Jeff Bezos wants you to be his dog

Consumers who adopt the Amazon smartphone will be on a leash. Bad idea

Topics: amazon, Jeff Bezos, Smartphone, Retail, everything store, ,

Jeff Bezos wants you to be his dogJeff Bezos (Credit: AP/Reed Saxon)

A headline writer at the New York Times chose a revealing word to describe Amazon’s conception of the newer, more intimate relationship the company hopes to forge with consumers who adopt its new smartphone, theoretically to be debuted on Wednesday.

“With an Amazon Smartphone, the Retailer Seeks a Tether to Consumers.”

Tether. Aka leash. As in, Amazon doesn’t want you to stray away to competitors for even one second. When you’re checking email or Twitter on the toilet, do it the Amazon way.

The retailer is expected to introduce a smartphone on Wednesday at an event in Seattle, a long-rumored project that aims to close any remaining gap between the impulse to buy and the completed act.

Details on the phone are sketchy. Speculation abounds that the phone will include some kind of 3-D functionality, which basically seems to mean that users will be able to rotate images of products in the Amazon store in a full 360 degree space. (The word “hologram” has also been mentioned, but that seems unlikely, at least this year.)

But whatever the specs turn out to be, there’s little doubt as to the purpose of an Amazon branded phone: to maximize consumer retail affiliation with Amazon. New York Times reporter David Streitfeld, who has been doing yeoman work on the Amazon beat of late, paints a possible scenario.

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For Amazon, the risk of doing nothing is that it could be completely marginalized by one of its competitors. [Forrester Research analyst] James McQuivey offered the example of coconut flour.

Search for the flour on Google, and Amazon comes up in two of the top responses, one of them an ad it paid for. In the future as designed by Google, however, the search engine will remember what you’re looking for when you’re out in the world and sell ads against that. So the next time you pass Trader Joe’s, your Android phone sends a note: There is coconut flour just 50 feet away.

If that sort of transaction starts happening too often, the coconut flour is going to go stale in Amazon’s warehouses.

Apparently, Amazon wants to turn your smartphone into a one-click buy button for the Everything Store. This is a horrible idea, and consumers should reject it, just as they rejected the Facebook phone. It’s bad enough that the iPhone attempts to corral its users into an Apple-dominated ecology. The last thing we need are additional all-purpose devices that aim to confine us within the virtual walls of a single retailer. Connectivity should be about choice and empowerment, not irresistible deals on coconut flour.

The Internet should be a tether-free environment. No leashes!

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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