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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Amazon's Tablet & the Piracy of Digital Content

Tomorrow evening Amazon will most likely be unveiling their tablet and also entering a marketplace where many brands have been trying to conquer Apple's dominance without any measurable level of success.

Why then would Amazon think their tablet can do any better?  

Apart from the fact that they've had a number of years success with an e-reader called the Kindle, they've also had another ace up their sleeve which most other tablet manufacturers have struggled and that is digital content.  To succeed in the tablet or smartphone business, you need to build the right eco-system around your product (to read a previous post we did on the eco-system, click here for First to market or first to create an ecosystem?).  It is not about hardware specs anymore and Amazon knows.

What type of content does Amazon have today:

  • Books - Amazon has been in the book business for years and with the Kindle e-reader, they've had a few years to build up their library of digital content that can port over to most tablets today.  
  • Music - Amazon also sells music, both CD's and MP3's for downloads so they can satisfy someone who's looking to use their tablet for listening to music.  
  • Movies & TV Shows - Amazon recently launched their own video streaming service similar to Netflix, which means access to TV shows and movies off a tablet or PC screen.  In addition to that, Amazon has had a relationship with most content publishers in this space for years because they've been selling their shows and movies as a DVD for many years as well.
  • Subscription & Rental Models - Amazon recently started offering the ability to rent or borrow a book much as you would in a typical library (sans the late fees).  This together with their ability to allow you to subscribe to newspapers and magazines gives Amazon an added advantage over most other platforms out there today.
  • Cloud Services - Amazon has been busy in the background hosting web services through Amazon Web Services and with Apple talking of iCloud, Amazon has also got their own cloud service ready to roll-out (we blogged about Amazon's cloud service a few months ago, click here to read 

    Amazon: Home of Cloudy Computing and iCloud: Is this the end of the road for hard drives?)

  • Games - Amazon is not really known as a destination for downloading games from but they've been selling software for most consoles for many years now.  The know-how in offering games for download shouldn't be a huge challenge for a company like Amazon to offer.
  • App Store - This is probably where Amazon stands out from Apple's competitors.  Many have tried using their own App Store or relying on Google's Android Market, but that hasn't always been successful primarily because they didn't have the digital library that Amazon has.  The fact that Amazon found it feasible to launch their own Android App Store without really involving Google means they've been working hard on this for a while now.

Should I buy the Amazon tablet if I live in the UAE?

However, if you're living in a country like the United Arab Emirates, don't start jumping for joy yet.  Indications are that Amazon is not planning to launch the Kindle e-reader or their tablets here anytime soon.  Even if you were to import the tablet yourself, access to content would be limited as Amazon generally doesn't sell any of their digital content in the UAE

Why  might you ask is the reason?  One reason would be that while Amazon has got the content ready digitally, the copyright holders have restricted the regions into which Amazon can sell their digital content. The Middle East generally doesn't figure in most of these agreements.  Secondly, the market has to be big enough for Amazon to see it as a priority, which it clearly doesn't at the moment.  There are ways around this though but it involves showing that you have an address within a country that Amazon is allowed to sell their digital content in (which works when buying books but not music).

Fueling Piracy

This is not something unique to Amazon though.  Most of the content that can be sold digitally in this region, isn't.  The reason is that there are various archaic content distribution agreements that exist that still haven't been addressed in this region.  The end result of this is that piracy has unfortunately been rampant.  

If a legal alternative to download or access digital content was provided, then I'm fairly confident piracy rates would reduce.  At the moment, there is a flaw in the system and that has to be addressed.  Asking consumers to buy DVD's or CD's instead or blaming internet service providers isn't the solution (click here to see a story in ArabianBusiness eluded to this week).  Providing access to the content legally is what had to addressed by the content distribution companies and until they fail to do this, they're only continuing to make the hole that they dug deeper (click here to read a previous post on digital content piracy - Digital Dilemma: How do you share content?).

Concluding Remarks...

As much as we'd like to say the United Arab Emirates is advanced because we get the latest and greatest products quickly or because we've got one of the most advanced telecommunications infrastructures in the world, we're falling behind because we've lost out on offering the most advanced services.

There is no reason why we shouldn't have services like Netflix, Spotify, Rdio or Skype in this region.  The same goes with having an  iTunes store where you can buy music or TV shows from or an Amazon App Store that you can buy books from (without having to show you live in a different country).  

If piracy has been a problem here or if new product innovations are being held back here, it has a lot to do with ensuring the entire ecosystem exists.  The ecosystem today means having the right hardware, operating system, telecoms capabilities and content.  We have three out of four and the most glaring area we've missed out on is content.  Let's hope someone can lead the way here and ensure this happens soon so we don't continue to drift behind the times.

To know more about how else the Amazon tablet may do, have a read through this article that appeared in PCWorld this week.

Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics