Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Kindle on Your iPhone? Not Today.

Anyone expecting anything mind-blowing out of the Kindle 2.0 unveiling today is going to be disappointed: Amazon showed off a device that looks better than its predecessor and should work somewhat better. But it does the same core stuff as the old one–it lets you read books you buy from Amazon–and costs the same, too: $359.

CEO Jeff Bezos did, however, reiterate an interesting tweak that Amazon (AMZN) has in the works: At some point, it’s going let you read Kindle material on devices other than a Kindle. Bezos just mentioned this briefly, noting that you can now sync material between your old Kindle and your new Kindle, and ā€œin the future, other mobile devices.ā€

That Bezos and his team took time to point this out on a slide during a brief launch presentation means that they’re definitely signaling at… something. But Amazon being Amazon, the company didn’t say anything else.

Last week, an Amazon spokesperson allowed that the company is “excited” about the idea. Today, I tried to get Amazon exec Ian Freed to elaborate, but he deflected my clever queries. See video below for evidence of my futility–it kicks in around a minute into the clip.

(The guy in the background who starts opining about the screen size midway though? The one who sounds like the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons? He’s from MobileRead, the site that got those leaked Kindle images. Maybe he knows what he’s talking about.)

So in absence of any information, let’s just go ahead and speculate. The notion that has the technorati most excited would be a plan that lets Amazon customers read Kindle books on their Apple iPhones. But while Amazon does sell some stuff that works on Apple (AAPL) products–namely, music–it remains a rival in most aspects of the digital content wars. So who’s to say Amazon won’t end up in a tie with everyone except Apple–like Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerries or Google’s (GOOG) Android platform?

The bigger question: Do Bezos and folks think that people will end up choosing devices other than a Kindle to do most of their reading? After all, he spent most of today’s presentation (and all the Kindle talk he’s done prior to that) talking about the way the machine is designed specifically for long-form reading.

If he thinks customers don’t really feel that way, then perhaps he’s trying to build up as large an installed base as he can before e-books really do go mainstream so that he’ll have a lock-in like the one Apple ended up achieving with its iPod/iTunes system. But if that were the case, you’d figure he’d cut gadget prices dramatically to grab share.

Alternate theory: Bezos truly believes the Kindle is a unique platform and that anyone who reads on anything else is doing so and hating the experience. If that’s the case, then perhaps he starts providing Kindle titles in the near future–so that people can see just how unpleasant it is to read a book on any other device.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Meantime, here’s Amazon’s own video. Much more polished, but very long. Six minutes!