Meet Amazon’s just-announced Kindle2. The device is an update to the Kindle, which launched in November of 2007. The Kindle2 is, at its heart, very much the same device as its predecessor. The most notable difference in the updated model is a sleeker new form factor, which incorporates improvements to many of the details users used to complain about. For example, there are now two sets of page turn buttons on either side of the screen, allowing users to hold the device in either hand. Other improvements include faster page turns, improved battery life, and a text-to-speech option which lets users hear their books read out loud (albeint in a roboticized voice). The device still retails for $359, and all open orders for the original Kindle will be fulfilled with the updated model instead.
What’s great about this device, from an innovation perspective, is that it’s a nice example of how to evolve a product. Apple is famous for this. It refreshes and updates its lineup of MacBooks and iPods with regularity, keeping demand strong and incorporating slight feature enhancements that add value for the user. The Kindle2 is evolutionary in every sense of the word. It incorporates features and functionality that many users suggested over the past few months (just check out some of the original Kindle reviews and ratings online), but doesn’t change the game all that much. It wasn’t a particularly risky launch for Amazon, since the original Kindle had already enjoyed healthy demand.
What’s also notable is that Amazon has ‘leveraged’ the business model Apple created with the iPod and iTunes. Kindle’s eBook Store features an ever-growing list of titles (about 240,000 as of this writing), the majority of which are available for a flat rate of $9.99. Users can download content directly to the device on the go (much like the iTunes Wireless Music Store on the iPhone and iPod Touch).
The similarities between Apple and Amazon, two great innovators, are many; but the point is that Amazon is doing really well with the Kindle/Kindle2 and the business model behind it, and it didn’t even have to come up with the idea by itself. It’s not always a bad thing to be a fast-follower or to adopt an already-successful product idea or business model if you can figure out a way of adding value in doing so. Amazon saw what Apple did for (or to) the music industry, and devised a smart way of doing the same thing for the publishing industry. Smart.
It’s no wonder that Amazon is one of the only retailers in the world to be growing and turning a profit in this economic environment. It has revolutioned the world of retail, offering customers low prices, convenience, and selection.
What business models or ideas can you adopt today? How can you ‘borrow’ innovations from other industries or companies and make them your own?
Learn more about the Kindle2, available February 23rd, 2009, at Amazon.