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Why Don’t Google Marry Amazon?

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Google perfectly complements Amazon, so why don't they work together?

I stumbled onto a Wikipedia page of the movie called EPIC 2014. In this movie, released just seven years ago, term “Googlezon” was coined. Word came from a fictional merger of Google and Amazon in the alternative universe, done to to create an ultimate product recommendation tool developed by user’s search queries. In this alternative universe, there’s nothing that can slow Googlezon, not even Supreme Court and New York Times. The company eventually releases the tool called “Epic” in the year of 2014, hence the title of the movie. The tool stores user’s reading habits, demographics, and political preference (supplied by users themselves, with Googlezon paying each user) to deliver news best tailored to user’s needs. Eventually, online version of New York Times collapses, with NY Times staying solely as print newspaper “for the elderly.”

Why am I mentioning Googlezon? Because as Google and Amazon infringe more on each other’s business, I feel like those companies should cooperate, instead of compete, with each other to develop whole Android ecosystem. By developing the ecosystem filled with contents and integrated natively to smartphones and tablets, Google and Amazon have a chance of taking down what amounts to be Apple’s last trump card, flawless iTunes integration to iPhone, iPad, and iPods.

Smartphone manufacturers, hoping to develop their own content service to further distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack, already jumped into content delivery business. Samsung has its Media Hub for Galaxy S devices, and HTC has done a nice job of making Android version of Netflix available only on its devices (Nexus S excepted), even though it’s likely to be for very short time, along with HTC Watch for Sense 3.0 devices. Motorola signed a deal with Blockbuster all the way back in 2009, and Blockbuster apps are available on its Droid line of device as well as Atrix 4G. Yet, no service has managed to gain any kind of success in the market now. As much as they try, no smartphone buyers even factor in Samsung’s Media Hub or Motorola’s Blockbuster app into their smartphone buying decisions.

In a meanwhile, Netflix has been a killer app for iOS devices while Apple rents more than 500,000 movies/TV-shows a day, earning about $ 400 million a year according to estimates. More than million people bought HBO Go for iOS and Android in its first week. Video streaming services can be and are successful. It’s just that Android smartphone manufacturers and Google failed to get any contents that can lure people to use their services ($ 2.99 a day for movie rental didn’t help either).

So when Google finally released movie rental service for Android, there was certain expectation that Google finally may come up with something that can compete with the iTunes and Amazon. However, when I heard the announcement, it was just “meh”. When I saw the actual store, alas, I was even more disappointed. Movies were relatively expensive (to be fair, competitive with iTunes). Beside few featured movies, movies were also old and obscure. While other rental stores also share similar problems (infamous 90-day window for Neflix comes to my mind) I felt like Google Movies is more lacking than industry titans Google is trying to compete with. It already shows in numbers, with Amazon having 10x amount of movies in its rental store than Google Movies. With Netflix timely launching in Android devices, Google Movie’s tauted ability to watch rented movies anywhere without syncing simply banished as well, as I can watch Netflix anywhere from my PS3 to iPad and Google TV. So, even as Google Movie is trying to take off, the service already faces a quantitativeness challenge from Amazon and iTunes, and cost as well as technological challenge from Netflix.

When I tried to find Social Network, all I saw was bunch of B-movies.

Google Music is more promising than Google Movies, with an ability to store 80GB of songs and all (I’m hoping that I can get the invite soon so I can get some hands-on time). While it’s highly unlikely that the user can upload 80GB of songs given how slow upload process is, its offline playback feature and interface do look intuitive and highly user-friendly. However, Amazon Cloud Drive did launch a couple of months earlier, and it features enough features that can persuade people to choose Amazon over Google Music. Amazon has its own MP3 store, so if I chose to, I can buy MP3s from Amazon (and they have some great deals) and sync it right to Amazon Cloud Drive. It’s also a bonus that songs that you buy from Amazon don’t count toward the 5GB limit, practically allowing unlimited storage if you buy songs only from Amazon. Amazon Cloud Drive is also a multi-platform software, working both on Android and iOS now. Although Google Music has a pretty cool tool that imports every songs you buy from iTunes, songs with Apple DRM and lossless files don’t work as well as songs from Amazon (you have to do it manually). Sure, iTunes still hold a massive lead over Amazon, but as Android phone manufacturers further embrace Amazon and iPod sales decline, this may arise as a problem in couple years or so. For many with iPod Touch and Android phone combination (or an Android phone and an iPad), multi-platform nature of Cloud Drive also helps, as one can literally listen “anywhere, on any device,” which Google Music can’t.

Google is trying its hands at content delivering process, perhaps to combat iTunes, but the products introduced simply don’t live up to hype, and falls behind what Amazon and Apple offers. The fundamental difference between those companies lies in that Amazon and Apple have a long experience in delivering contents, while Google is a relative newcomer. So even though Google is trying to outwork Amazon and Apple, that fundamental difference and Google’s beta approach to everything it does eventually lead to Google’s failure to even staying competitive with Amazon and Google, just as with Google’s repeated attempts to enter social networking area.

Amazon, in a meanwhile, is getting its feet wet in hardware business. Kindle has been a huge success, and Jeff Bezos practically admitted that there will be an Amazon tablet out this holiday season, based fully on Android. What we’re seeing is Google trying to make a move to create one-stop content delivery market, which Amazon is more familiar with, while Amazon is trying to develop its own ecosystem based on Android, space that Google is more familiar with. So the question is, why are both companies trying to approach areas where they are not familiar with, when they can simply choose to complement each other in the areas that each is lacking in?

The goal that both are looking for it is ironically the same, to create perfect competitor to iTunes that can nullify Apple’s trump card. Both companies look to be the first one that develops the ecosystem. The truth is that both companies lack an aspect of ecosystem that Apple worked long to develop. Google lacks any kind of knowledge in content delivering business, as shown with the failed negotiation with labels to develop music store. While Amazon has tasted a success in hardware manufacturing device with Kindle, it lacks an ability to natively integrate its software to the OS, as Apple has done with iTunes and iOS. But if two companies worked together (I’m not suggesting a merger in any way aka. Googlezon, I am just looking for a partnership), they can fill what each other is missing. And with Amazon’s content natively integrated with Android, two companies finally can get a chance to develop the ecosystem that natively integrates content delivery to the operating system. Also, just as what Apple has done with the iTunes, Google can fully set up its “Googlezon” service as the entertainment store for Android. With even more content  and cheaper price than what iTunes has, I think Android users will take a look at Googlezon with the right marketing. When those users are persuaded enough to fully ditch iTunes in support of Googlezon and think Googlezon=Android as many iOS users think iTunes=iOS, I think Google and Amazon, after years and years of effort to beat iTunes, can finally beat iTunes in market share and show themselves as the market leader.

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Written by Geek Park

May 14, 2011 at 3:27 PM

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