When Amazon first introduced the Kindle, many pundits were already comparing it to Apple’s introduction of the original iPod – predicting it would be a similar game changer for the book industry as Apple’s device was for the music industry. But the device’s design and marketing seemed slightly out of date for such a cutting edge device. Whilst very distinctive, it was hardly the kind of gorgeous design that gets heads turning.
Amazon’s marketing and redesign efforts for the introduction of the Kindle 2 have shown that Amazon has taken the criticism seriously and has made mimicking Apple’s success their new strategy:
The look and feel of Amazon’s promotional material for the Kindle 2 is very reminiscent of Apple’s material for the iPod and iPhone. Typical elements include a white background, the product compared with an object and glossy reflective surfaces. One could argue that this visual style has simply become commonplace, but at the very least Amazon didn’t make an effort to distinguish themselves from Apple’s visual language.
Apple makes a point of not using articles when referring to their products. Steve Jobs keynotes and Apple’s marketing copy is full of the phrases such as “iPhone will” or “iPod is”. In fact, Apple’s style guide (PDF Link!) explicitly prohibits it:
In general references, don’t use an article. When referring to the user’s particular iPhone, it’s OK to use your.
Amazon seems to have made a similar decision in its marketing copy for the Kindle:
Kindle 2 is everything customers tell us they love about the original Kindle […].
3. Product design
The original Kindle was widely lambasted for its industrial design. Comments ranged from “almost modern” to “soviet”. Philippe Starck even called it “a little sad”. The design of the Kindle 2 is markedly different and feels very Apple inspired. Like all iPods, it has a silver, metal back, clear white plastic front, rounded corners and a much more symmetrical design. Amazon has also chosen to emphasise the new model’s thinness, much like Apple did when it introduced the iPod nano model line.
4. End to end experience
With the Kindle, Amazon is taking an “end-to-end” approach. Instead of making the software open, or creating a reference platform, Amazon makes and sells the device, sells the media and even controls the electronic distribution network. This is the same model Apple has followed for the iPod with its iTunes music store. Despite calls from some pundits, such as GDGT’s Ryan Block for Amazon to create a software platform and allow other manufacturers to build devices around their software, Amazon has only take a minor step in that direction with its Kindle application for the iPhone.
This kind of integrated approach seem to have been the more successful strategy in recent years: The iPhone’s triumph over Microsoft’s long-term Windows Mobile strategy for instance seems to indicate that consumers favour ease of use and less complication over variety of choice.
It would be silly to argue that Amazon is to fault for “copying” Apple in any way. But as a newcomer to the CE field, it makes sense they would look to another company with experience in bringing advanced technologies and concepts to the mass market.