Amazon Whispersync — what other products could it create?

I confess: I am not an e-book reader. I use the old-fashioned library and a daily newspaper to consume printed media. Yet the recent introduction of Amazon’s Kindle 2 made me stop and think about whether I should consider changing my reading habits to incorporate the e-Book. The main reason? The feature Amazon calls Whispersync.

Whispersync (you can catch some more information here) is a service that uses the Kindle’s built in 3g network to deliver a “bookmarking” service and to synchronize your reading on your Kindle with your reading on another Kindle. But wait a minute. With the release of Kindle for iPhone, Amazon has not only created an interesting service that can travel with you whereever there is internet connectivity, but also created a streamlined purchase “deck” for buying any Amazon products at that same point.

It’s as if Amazon had just reached out and created a virtual storefront in your pocket — more usable than the mobile web sites you might use today — and had thrown in the ability to read e-Books as a sideline. What else could you use this interesting technology to promote?

I came up with a few ideas: portable notetaking, pedometer and exercise logger, automatic photograph tagger, and then it hit me straight in the face — Amazon Whispersync is a gateway drug for Amazon S3. The pipeline to deliver e-book content to any device, anywhere, is also the pipeline to deliver any files anywhere and to store them. It means that instead of having to rely on the memory capacity of my mobile device I can start to rely only on the speed of the network to deliver the information. This trend can already been seen in products like mobile Pandora, which as a streaming music program would seem to be an oxymoron on the iPhone platform. Yet strangely, it works.

So what has Amazon created? The Whispersync technology gives Amazon a technology platform to deploy some of its vast distribution capabilities in digital media. The same logistical challenges inherent in delivering whatever book I want to my doorstep are relevant to digital media, though the physical challenges look and feel a bit different. Whispersync has the promise of becoming an ecosystem — a way to easily reach Amazon customers anywhere and everywhere that they are — and a way for Amazon to extract some valuable payment from those customers whereever they happen to be. They won’t be far from their wish lists. Just wait until Mark Zuckerman gets a hold of this technology and uses it to drive micropurchases on Facebook.

What Does LinkedIn have to do with Facebook?

Recently I joined the ranks of those who Twitter. It was a gradual decision, spurred by the increasingly relevant bits of information I got from friends via Facebook. Facebook was the same sort of “well, I ought to try it” decision last summer. The key here is that the meme, or at least the techmeme for those who microblog, has moved away from LinkedIn. Or has it?

I use LinkedIn, as many of my friends do, to maintain a casual resume and link point for “weak ties”. Yet there was little reason to join Linkedin several years and months ago besides the goal of racking up “connections”. After reaching 500+, people would say “boy, you’re well connected” but I wasn’t really sure if I could use that platform to answer questions I had or to gather new information in interesting and powerful ways.

LinkedIn attempted to address this gap last summer when it added Groups, a way to spontaneously link up your RL buddies and your Social/Work friends, yet it doesn’t have the same spontaneity and “it” factor as does Facebook or Twitter. LinkedIn is not easy enough to use today because it’s difficult to know how to use it when you’re not explicitly looking for a job.

Network with friends? I can do that through a million other services. Find someone in another company who knows a specific skill? Now we’re getting closer, but it’s hard to tell who is an expert and who just put “Six Sigma Black Belt” on their profile to show up in a keyword search.

So what’s a work-focused social network to do? I have a few ideas:

  1. embrace the other services. Instead of offering “plug-in” apps, use the data feeds from the other services as part of a multi-layered view into a candidate
  2. Competency maps. Everybody hates doing this, so if you can combine the automatic (or semi automatic through tagging) building of competencies along with the “crowd-sourced” ratings that make Digg etc. popular, you can find out who’s the Six Sigma Black Belt that everyone seems to hire around here.
  3. make it easier for members of the service to advertise these services, while striking a balance between those would would spam each other and those who have verifiable services

Solve this problem, and you have not only a social network that blends the way that people communicate with the way that they work, but also a blender that creates new opportunities to find talent and create opportunities simultaneously. Add to that some services that allow these incubators to access business services and monetize their ideas and LinkedIn might have a model that signs people up for a nominal fee, and then pays them back as they create value.

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