September 7, 2012 by Melajara

Kindle Fire HD (credit: Amazon)

No, this is not about WWII SS, although it’s about another form of evil, maybe.

This is mostly a reaction to the sales pitch from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, presenting the new Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fire HD at a much touted press conference yesterday.

I’m not talking about a new phenomenon, nor mere $$$, but with Bezos orchestration, which is just a perfectly rational answer to the forces shaping current consumer electronics, this is just too much IMHO.

The Santa Monica presentation to the press was scheduled about 10 days ago. 6 days ago, the first images of a “Paperwhite” device surfaced from a website called TheVerge. About 10 hours before the presentation, a 1 minute 20 ad was broadcast along the first NFL game of the season.

About one hour before the presentation, CNET, a web site specialized in gadgetry evaluation, proposed a special talk show where two knowledgeable people filled the void by speculating on the specs and target market of the new Kindle models.

Alongside, journalists were gathering in the conference room, each one with a laptop or some instantaneous reporting device to transcribe Bezos’ holy talk to the rest of the planet, me included.

And the true stars were announced. I won’t go into the specs here, you can find them from Amazon.

So, what’s the fuss, aren’t those lovely gadgets with a lot of bang for the buck?

Welcome to the silo

Sure, but let’s go now to the evil part, the SSS part.

When you are buying a Kindle, you are not buying yet another Android eReader or tablet; you are entering an ecosystem. Each Kindle sale is a peculiar sale; I’m calling it SSS, for Single Silo Sale.

The first thing you are supposed to do after having unpacked the item, plugged in the charger and powered on the device, is to ACTIVATE it. This means binding the Kindle to a specific Amazon account for access to the growing galaxy of Amazon services. First and foremost, all content, books, music, movies should be acquired through Amazon.

You will be enticed to join the Amazon Prime club for rebates on books, limited sharing capabilities on your library, remote storage of your stuff on the Amazon cloud and so on.

Besides reading, watching TV or movies on your shiny tablet, maybe you would like to play. No problem, Amazon has its own approved lot of games on its App store alongside other Android apps. But yet again, the offer is a subset of the full Android market, subsidized by Amazon through the target device, this devilish lovely Kindle.

Amazon is pushing hard to entice you to buy, buy and buy again. For example, watching a movie delivered by Amazon, you can stop it, be introduced to the list of characters, when they are appearing in the movie (for further reference) and be presented a list of other movies where your fetish actor/actress is playing too. This service is a synergy with IMDB, a giant movie database acquired by Amazon. Of course, all those other movies are just one click away for buying with immediate Amazon delivery.

Now take a book, you read the 20 first pages on the living room, yet another 15 pages, light off, in your bed with the glowing Paperwhite screen. Next day, when commuting, you can start again your reading but synchronized with an audio version. So, say you’re in traffic jam, your book will be spoken to you from page 35. This will not be the mechanical voice from the bundled text to speech transcriber but a true audio version spoken by a professional actor. Of course, you’ll have to buy both book versions for that service, hopefully at a bundle price.

And what about kids? Bezos has 4 children, and he said he knows, for access to the screen, that it’s all about negotiation with the kids. So now you have parental control with individualized user’s profile and timed access (e.g. 30 minutes video, 1 hour on comics reading but unlimited reading time on textbooks) and that’s it.

Command and control

This ought to be a formidable platform for education, but no, it will be yet another dumbing-down device milking the consumer.

SSS, or this trick to lock you in a silo of possible purchases from the seminal acquisition of the device, has been pioneered by Apple with the Macintosh strict GUI guidelines and its specific market place, but at that time it was a more open process, as Apple didn’t control the entire market. Individual software brands could thrive without special ties with Apple.

Then, the model has been emphasized by the big Telcos with their subscription plans, where they made no money on the (smart)phone itself but on the services. Now, it’s epitomized by Amazon and its Kindle brand. But with the ever expanding capabilities of consumer electronics, the trend is going from bad to worse, now that the device is constantly spying on you, reporting your habits, location, reading patterns (e.g. from monitoring page shuffling, the new Kindle will present you at the bottom of the screen an estimated time before chapter completion!).

In our soft Orwellian world, dominated not by an all-powerful state but by a cartel of mega corporations dictating their vision of “progress,” the way to push technology is not through collective empowerment anymore.

Instead, in an unabated promotion of individualism, people are lured to technology by teasing of their lower instincts.

Abiding to this trend, yesterday, Amazon didn’t present devices for empowerment, but yet another means of aiming at narcissistic entertainment fulfillment for dumbed-down consumers.

As usual, clever people will shrug, smile and say so what? Take the shiny device at dumped price, jailbreak it and throw everything at the little devil for free, including millions of DRM stripped copyrighted material!

Yes you can, but isn’t it all too bad for you to have to take the runaway road to feel free, sailing the world without any “buy this, try that, don’t miss those…” ubiquitous solicitations?

There was a time when society really strived for empowerment of the people by technological advances, fostering education to achieve a proud sense of collective progress. This time is lost.

Now it’s time for control and profit, period.