We are just beginning to see “Internet of Things” devices. There is much more experimentation, failure, and re-calibration to come; a mix of product development and market development. The question is, do you experiment* in public (think Google Glass) or do you do it in secrecy until you’re certain? (Perhaps the most direct way to think about that question is with another question: what’s the cost of failure, to your other product lines and to your reputation? The answer, for Amazon, for this product, is that it’s fairly low.)
The best aspect of the Dash Button is that it demonstrates Amazon’s dedication to imagining and engineering new products. In case you haven’t read my first post, I think that’s what it takes to move industries forward.
This product, however, seems like a clear-but-perhaps-ironically-inefficient solution that competes against pencil, paper, PC, and smartphone. (Why? See below.) The odds of mass-market success, therefore, might be quite low, even within the context of Amazon’s Prime consumer base. But it has strong platforms behind it: Amazon’s warehouse, payment, delivery, and service capabilities. So, a seemingly dead-simple way of leveraging huge capability; that’s a big plus.
It also shows very sharp clarity in cutting the distance between “A” and “B”: i.e., between “want” and “get”. It could make the act of buying as habitual as consumption. Amazon’s video has the example: your cup-a-soup is a recurring habit; why not let your purchase be a recurring habit?
At its core, this is an information device, albeit a small, passive, and stationary one. It’s actually a *specialized* information device. How have specialized information devices fared so far? (Hint: MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS devices, voice recorders, e-readers, etc.) … this is one more (or N more) information device whose job a smartphone can do.
The simplicity (at the action level; pressing the button) might be cancelled out at the device level. Why?
If you use a Dash button, or several, you’re guaranteed to deal with one or more of the following: moving them, knocking them down, damaging them, losing them, re-arranging them, re-programming them, or worrying about them (pets? babies?)… that’s 1…5… or 10 more objects your brain is tracking, at some level. The next time you realize you need more Smart Water, do you order it with your smartphone or tablet? Or do you walk to wherever you keep the button? What if you want a different size or flavor?
Your sleek appliance + this bright button = visual clutter. And you’d be adding an advertisement to your appliance or wall. Multiplied by 1 button… or 5… or 10?
Silver Lining Platform
The button is just one way to leverage the more powerful things: Amazon’s high-performance platforms. Because the button uses Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service (DRS), through which, Amazon explains:
Device makers are able to leverage Amazon’s authentication and payment systems, customer service, and fulfillment network—giving their customers access to Amazon’s low prices, great selection, and reliable delivery.
Are these color e-ink labels? Does this product generate ad revenue? These are free (and I’m guessing they’ll stay free) — do you need to “qualify” to get more, or can you ask for 10 at some point? When is mine coming? (Of course I signed up. It’s Amazon, and we’re in the age of tomorrow.)
*This button is an experiment, at some level. One clue: a soft launch like this.