Is Amazon Setting the World on Fire? Or to Itself?

The recent revelations about the NSA, the endless parade of online hacking and theft of credit card or personal information, and the desire by Amazon to seduce customers into ever more purchases has created a strong pendulum in the direction of the erosion of human dignity. There may be money to be made and unexpected success to be found as the pendulum swings in the other direction.


Social pendulums swing back and forth. It could be women's hemlines over the years or changing attitudes about American involvement in foreign conflicts. One constant remains: whenever we go too far in one direction, there's a social backlash, and the pendulum starts to swingback the other way.

Right now, we've gone about as far as we care to go with devices on the Internet being a vehicle for either spying on us or attacking our fundamental security and privacy. When that happens, there is opportunity and money to be made by appealing to citizens and at least trying to return to them what they feel they've lost.

I got an email from Microsoft on Wednesday that explains: "We're updating our terms of use and privacy statement." Here's just a piece of it. Note the use of a mother and her child as a signal that Microsoft is focusing on the fundamentals, valuable human things that we should all care about, a happy, safe and secure environment for our family.

The key idea here is that we have a warm feeling about Microsoft because of what the company is trying to do for us instead of to us. How long has it been since we felt that way about Microsoft?

If one looks at the various camps, one can get the feeling that Apple and Microsoft are one one side of this battle because of the kinds of products they sell. And then Google and Amazon are on the other side because of the very nature of their business. And so I can't help but thinking, who stands to gain the most as the pendulum swings back the other way?

On page two, coming up, journalists weigh in on whether Amazon has a sense of this pendulum swing, and the answer is that Amazon apparently does not. In fact, the company is still trying to push the pendulum in the wrong direction. See for yourself.

Next: the tech news debris for the week of June 16.

The Tech News Debris for the Week of June 16


Before I get into Amazon, there were some other notable news items.

There was a time when, despite the early signes of success, Apple was taking a conservative approach to its retail stores. Many of the mall locations were small not only to keep the lease cost down but also to create a visual aura of extreme popularity thanks to a bit of over-crowding.

Those days seem long gone. The stunning success of the retail stores means that Apple can now focus on the customers who are tired of the elbow-to-elbow crowding and noise. I've written about that briefly, but Mark Reschke at Three Guys and a Podcast captured the entire scope of the situation in this nice piece: "Is Apple Changing Its Retail Store Strategy?"

On the off chance that you missed it, this spectacular essay by John Gruber is must reading. "Only Apple."

The iPhone 6 is going to be an extremely popular smartphone for several reasons. First, I expect the physical and tactile beauty and lure of sapphire will do more to attract people than the perhaps tiresome specmanship we're accustomed to. Features come and go, and while some are spectacular and enduring like Touch ID, many fail to get the heart pumping. But something that's awesome to hold is a universal human value.

Another factor is the percentage of customers who are eager to upgrade. Business Insider has published a chart that shows the time left on iPhone owners' mobile contracts. Jay Yarow writes, "... almost half of Apple's current iPhone owners will be eligible for an upgrade in the next ten months, which should drive big sales for Apple."


Image Credit: Amazon


The big news this week was Amazon's Fire smartphone, and the general response to it has not been very favorable. The criticism has ranged from its inability to disrupt the smartphone market to its downright creepiness.

Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times speaks to, among other things, the missed opportunities in pricing and opportunities for developers. "Amazon Fire Phone’s Missed Opportunities." John Koestier at VentureBeat wrote about the potential privacy invasion of the Fire in the name of purchase convenience. "Amazon’s Fire Phone might be the biggest privacy invasion ever (and no one’s noticed)." While things may not be as bad as originally feared, decide for yourself if this is the right direction for a smartphone to take. Personally, I don't think it is.

For the finale, Jason Perlow at ZDNet (who works for Microsoft), nevertheless has some valuable observations about the Fire. "Can't start a Fire without a spark: Why Amazon is dancing in the dark." The question is, is it worth it for Amazon to develop an expensive smartphone designed to promote sales (in a seemingly callous fashion) that can't compete with the iPhone and which can't alter or improve the general direction of smartphone technology. It's a big gamble.

Finally, I'll finish with the Surface Pro 3, another questionable product. Ed Bott writes "How Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 marketing push backfired." The idea was, if the Surface Pro is such a great replacement for a notebook computer, let's test that hypothesis. Mr. Bott continued, "Microsoft's key messages at last month's launch event encouraged reviewers to try exactly that, with predictable results.... They got back exactly what they asked for: a spate of first-person reports on the Surface Pro 3 by reviewers who tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to use it in place of their trusted MacBook Air."

It just goes to show how incredibly difficult it is to build a hybrid tablet that's both better than an iPad Air and a MacBook Air.


Teaser of fire via Shutterstock.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page 1) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.