“Kindle 2: Where are you?”…01.23.09

23 01 2009

For all of us interested in the new Kindle 2 from Amazon, here is an excerpt from an interesting post Kindle 2: Where are you? | Fully Equipped – CNET Reviews from CNET yesterday:

“…Well, we’re almost in February and there’s still no sign of any new Kindle. That doesn’t mean Burrows and other bloggers were totally wrong about the Kindle 2. You can get parts of a story wrong–like the release date–and other parts right. And the beauty of it all is that no one really remembers sketchy reporting these days unless some jerk goes ahead and quotes your stuff in a column five months later.

Of course, regardless of how accurate–or inaccurate–anything really is, the problem is that the information is out there. Someone like Susan who’s looking to buy a Kindle goes ahead and keys ‘Amazon Kindle’ into Google and, lo and behold, on the first page of the search results is a story called ‘Amazon’s Kindle 2 leaked,’ written by the jerk at CNET who also writes this column. And so Susan starts poking around and realizes there’s a lot of information out there about a new Kindle, and from the looks of it, it’s going to be significantly better than the original. (Making a jump from “Generation One to Generation Four or Five” seems a wee bit optimistic, however). And then I end up with an e-mail in my inbox.

This all happens pretty frequently. There’s speculation about new products and price drops all the time. Most companies keep a tight lid on news to protect sales of their existing products. But some companies purposely leak information to create buzz for their new wares.

In this case, it’s hard to say just what happened (next time I talk to Jeff Bezos, I’ll ask him). Some stories claim that Amazon was ready to release a new Kindle for the holidays, then pulled back at the last minute. Fine. But it seems odd that the company would then plaster the device on its homepage and encourage people to buy it even when it was out of stock and there were rumors of a new device coming out. To avoid discounting, Apple and other smart businesses usually try to clear the channel of as much old stock as they can before sweeping in with the new stuff. But Amazon didn’t seem to have any stock–or certainly not enough of it.

Some pundits are arguing that Amazon is pulling the old people-want-what-they-can’t have routine to hype the Kindle (Nintendo has been accused of the same thing with the Wii). But I’ve had enough people–and plenty of nontechie people–ask me about the product that I would bet demand is truly out-pacing supply and that Amazon, after saying it misjudged demand for the product initially, misjudged it again–or probably just didn’t anticipate Oprah’s endorsement or the impact it would have on the product.

So, what’s Amazon going to do?

Well, here’s my best guess. Amazon is a very customer-centric company and won’t risk alienating its customers. So it’s going to make sure that if you ordered a Kindle during the holidays, you’re going to get it. Then it’s going to wait until demand starts to wane a bit. And then it’s going to announce that a new Kindle is coming. (Or maybe it’s two new models, like some of the articles have speculated).

The Kindle 2–or whatever it’s called–may look identical to the alleged Kindle 2 in the leaked pictures. And it’s probably going to be better than the original Kindle in a few key ways; it will be zippier, the interface will be improved, and the buttons will be redesigned to avoid accidental page turns, though reviewers will still find things to complain about. As Sony discovered with its new PRS-700 Reader, you can sometimes take some nice steps forward while taking one big step back. (And if the photos are real, I’m sure Amazon has noted some of the critical comments that certain readers have made about the design of the “leaked” product).

Anything new and improved often costs a little more. So, to make sure no one’s too disappointed, Amazon will price the new Kindle at $400 (the launch price of the gen-one Kindle) and drop the price of the original to $300. If you happen to have bought the old Kindle within a month of the announcement, you’ll be offered the option of returning that Kindle or taking some sort of rebate on it–or possibly a credit for buying books in the Kindle Store. (I could see Amazon throwing a whole bunch of recent Kindle purchasers some sort of store credit for books).

When’s this all going to happen? Well, with the Kindle only being ‘sold out’ and not back-ordered for 2-3 months anymore, I think we’re starting to hit the wane phase (relatively speaking), especially with consumer spending falling off a cliff. So, I’m guessing March. Valentine’s Day would be a potential target date, but that seems a little too close...”

©2009 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.




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