Amazon started out as an online bookseller way back in 1994. Since then, they've become the major online retailer of books, DVDs, music and gadgets. If you want, you can get your hands on the latest Samsung Galaxy S3 via Amazon, or instead you might want to pick up their own Amazon Kindle – an e-book reader first launched in 2007. The Kindle was Amazon's first tentative foray into the actual manufacture of gadgets, having previously only dealt with selling the wares of other companies.
The Kindle range has slowly been extended to include larger devices and devices with keyboards, but despite offering 3G and Wi-Fi, Kindles have largely been used as e-book readers only. However, in late 2011, the Kindle Fire was released. The Kindle Fire is markedly different to the Kindle, and is actually a tablet computer, having more in common with Apple's iPad range than the previous Kindle gadgets.
The Kindle Fire boasted a 7-inch touch display and a somewhat altered version of Google's Android operating system. The Kindle Fire has a bright, colour display and a fast processor, making it one of the top-selling Android tablets in 2011. It sold 4.7 million units in the last quarter of the year, marking out the path of success that Amazon hope to follow in their quest to compete in the current gadget market.
So, why are we talking about this? Well, Amazon are getting ambitious. The company has plans to get working on a smartphone and four new tablets over the coming year, according to Best Mobile Contracts. The four new tablets would be scheduled to go into production in August, or later this year, while very little is known about the company's plans for a smartphone – other than the fact that they exist. The Kindle Fire has already proven popular, and the tablet market isn't anywhere near as saturated as the smartphone market, with no stand-out Android tablets actually existing to compete with the iPad.
On the other hand, it's difficult to say just how good an idea an Amazon smartphone is. Amazon would be coming into the market pretty late in the game, and as we're seeing with companies like Nokia, who were late in jumping on the smartphone bandwagon, consumers prefer to buy phones from companies that have proven they can make good smartphones. One reason why Nokia's Lumia range is not doing too well is that most users have never used a Nokia smartphone, and they don't want to risk it now; the same logic may well prove to be a burden to Amazon, too.
However, they did a good enough job on the first Kindle Fire, so it will be interesting to see what they can offer in phone format. Amazon are a major, globally-respected brand, and they own the ideal platform from which to push the gadget – the Kindle has made itself at home on Amazon.com for years now – but it’s hard to envisage an Amazon phone outselling top handsets from Apple, HTC and Samsung. Entering the smartphone arena could be Amazon’s toughest challenge yet.