Fire Phone

Cool, disruptive, cheap.

Pick one.

Pick two and you’ve broken the paradigm.

Pick all three and you’re a ubiquitous product that eliminates all comers and has established companies scratching their noggins in the dust.

The Fire Phone has none.

One of the main reasons people rush to buy the new iPhone and Galaxy is because they’re cool. They may be highly functional, but they’re also fashion items. You get to brandish them for up to a year and feel superior, create envy. Which is why people line up to buy them on day one.

Disruptive. That’s what the iPhone was back in 2007. It didn’t matter that it was on the inferior network known as AT&T. It didn’t matter that at first the price was exorbitant, it wasn’t subsidized, people had to have it.

Cheap… Well, Apple rarely goes there. But Windows 95 was cool, disruptive and cheap and it almost put Apple out of business. If only Microsoft could see that the desktop would not rule forever.

Yes, we live in a mobile world. Yes, more shopping will be done with handsets. But do we need an Amazon device to do this?

The Kindle was a breakthrough, which is why Amazon still controls the e-book market today. Apple came later, with iBooks, which look cool, run seamlessly, and featured page numbers when Amazon’s Kindle did not. But Apple’s an also-ran in books.

Furthermore, as the Kindle gained traction, Amazon kept lowering the price. It was no longer an exotic item, but an everyday one.

Ditto with Apple and the iPod. $400 for 5 gigs might have been out of the reach of many, but soon you could buy a much cheaper iPod Mini, and then a Shuffle for under a hundred bucks.

Not that Apple and Samsung are not vulnerable in phones. Smartphones are on the brink of becoming commodities. Cameras are good enough, they all run the apps. If the iPhone were not subsidized by carriers, few would be sold every September when the new model is launched, especially now that the LTE barrier has been broken. In other words, you truly only need a new iPhone if you’ve got a 4/4s, if you’re pre-LTE, otherwise, you’re buying a 6 as a fashion statement.

Which is why all the Wall Street analysts are skeptical about the Cupertino company. They’re awaiting a new breakthrough product, something cool and disruptive.

Apple specializes in cool, at least under Steve Jobs. The original iMac was the same damn computer in a better package, talk about marketing, talk about cool…

So the Amazon phone is not cool. It takes branding to extremes. Never a company you wanted to broadcast an affiliation with, especially now that they’re beating back rights holders, does Jeff Bezos really expect us to advertise his enterprise 24/7? Most people are going to be embarrassed if they whip out this phone, the subject of ridicule.

And sure, there are some nifty features, but how usable are they, how necessary are they, or are they like that button on your television remote which you’re not sure what it does…

But if the Fire was free. Or if it came with free data… Then there’d be an incentive to buy one.

And these rules don’t only apply to phones. They apply to music too.

Let’s start off with cheap. New and developing bands always go on the road for bupkes. You can go see them for under twenty bucks, furthermore, you get the advantage of being able to say you were there first, and now with Instagram, etc., you can document your early allegiance.

And what these bands are usually selling is cool. Otherwise, why go?

But the truly big acts in music are disruptive. They have names like Beatles, Hendrix, Grandmaster Flash, Kurt Cobain… And contrary to popular press, they are not popular at first. They hone their craft for years, removed from scrutiny, and seem to emerge fully-formed when that is far from the case. Which is why the teen of the moment usually fades.

But Taylor Swift was disruptive because she sang truthfully about her own personal life. Sure, the tunes were catchy, but she became a superstar because girls could relate to her story.

So while you sit there at home plotting world domination, contemplate these categories.

Roxy Music was cool and disruptive.

Justin Bieber was disruptive because he started on YouTube and created a new paradigm.

The Fire phone is not a bad product. But you want me to pay the same as an iPhone or Galaxy and be restricted to the substandard AT&T network for what?

I can’t see any concrete advantage.

And that’s why the Fire is dead on arrival.

P.S. Amazon will keep improving the Fire, will keep lowering its price. And the more mobile handsets become a commodity, the more they lose their cool, the greater the chance for Amazon penetration. But Prime is disruptive, the shipping service, not the video service, Netflix was the first mover there, it’s got all the eyeballs. We pay attention to the first, the progenitor, the disruptor. And then it’s their ball to lose. If they keep innovating, if they keep dropping the price, if the product is still cool, they own that category. But categories are not forever.

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