What If Google Had Released Its Own Kindle?
With all the talk of Amazon’s new $399 ebook reader (and blog, newspaper, magazine) Kindle, it made me think: What if Google had developed this or a similar device (the Gindle? Goodle?) instead of putting out Android? Of course, there’s nothing that precludes Google from doing such a thing in the future, but for now it appears to have no plans to do so.
What’s interesting about this idea? I’ll explain below.
Kindle, in case you’re unaware of it, was just released this week to mixed reviews. It offers an always-on WiFi connection and has a browser. Users don’t pay for wireless access (from Sprint)–it’s built into the cost of the device and the content pricing.
Theoretically, Kindle is an always-connected wireless device that can browse the Internet, not the “mobile Internet” rendered on a WAP browser. I’ve argued that this device, as currently positioned, will be a failure but may make way for similar successful devices or Kindle 2.0 in the not-too-distant future. Sony has had an ebook reader out for some time.
I think much more interesting than reading books, newspapers, or magazines on these devices is their potential as mobile Internet tablets.
What if Google had introduced such a device two weeks ago? It might have more quickly accomplished some of Google’s mobile goals, offering people a much improved mobile Internet experience and providing mobile distribution for advertising, etc. Again, such a device wouldn’t preclude other mobile distribution strategies for Google. And, in fact, Android could always power such a device at some point in the future.
As with Kindle, my hypothetical Google device could have built-in WiFi and free or very low cost high-speed access (from the Sprint EVDO network). Google could have subsidized the access cost with ad revenues, just as it has been talking about doing with cell phones. (It would also have superior local ad targeting because of triangulation and/or GPS.) But the difference here (vs. wireless phones or the iPhone) is that consumers wouldn’t have to sign up with a particular provider or worry about hotspots. The device would just be on and ready to go.
Browsing would be of the full Internet and so there would be no transcoding or bad landing pages as exist today in mobile. The price would need to be somewhat lower, perhaps similar to what Amazon is charging for Kindle. But at the right price point (say sub-$300), it could become a very hot item.
I have no doubt that people would be interested in such a Google tablet as a mobile Internet alternative to the generally bad experience of browsing the the Internet on most of today’s mobile phones (with the exception of the iPhone). And such a device would satisfy the desire for an actual piece of hardware from Google, while not being quite as threatening to mobile operators.
Here’s the Kindle demo video: