Amazon.com is testing a redesigned version of its website, a development that's noteworthy given that the new look could be a roadmap of what Amazon is building into its upcoming tablet, and how the company is fortifying its own Apple-esque ecosystem.
Here's a closer look at Amazon's new style and how it may influence you to become a newfound Amazon fanboy.
Amazon.com belongs on a tablet
The new look and feel of Amazon.com screams tablet. There's a lot more white space; the messy left-hand sidebar is gone; the search bar is enlarged for touchscreen fingertips; and the product photos are highly clickable icons reminiscent of those found in Amazon's Windowshop iPad app.
But what's most notable is Amazon's reported focus on the digital over the physical. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new Amazon.com shies from highlighting products like clothes and electronic hardware and emphasizes its built-in services like music downloads via Amazon MP3 and movies via Amazon Instant Video.
The remodeling started last week, but so far only a handful of users can see it live. Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts told the Journal that the company is "continuing to roll out the new design to additional customers" but "can't speculate on when the new design will be live for everyone."
Building an Amazon ecosystem
Just because the site looks like it's tablet-ready doesn't necessarily mean Amazon is showing off its tablet OS. But it does say that Amazon is putting a lot of oomph into building an Amazon ecosystem, much like how Apple has constructed a lifestyle around its own products.
The iPod, iPhone and iPad have all positioned Apple as the go-to company for mobile entertainment. Using only Apple products you can talk, write, read, listen to music and do a host of other things.
Amazon already has the foundation of a similar ecosystem, especially now that it's investing more resources into mobile technologies. There's music (Amazon MP3 and Amazon Cloud Player), video (Amazon Instant Video), a freestanding app store (Amazon's Appstore for Android) and, most prominently, books (the e-ink Kindle, its related apps, and the HTML5-based Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader). Putting all of those services in one location, on one tablet, has the potential to leverage Amazon's lesser-known services into household names.
But Amazon's "killer app" -- the company's strongest weapon in the tablet market -- is its retail presence. According to the Journal, Amazon.com had $34 billion in revenue last year. Amazon is also one of the most trusted brands in the United States. It's a one-stop shop and has been for years.
Amazon has even tailored a version of Android for its upcoming tablet. TechCrunch played around with the tablet OS and found that it looks and feels like Amazon.com but doesn't necessitate the construction (or require the cost) of making a brand new freestanding OS.
Combine all of Amazon's powers and put them on a tablet and what do you have? Another kind of one-stop shop, totally mobile, and at half the price of the entry-level iPad 2. If the Amazon tablet has even half the sheen of its website redesign and successfully integrates all of its services, the Internet retailer could not only have a best-selling tablet, but also the beginnings of its own Apple-like lifestyle.