Would Amazon dare to make a phone? Of course

Entering the smartphone business now would be a long shot, but that is Amazon's specialty these days

The idea of an Amazon smartphone, reportedly in the works for a September release, may seem far-fetched or foolhardy but isn't that big a stretch for the ambitious shopping, device and content giant.

Amazon is readying a phone that uses retina-tracking technology to make some objects on screen look 3-D without the use of special glasses, The Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing people who had been briefed on the plans. The phone would be announced in June and go on sale in September, though those plans could still change, the article said.

Though Amazon's never made a phone, and going up against Apple and Samsung Electronics in that business is not for the faint of heart, the Seattle conglomerate doesn't shy away from big bets. Just since the beginning of this year, it's proposed an outlandish flying drone to deliver purchases to customers' homes, introduced a Star Trek communicator-like wand for ordering products from its fledgling grocery service, and shipped a set-top media streaming device.

The latter followed the Apple TV and Google's Chromecast into the market but boasts high performance, games, and a remote that takes voice commands. The Fire TV also connects the TV up to Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX tablet. However, as with those devices, an Amazon phone might be intended more as a channel for selling content to users than as a generator of profit by itself.

On most existing phones, Amazon can offer shopping apps and mobile versions of its Kindle reader but has to do so on platforms provided by content rivals Apple and Google. Even more than its Kindle Fire tablets, an Amazon phone would keep the company's own content and merchandise stores at hand wherever the customer goes.

The reported glasses-free 3-D feature fits Amazon's gee-whiz approach, which it has even applied to support calls with the Kindle Fire's Mayday live-chat feature. And the company would be making a bolder entrance into the market than Facebook, which contented itself with a special model from HTC and the downloadable Facebook Home user interface for other Android phones. But Amazon may need more than that to gain a meaningful foothold in the phone business, where in 2013 Samsung and Apple together grabbed 46.6 percent of the market, according to IDC. No other vendor had more than 5 percent.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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