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Amazon and the channel: Friend, foe or all of the above?

I am only somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have a desk drawer full of mobile gadgets that I probably don’t use as much as I should, including BOTH an Amazon Kindle (an older one) and a first generation Apple iPad. It is rare that I carry both of those devices on a trip, but I still do carry one or the other, depending on whether or not I have to do any writing work while I am on the road.

I bring this up because I just read some new data released by research firm ChangeWave Research ( a division of The 451 Group) that suggests the new Amazon Kindle Fire is already much more of a threat to the iPad in just a month of existence than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has been on the market for a year.

The report is based on surveys of 3,043 consumers during early November. It shows the Amazon Kindle Fire represents a serious competitive threat to the iPad, at least in North America, where the poll was conducted. Approximately two-thirds of those surveyed expressed an interest in buying the iPad, while about 22 percent said they were interested in a Kindle Fire. No other tablet garnered more than 1 percent of the responses, according to the report.

The data is just another demonstration that Amazon is far, far more than a really efficient online retailer.

Whether it was by accident or design, the company is now at the center of the hottest technology segment since the original personal computers prompted businesses to rethink the way their employees did work. With its vast knowledge of consumer behavior, Amazon represents a far more credible threat to Apple than many of the technology vendors that got their start on the business-to-business side of the world.

Yes, you’re right. No IT service provider will get rich selling either tablets or e-readers, but there are rich managed services opportunities in the field of mobile device management. The Apple iPad, as an example, is a serious factor in healthcare IT environments as doctors and other clinical professionals seek ways to increase patient satisfaction. I expect the Kindle Fire will soon begin becoming a factor, especially when you consider all the text books and medical journals that the healthcare industries consults and reads.

Amazon is very relevant for another reason, of course: It is a serious contender in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) portion of the cloud computing marketplace.

There are few companies in the channel that could hope to compete with Amazon’s ability to scale; although, on the flip side, Amazon will find it tough to contend with the channel’s ability to offer cloud infrastructure specifically customized for certain verticals along with the personalized service and support that many SMBs need. Of course, Amazon might also be a very relevant infrastructure partner for some aspects of the IT solution provider channel.

The emergence of the Amazon Kindle Fire is another reminder that Amazon is far more than just another e-commerce company. This is a technology company to be reckoned with in both mobility and cloud infrastructure, and IT solution providers are advised to keep close tabs on its plans.

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