)

      Why does it matter ? If the opinion was from a New York Times journalist, nobody would have cared about the author, and the message would have been discussed following everyone belief on the NY Times. Here, it's a nobody giving an opinion, and he is judged as a nobody, rather than being judged on the content.

      This is all intellectual laziness. You are judging the content following the fame (and political orientation) or the author/support publishing it. You have lost all critical sense. If something get published by an author/support you have affinity with, you're gonna like it, if you don't have affinity with the support, you're gonna dislike it.

      • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @04:38PM (#48341847)
        No, we are asking what his background and experience are that he can offer useful criticism of Amazon. If I badmouth your code, aren't you going to want to know what my qualifications are for judging it?
        • by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @04:51PM (#48341909)

          No. I'm gonna think about your remarks, and eventually come with counter arguments about why I did things the way I did.

          I have been on the other side of the fence, ie. being looked at by uptight people who thought they were right because they were older than me, and they ended up wrong. As well, I have stopped contributing to many open-source projects because the old guard always wants to be right and discarded any input from people without the right email domain.

      • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @10:51AM (#48345013)
        OK fair enough, let me take a stab at it. TFA was a piece of junk. Much like a Facebook post, it is a series of assertions without any substance. The author claims "customers have been pushing back" and provides no details. He says the hardware and software are crappy and 'unfashionable', and again provides no details. For all I can tell he is the only one who thinks so. "No one makes money selling media for consumption anymore. That market is quickly and brutally dying." is another example. Again, no details. Now, if the author were someone with an established reputation or a track record, or had a lot of karma, we might accept it on that basis.
    • by Karlt1 ( 231423 )

      Who is Dustin Curtis, and which multibillion dollar company did he found?

      So when was a business considered a success that is still losing money after 20 years?

      Even a local mom and pop corner store has made a larger profit than Amazon.

      • Re:Who is that? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @04:12AM (#48344065)

        Amazon has low profit *compared to its size and revenue*, but a mom and pop corner store with this kind of profit would be astounding.

        Here's their past few years:

        http://investing.businessweek.... []

        2010: 1.15 billion
        2011: 631 million
        2012: loss of 39 million. So admittedly, Mom & Pop would be in trouble if they started in 2012.
        2013: 274 million.

        I would love to have a mom and pop store that made approximately 2 billion dollars profit in the past four years.

        Now, this year looks like it might be another loser year, but it's hard to tell because the xmas season tends to be disproportionately profitable. They do operate right on the knife's edge, playing the long game that we so often say that companies can't bring themselves to do. But the way you write that makes it sound like they have a lifetime and yearly net loss, and no, Amazon is overall much more profitable than a mom and pop corner store.

        Measures like return on assets could be another story.

        • And it's worth noting that Amazon's low profits are largely due to the fact that they heavily invest their revenue in entering new markets (cloud hosting, music downloads, eBook readers, video streaming, tablets, and so on). Most of these are long-term investments. A company with a lot of diverse product lines can handle changes in the market much more easily than one that is just an online book retailer. If Amazon just sold books online, they'd probably have much higher profits relative to their size, b
      • There's a huge difference between net profit, which Amazon doesn't have, and gross profit, which Amazon has tons of. It is what they are doing with that profit that makes the difference. Mom and Pop can only dream of the sort of profit that Amazon has.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Right, so this one blogger has it all figured out and Amazon is doomed for failure. Amazon makes money, that's what they do and well.

  • by killfixx ( 148785 ) * on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:05PM (#48341165) Journal

    Amazon (under Bezos' leadership) has made enormous amounts of money where no one thought there would be money. This will be the sleeper hit that dominates the next generation of IoT.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @03:27PM (#48341577) Journal

      Amazon (under Bezos' leadership) has made enormous amounts of money where no one thought there would be money.

      They've made enormous amounts of revenue. It has never made consistent profits.

    • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
      Money, certainly, but not profit. []
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @05:22PM (#48342031) Homepage Journal
      Amazon directly or indirectly employes around 100,000 people. The have revenue to pay those people, as well as revenue to develop other products, which are somewhat successful. The Fire line of tablets, for example, provided much more compelling competition to the iPad than the MS Surface. Bezos himself has made a lot of money. There is the question of profit, however. As a public company who wants stock value to go up, profit is important. OTOH large profits are not critical to a company that consistently has cash flow and sales. In most cases profits can manipulated to make then look larges or smaller, depending on the fiduciary priorities. This is not ta say that Amazon is not making a bunch of crappy products, only to say that many people take an extremely simplistic and gullible view of statements such as these.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Exactly, amazon is doing old school business right. They are always reinvesting their money internally instead of playing a shell game with profit numbers and stock prices.

      • Would you have a breakdown of where those 100K people are, what they do and (roughly) how much the get paid?

        I'm curious because paying 30,000 people to do minimum-wage, seasonal work for 3 months before Christmas in their shipping center isn't the same as 30,000 programmers earning 6 figures each on annual contracts.

        (Also - didn't Amazon try and claim that since they ship a lot of things they should get credit for keeping UPS/FedEx/etc drivers employed? I'd like to know if that's included in the 'indirect'

      • The Fire line of tablets, for example, provided much more compelling competition to the iPad than the MS Surface.

        This, folks, is a textbook example of "damning with faint praise".

  • TRANSLATION: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:16PM (#48341237) Journal
    Dustin Curtis does not understand Amazon's strategy and therefore the strategy must be wrong
  • by asylumx ( 881307 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:18PM (#48341245)
    What makes it false? If they sell the product and make a profit, that's a basic success. Who cares if customers put the product in a drawer and don't use it? That's where many products end up -- that doesn't make them unsuccessful.
    • by vakuona ( 788200 )

      If the people who bought iPhones put them in a drawer, then Apple wouldn't be the insanely profitable company it is right now.

      If people don't use their Fire Phones, then other people don't discover them and don't buy them.

      • by asylumx ( 881307 )
        Boy, if your only definition of "Success" is "Insanely profitable" then you're set up for a lot of disappointment in your life.
        • by vakuona ( 788200 )

          Way to miss the point. I was talking about how success is more than just putting the product in the hands of the early adopters.

          The iPhone is a success because people use it and love it, they sing its praises and influence others to buy it.

          Amazon surely wants more and better success than simply getting a small number of people to play with the device and then to put it in a drawer. They want people to buy and consume media on it, which is their play after all. If people don't do that, then they won't consid

    • by sribe ( 304414 )

      What makes it false? If they sell the product and make a profit, that's a basic success.

      It would, but since they do NOT make a profit, that's not really even a "basic success" is it?

  • Voice control is there on phones and some car dash controls, but always as a secondary interface. Making a product dedicated to voice is a chance for both users and developers to stop relying on screen as a crutch and make the new interface really work for them. Eventually this can bring sales to Amazon if users find it more convenient to just say "Alexa, order me some toilet paper" rather than getting a phone out of the pocket".

  • Failure Matters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:29PM (#48341291) Homepage Journal

    You're allowed to put out a few failures if it takes you to success.

    Apple 3? -> LISA? -> Macintosh!
    Apple Newton? -> Ipod(the old crappy ones)? -> iPod! -> iPhone!
    Econet? -> X25? -> Packet Ring? -> The internet!

  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:32PM (#48341301)
    ... if they sell it, then it's not "false". They actually sold it. They don't care if you use it or put it in a drawer.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jeff Bezos has said that they don't deserve to make money if you buy their product and put it in a drawer. "We only win when our customers win" as he puts it.

      It's why they sell hardware at or below cost. The point is usage. To that end, I'm *sure* that they track usage and have metrics of success beyond units sold. They have an entire back end for all of their services, and you are automatically logged in on their devices when you buy them on unless you check "as a gift" in your cart. These

  • Great Strategy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drasfr ( 219085 ) <revedemoi @ g m> on Saturday November 08, 2014 @02:34PM (#48341311)

    Honestly I think it's a great strategy to be bold and NOT be afraid to try new things. They are lucky to be in a position to be able to reach many of their customers and experiment. I say try, be bold. You fail, you hopefully learn from your mistakes and customers. Try again. Something will stick and could become successful.

    At least Amazon compared to Samsung tries new things they do not copy. It takes courage to try and gamble with large sum of money. My hat off to Amazon even if I don't always like their product. Hell I did sign up for the Echo. I might stay in a drawer after a few weeks who knows but it's a good opportunity to try something very new. A virtual assistant that could listen to you at all time in the future. There is a lot of potential to learn from this.

    • by purplie ( 610402 )
      But for an example of when this is a bad idea, look at Netflix. Their decision to become a content provider puts them in direct competition with those with whom they're trying to negotiate streaming contracts. They lost track of their original raison d'être --- to be a place to watch whatever you want --- and have been doing a poor job of expanding their rental/streaming catalog.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Kindle was a runaway bona fide success as a cheap tablet that peaked at the height of the tablet craze, and the Kindle Fire was a successful followup. Amazon provided Android tablets to the masses. The Fire Phone was a flop, and I can't even figure out what this Pringles-can thing is, but Amazon Prime is a way to monetize OTHER PEOPLE's content (e-books, etc) where Amazon gets a steady revenue stream from yearly subscriptions while content creators get a percent of a pittance for their work. That's succ

  • by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @04:24PM (#48341779)
    I have family who ended up working in *large* billions dollars tech company after having been bought. Their comment goes pretty much on the same way as the blog post. The company itself is so big, and has a so large customer base that every piece of shit software they will produce will generate sales and millions dollars in revenue... but it doesn't change the fact it's P.O.S. software nobody will likely ever use.
  • Amazon advertises HD movie rentals and purchases, and then waits for customers to actually buy or rent the movies before revealing that they can't be played without buying one of a few devices. They claim that the Hollywood studios impose this, but it's awfully convenient that one of the few devices named is Amazon's Kindle.

    So, they advertise a product, accept payment for the product in good faith, and then refuse to deliver the product. Customers have to contact support for a refund.

    This product wi
  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @05:28PM (#48342071)

    the company just doesn't understand what makes a device good or bad.

    OK, I definitely don't understand the thinking behind the Fire phone, but the Kindle Touch is an absolutely fantastic device. And popular enough to dominate its market [] as well.

    So what the hell is this guy talking about?

  • by JakFrost ( 139885 ) on Saturday November 08, 2014 @07:17PM (#48342485)

    So a year or two my friends and I were sitting in the living room and us geeks of course see something playing on my XBMC Media Center and we need to a reference to it from some movie we're watching. I go, why can't I just talk to my media center box to read me the synopsis of it from WikiPedia or Google or something so we know what the movie is talking about. My friends go we can do that with the Android phones and ask them but they are stupid so they will do the search for you but you have to read the long article.

    Now there Amazon Echo device does exactly what we wanted to do is to have a Star Trek like experience of asking, "Computer, what is a Widget?" and we would get an answer. I just wish that Google made one or some other company so that we could have more generalized and generic access to many online sources of info instead of being locked into the Amazon Cloud of Fog.

    Anyway, I requested a pre-order for it and we'll see if I qualify. I'd like to be able to just talk to my computer and get info back that it too cumbersome to search for.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    To quote TFS: ...make a product ... market the product ... sell the product ... customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it ... move on to the next product...

    after all, isn't that the basis for 99% of modern capitalism?

    Ooh, shiny!

  • The Echo just comes across as a marketing gimmick for Christmas. It's the high-tech equivalent of buying someone a Snuggie or a Chia Pet.
  • "they sell the product to customers, they get a false sense of success, the customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it,"

    So the product goes unused, doesn't seem false to me (ok, so I didn't RTFA like everyone else). It reminds me what my cousin said. Sales and marketing has been so successful is why we see good business in storage places and huge consumer debt. The S and M convinced millions to go into debt buying stuff they don't need.

    However, some other kind of paradigm can com

  • I have noted over time that Amazon has many many flaws. Flaws that would potentially kill any company competing in only the given space of the flaw. But that by throwing the weight of the company behind it these flaws can be hidden. For instance I don't use AWS simply because I can't predict the costs. Also it is supremely complex. GoDaddy made a fortune by bringing easy domain registration and use to the masses. Then companies like linode have nailed virtual machines hosting for the masses. I am not saying
  • It sounds tempting as an explanation for their famous flops, like the Fire phone -- they pushed it on the front site of their giant e-commerce / do-everything site (I bet Amazon is a lot of people's homepage or startup tab set), so how could it fail, even if it barely succeeded? But plenty of companies have flops (I assume most, but then, I'm thinking of some high-end companies for which I can't think of any universally panned *products,* price aside, like Rolex ... are there any terrible Rolex watches?), a

I'm always looking for a new idea that will be more productive than its cost. -- David Rockefeller