I had the opportunity and privilege to get an early look at the new Amazon Fire phone. It delights in many ways, but I’ll focus on the shopping experience enabled through Firefly.
For those who may not remember, Amazon put a dedicated physical button on the left hand side of the phone that launches directly into image recognition. If the image is recognized, then a web-based mCommerce experience launches. The user can then buy the product or it on a wish list, among other things. From there, the experience is more ‘traditional Amazon.’ The ‘new’ is the image, email, URL, etc. recognition.
Why is selling mobile phones important for Amazon? mCommerce in the US alone will add up to nearly $100M by the end of 2014. The new battleground for retailers is in the mobile moment – the point in time and space when a consumer pulls out her phone to get something she needs immediately and in context. Amazon’s FireFly service facilitates two core types of mobile sales moments:
Impulse Sales Moments – these are often flash sales (e.g., WTSO.com, SteepAndCheap, etc.) or spontaneous purchases (e.g., Groupon). The opportunity for Amazon here is in minimizing the friction between consumers seeing something they want, and enabling them to buy it before they forget about it, or find it later in a store nearby.
Replenishment Sales Moments – the phone (or something like an Amazon Dash) is with me when I realize a shampoo bottle or milk is empty or I need more toothpaste.
Google acquired Nest for billions, and then Facebook spent several more billion on Oculus VR. We’re only a few months into 2014, and already billions have been spent by some of the world’s largest digital players, with each of these companies eager to own the next big thing. Mobile is right here, right now, but everyone knows that very soon, there will be something else. But what else?
In the battle to find and claim the next device that everyone will want, these companies will soon realize that next big thing is not a thing at all: It’s your voice.
Voice control suffers from the same things plaguing augmented reality or virtual reality: It has been around for so long that we think we know what it is. Any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation knows that voice control involves invoking an invisible computer with a command, “Computer,” followed by a query, “How many Klingons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Maybe that’s a question you don’t want the answer to, but the computer — as voiced by Majel Barrett in the TV series — would know it.
It’s possibly a long history of popular depictions of voice control that made us collectively show so much enthusiasm for Siri when Apple first debuted it in 2011. It’s also partly to blame for why we quickly turned on Siri, declaring her soothing semi-robotic tones to be merely amusing at best or irrelevant at worst.
When Microsoft recently announced its long-rumored Cortana voice service for Windows Phone 8.1 as a catch-up to both Siri and Google Now’s own voice interface, the interest was modest, perhaps because if Siri hasn’t changed the way millions of Apple users use millions of Apple devices, how can Microsoft initiate a wave of behavior change when it has so few Windows Phone users?