Saturday, June 27, 2015

Family Tech: Amazon as big of a player in the tech world as Microsoft, Google and Apple - June 26, 2015

Microsoft, Google, and Apple sell us hardware, music, videos, and application hardware as well as store our photos and files in the cloud.

Did you know there is another major player in the tech world? You know it. It does all those things and can also send you just about anything in the retail world by tomorrow.

It’s Amazon and it goes far beyond its Kindle readers.

The Kindle readers were its first venture into hardware. It seemed almost overnight you saw people carrying the compact little devices everywhere. The most recent Paperwhite model displays wonderful type, trying to be as good as a book.

There are diehards who say they will always want a real book, for the tactile feedback you get from its smell, feel and heftiness.

And then there is the younger generation who would rather carry a few ounces of electronics than five or six textbooks weighing 40 pounds.

Amazon is a lot more than just books though.

It also sells music like Apple iTunes or Google’s Play Music store as well as streaming videos. And of course, it can also sell you movies on DVD and send them to you unlike Apple or Google.

Amazon Prime is a $99 a year service that gives you a lot more than just free two-day shipping for many items Amazon sells. It also gives you a large library of videos you can stream for free, including movies and television series.

Prime members also have more than 1 million songs they can stream. A lot of CDs you have bought from them, or buy in the future, will automatically appear in your music library for streaming to your phone or other device. And you get access to the Kindle Lending Library for free reading of 60,000 titles.

Amazon needed a lot of servers to run its website. Early on, it realized it was pretty good at it and so started offering its servers to other businesses.

A lot of the websites you visit are hosted by Amazon, and you won’t realize it. Companies such as Netflix, which has to maintain massive amounts of data online, just let Amazon do it for them.

Amazon uses its massive storage facilities for us too. Prime members can store unlimited photos online for free. Non-members pay $12 a year.

Amazon also offers a Dropbox-type file storage in the cloud service. You can store an unlimited number of files online for $60 a year.

Amazon makes devices to make it easier for you to buy Amazon goods and services. The Amazon Fire tablet starts at $99. Naturally it has a Kindle App, but it can also run most Android apps. And of course, it comes setup to use all the Amazon services we have talked about. It does not run traditional Android, but rather an offshoot of Android Amazon is developing itself. There are several sizes of the tablet available.

It also sells an Amazon Fire Phone but it has been spectacularly unsuccessful in the market.

The Amazon Fire TV is a small device that hooks to your TV and, of course, streams video from Amazon.

It has also gotten quite innovative. The Amazon Dash button is a small button that does one thing and one thing only. Each comes with particular branding, like Tide, or Huggies etc.

When you push the button, it contacts Amazon through your Wi-Fi, and reorders that item. Keep the Tide button in the laundry room and when you see you are running low, push the button and more Tide comes in a couple days.

There are safeguards to keep your toddler from going on a buying frenzy. It is just a way for friction free buying.

And then there is Echo. Echo is a small device that sits in your home and you talk with it. There’s a video in this week’s Link Post at that is both intriguing and creepy.

Echo waits for you to say its trigger phrase you set up, like “Hey Hal” or “Alexa” and then listens to your question.

It can tell you the weather, set a timer or answer questions when it can find the answer in an online search. And of course, it will let you stream music from Amazon, work with your home automation equipment and let you buy from Amazon, all by talking to it.

And if that isn’t innovative enough, in some areas it has same-day delivery of physical goods. Next, it wants to use drones to deliver packages.

Links for this column are here.

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