Amazon Dash is not a prank, but is still kind of a joke.
On Tuesday, 31 March Amazon unveiled their “Dash Button” concept. Note the date on that, because a lot of people are thinking this is an elaborate April Fools Day prank by the retail giant. I contend that it’s no prank, but is still a bit of a joke; just not the funny kind.
If you missed the video, to describe what the program is and does, here you go:
Crazy idea that just might work?
I don’t think this is an inherently bad idea, but the implementation could be done in a drastically more convenient way, I believe. The idea of noticing that you’re running low on something and then having a ridiculously simple method of re-ordering it is actually quite smart. My contention with this implementation is that it’s less intuitive then it should be. From a systems architecture standpoint, when a technology-based solution to a problem is to “throw a bunch more hardware at it” generally it’s a bad solution; sometimes it’s unavoidable, but it should be avoided if possible.
More than meets the eye, market tests in disguise
When this first came to my attention, my initial response was akin to “Good idea, poor implementation.” I’ll detail why in a bit. Here’s where my hypothesis comes in: this is program is only for Prime Members and then only by invitation.
What this tells me is that this is more than an attempt at marketing more products via little dashy-widget-mabob-buttons. This has all the makings of a market test to test out the interest in such a solution before investing time and resources involved in developing a more robust, elegant solution to the “problem” being addressed.
This could be a relatively low cost way to test the waters before Amazon begins implementing a software solution for the same thing; then again it could just be what it is at face value. For sake of argument I’m approaching this as if my thoughts on the subject are a) correct and b) matter because hey, why not.
Enter the IPA
I’ve written a bit about IPAs in the past (That’s Intelligent Personal Assistants in this case, not Imperial Pale Ales). Who hasn’t watched Iron Man and thought, “Jeez, Jarvis is pretty awesome!”?
All major players in the online services provider game have an IPA of some sort at this point. Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon has one too, though it hasn’t been used specifically as an IPA at this point: Voice Search on Kindle Fire TV.
If you haven’t seen Amazon Fire Voice Search in action, it’s pretty impressive tech, and I can see it being extended to the Fire Phone and possibly IOS and Android. Which way they would go with that would be largely dependent upon if Amazon wants to use it as a system-seller or an overall product-seller. It’s no secret that the Fire Phone didn’t exactly set the world on fire with sales. (Yay puns!) The fact that they launched with only AT&T as a carrier didn’t help that at all. You can pick up a Fire Phone for $0.99 with a 2 year agreement.
Reviews of the current generation Fire Phone swing to extremes such as:
Worst decision ever to purchase this phone, don’t even think of buying it! Phone has poor apps selection, after 2 months it became very slow. Don’t buy it!
THIS IS MY HUSBAND PHONE AND IT IS GREAT. IT IS A REALLY NICE PHONE, I WAS IMPRESSED TOO. LOVE THE VIRTUAL 3D SCREEN IT HAS AND IT DOES JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE. AS LONG AS HE’S HAPPY MAKES ME HAPPIER…
So to say it’s a mix reception at best is fair, I’d say. The difference seems to be between people who know that it is ultimately an Android device under that Amazonian facade and those that don’t know that. App selection on the Fire Phone is pretty lousy, unless you side-load the Play Store onto it, and then it’s fine.
Regardless of details surrounding the dismal sales of the Fire Phone, if Amazon decides to produce a Fire Phone 2, and hopefully they’ll find a better name for it than that, they could bundle in a cleverly branded and tweaked version of their existing voice search platform with the new phone, or even with all of their “Fire” line of devices.
Of course they may decide to release it for all mobile platforms via the app stores of choice on each. Such a move would certainly open up the market to potentially expand sales of their “Dash” products.
Ultimately this is all wild speculation…
It may be just speculation, however I think it’s an interesting thought experiment, if nothing more; and potentially a very interesting development in the realms of data science, artificial intelligence, and marketing to boot. You can rest assured that Amazon will at the very least revel in the publicity surrounding this announcement, they do love to do that! I do want the type of intelligence that I’m speculating about here, where I input my product choices in my Amazon profile and then just tell the IPA to “Order Coffee” or “Order detergent” and it will purchase my specified brands of the given products.