Amazon continues to expand beyond its retail and software roots into the hardware market—which CEO Jeff Bezos has made clear does perfect work of leading customers back to Amazon's root products and making the company money.
The longtime rumors that Amazon is preparing a smartphone were revived Oct. 2, when TechCrunch reported noticing a "throwaway" statement on a Hacker News forum and prompted sources about the details.
The HN post said that Amazon is working on two phones—an inexpensive model that will launch this year and run software similar to what's on the Kindle Fire and a higher-end model with a 3D user interface. The 3D phone has four cameras, it added, one on each corner, to track a user's eyes and head and create the impression of 3D.
"They wanted to have it launched already but had difficulties with both software and hardware, and then lots of key players left the company—a common problem at Amazon is retention, having the lowest record of any tech company," wrote the HD forum user, going by the user name Helvodka.
TechCrunch reports that it looked into the claims and learned from sources that the high-end device's code name, earlier reported as "Smith," has since been changed to "Duke."
Its sources also confirmed that the high-end phone will not launch this year.
Also keeping Amazon busy is a set-top box, similar to a Roku player, that it's hoping to release in time for the holiday season, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 3.
"The set-top box ... is similarly styled as a platform to run apps and content from a variety of sources," the Journal reported, citing people with knowledge of the device. "It would also serve as a delivery vehicle for Amazon's existing streaming video service—available as part of its Prime membership—which competes with Netflix Inc. and has been expanding lately."
The report is in sync with a May report from the Journal, which said sources had told it, "Amazon has several devices in development. They're part of an effort "known as Project A, B, C and D, or collectively the Alphabet Projects."
The two smartphones and a set-top box, said the May report, were just two of the Alphabet Projects and part of a "broader foray into hardware."
Amazon, of course, entered the hardware market via tablets, and on Sept. 25 it introduced its latest, the Kindle Fire HDX. In an interview with NBC around the Fire HDX launch, Bezos succinctly summed up Amazon's "foray" into devices.
"We make money when people use our devices," he said, "not when they buy our devices."
It's easy to imagine that a 3D interface on a smartphone could complement the experience of playing a mobile game, watching a movie, reading a book or interacting with an app—all things that can be purchased from Amazon.
On July 25 Amazon announced the results of its 2013 second fiscal quarter. Sales were up 22 percent, to $15.70 billion, and the top 10 selling items "were all digital products," Bezos said in a statement, "Kindles, Kindle Fire HDs, accessories and digital content. The Kindle service keeps getting better."