With Amazon's new hire, the rumors around a smartphone coming out of Seattle are getting louder. Amazon just brought a Microsoft phone executive into its fold.
Robert Williams, who served as senior director of business development at Microsoft's Windows Phone Division and previously in the same position over the Premium Mobile Experiences group, is now director of Amazon's Appstore for Android .
Williams' Twitter bio reads, "working on a top secret project called...oops, gotta go." Some are speculating that top-secret project is an Amazon smartphone.
But Amazon has also been busy this week with software announcements, like GameCircle for Kindle Fire, opening up APIs for game developers, and launching Game Connect. Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.
One Analyst Isn't Optimistic
Carl Howe, a vice president at Yankee Group, said he was not optimistic about Amazon selling its own phone, because unlike tablets or e-readers, phones are a three-party transaction between the manufacturer, the consumer and a mobile carrier.
"Amazon has shown that it can build attractive devices that it defines, as demonstrated by the Kindle set of e-readers," Howe told us. "What it hasn't shown, though, is that it can build a device that competes in the mobile-phone category where two very powerful leaders, Google and Apple, are already well entrenched."
What's more, Howe said, Amazon's low-price, media-subsidized strategy isn't going to be hugely differentiated when compared with iPhones and Android devices that are subsidized by carriers.
When consumers can already buy an Android phone such as the Droid X2 for $50 from Verizon, he said, Amazon will have to offer more than price and media to persuade consumers to buy its product.
Maybe in 2013
"This isn't about specs, it's about creating a differentiated experience that consumers want. It could literally be a "preferred Amazon shopper" phone and succeed if Amazon made that part of the experience central to their design," Howe said. "On the other hand, I think if they just launch a generic Android experience, it won't succeed."
Any Amazon phone is unlikely to hit before October. Howe said, because any phone would have to be certified by the Federal Communications Commission, and that process is anywhere from three to six months. So if we haven't seen it in FCC certification yet, he said, a fall launch would be difficult.
"Frankly, most carrier launch plans are pretty established for the holiday season at this point -- except for iPhone, which they don't yet know about -- so I think 2013 is a safer bet," he said. "Remember that Amazon was famous for their Valentine's Day launch of the original Kindle, so I don't see Amazon shying away from a Q1 launch."