Amazon may not be known as a device maker, but the online retailer may be looking to change its image. According to a report in The New York Times' Bits Blog, the maker of the popular Kindle e-reader is looking to build "other gadgets that it could sell to consumers."
The report is based on unnamed sources and is centered around job postings at Amazon's Lab 126, the division that makes the Kindle, so details are scarce. But the report notes that Amazon is looking to create more devices that could "enable simple purchasing of Amazon content, including its digital books, music and movie rentals and purchases."
With that in mind, here are four devices I think Amazon should consider making.
A Phone: The NYT report notes that Lab 126 had "briefly discussed" trying to build a mobile phone to compete with devices from Apple and Google, but said the project "seemed out of reach." I think now is the time for Amazon to consider making its own phone, but I don't think the company should reinvent the wheel. Why not build an Android-based Amazon phone? Android phones already come with access to Amazon's MP3 downloads service, but what they're missing is easy access to a video download or rental service. A mobile version of Amazon's Video on Demand service could be a killer app for an Android phone, offering the kind of connected eco-system that Apple's iPhone/iTunes combo already provides.
Portable Media Player: Building an MP3 player seems like a natural fit for Amazon, as the company is likely sick and tired of watching all of its digital music downloads make their way to third-party players. But the market for MP3 players is a shrinking one: most people already own an iPod or have a cell phone capable of doubling as a music player. So building a portable audio/video player could be a risky move, unless it's done right. My suggestion? Take a page from Slacker's playbook and build a device that is centered around your music service, not the other way around. If users had easy access to digital music and video -- and the price of the device was right -- an Amazon player could be a winner.
Tablet: No, I don't think Amazon should build its own iPad. But I do think there is a potential device that sits somewhere between a Kindle and an iPad -- a device with a color touchscreen and the ability to play back audio and video content and games (in addition to serving as an e-reader). Oh, and if it could offer contract-free 3G service and built-in Wi-Fi, that would be even better.
TV: People already head to Amazon.com to shop for TVs, so why not start selling an Amazon-branded set? The Amazon TV would need to offer easy access to Amazon's Video on Demand service so users could download or rent movies, as well as access to Amazon's Game Downloads. This functionality could be built into an Amazon-branded set-top box (a Roku rival, perhaps) but I say let's skip the box altogether and build the functionality right into the TV. One less gadget to install and one less device to clutter up your entertainment center.
Those are my suggestions. What kind of devices do you think Amazon should build? Sound off in the comments below.