alanwilliamson

Amazon spinning a right old yarn with Silk. Here's why

Amazon has set the news media alight with its new tablet, aptly named 'Fire'. The majority of the press are stopping short of calling it an iPad killer, but at $200 it is hard to see how it is not going to eat into the iPad market share.

Amazon the eco-system

One of the big advantages of the Amazon Fire is not the tablet, but the whole eco-system. The Kindle isn't necessarily the best hardware book reader on the market, but couple it with the Amazon backend, of tapping into the huge wealth of books and availability it is hard to touch.

The Amazon Fire is built on the same principal; hardware is "good enough", but couple it with the backend of Amazon and now we are talking about an interesting setup. You aren't buying a tablet, you are buying a service. Buying into a long relationship. No monthly charges, but Amazon hopes you'll be dipping into its store a lot more than you normally would have.

Strong as silk

One of the features being touted is their amazing revolutionary(?) browser, Amazon Silk. Their marketing department went into overdrive here, laboring the point that this is a "cloud based" browser, and how it will speed up the performance of the web, predicting where we will be going, just-in-time proxying and auto resizing of large images, compression of CSS and Javascript files.

Anyone in the tech world scratching their head and saying "and? so?" ?.

Amazon Silk is not new. Not by a long stretch. ISP's have historically been proxying and compressing content for along time. AOL was one of the more popular ones, along with the likes of Excite and Comcast. Browsers have been doing this a long time, in the guise of Opera.

Opera has had "Turbo" mode on their desktop browsers, doing everything Amazon Silk have been doing when it detects a slow network connection. Sending requests through Opera's servers for transparent optimization. Opera, whose main business is powering mobile browsers, have been doing this out of necessity for years on their embedded browser. They are equally bemused at all this Silk nonsense too, as they respond to Silk.

Amazon Silk under the covers is using a technology pioneered by Google, SPDY, which replaces HTTP as the main protocol for communicating with the backend servers. If you have been using Chrome, then every time you hit a Google property, then you've been most likely talking SPDY instead of HTTP already. Noticed any difference? I haven't.

What's really going on?

Clearly nothing that technically revolutionary is going on here. A packaging exercise at best, bringing them together into a tablet form. So what are Amazon hoping to achieve here?

Have you noticed how every slide and picture that is touting Amazon's Web Services platform include references to a strange set of new letters for most: EC2. Anyone in the cloud world (the real cloud world that is) knows that EC2 is Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and until now, has been relegated to be only used by technical folks running and maintaining servers.

Ask anyone that works in platform clouds and they will always tell you a story of when they first recommend Amazon to run an enterprise, the response will have been "eh? the book seller?". We all have our own variations of that particular conversation, where we spend the next 20minutes selling Amazon as a world class cloud pioneer, and not just the place you buy books.

Jeff Bezos is a very clever man, many likening him to the next Steve Jobs when it comes to positioning and building an end-2-end consumer experience. If Steve Jobs is the Mercedes, then Jeff Bezos is the Ford.

Amazon Silk is a clever way to market Amazon EC2 and the rest of their webservices. This is a way for them to come out of the technical departments and get all people talking about their cloud offering. See them more than just the book seller.

This is a great move from them for sure and I am bemused at how many people are fawning over the "cloud browser" with very little understanding of what it really means. Amazon's only crime here is further polluting the "cloud" term with more vagueness and ambiguity.

Just as Twitter now tracks all links going through its eco-system using t.co, Amazon will also be tracking where every Amazon Fire user will be visiting and quickly build up a profile of their user base. Privacy concerns anyone?

I predict that within 6months, Amazon Silk will be sold as another web service for platform developers to use on a very cheap Pay-As-You-Go service $0.0x per request. This will enable corporations and maybe even ISP's to go back to real-time proxying complete with a nice set of monthly reports on where the majority of their users are going. All without involving the already over burdened network department.

Amazon Silk is a trojan horse, preparing the ground for much bigger announcements in the future. Amazon are easing the media into its world, educating them on the wonders of the cloud platform and what it can offer.

The days of the open internet were always numbered, but this is another step towards the closing of it to just a handful of very powerful players, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter.


 

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