Why Amazon Is the New Digital Media Alpha Dog


Alpha dogMost assumed Apple or Google would be the digital media giants to first implement cloud-based music streaming, so it surprised quite a few folks when Amazon actually made the first move.

Some have pointed out that smaller companies have done similar cloud-based media lockers or music streaming services and perhaps we shouldn’t be impressed. But no one said what Amazon did was a major technological feat. In fact, the sheer number of startups who have actually done cloud storage and streaming shows that it’s not the technology that’s been the stumbling block — it’s the potential legal and business complications.

And that’s exactly why Amazon’s move was a big deal: The company decided that it was going to do it now and apologize later, assuming the sheer momentum and force of its will would be enough.

So while the company doesn’t have a first mover advantage in the technology sense, by moving first among the large digital media goliaths, Amazon has essentially established itself as digital and cloud media’s alpha dog.

In fact, you could argue Amazon’s behavior is part of a pattern, one which shows the company moving ever more aggressively, playing somewhat fast and loose with the rules (both in legal and business terms), in an effort to establish itself before its competitors or spurned partner reacts, by which time the company’s seeded the market.

Some examples of Amazon’s alpha-dogness:

  • The brower-purchase option on iOS devices. This way of skirting Apple’s app store was genius, and of course it was too good to last. But by the time Apple implemented its in-app purchase rule, Amazon had already established itself in a big way with Kindle for iPad.
  • Going DRM-free first. Remember, while Apple still dominants music sales, Amazon made itself a player (and grabbed second-place market share) by dropping DRM on its MP3s, a pretty radical move at the time.
  • App store with Test-Drive. By creating its own app store, Amazon not only ticked off Apple by using the term, but more importantly it decided to create an app store that was a real alternative to iTunes for apps as well as music.
  • Kindle e-book pricing strategies. Make no doubt, Kindle and Amazon’s e-book efforts to disintermediate publishers is by far their biggest move, as well as their aggressive moves to drop e-book pricing (which created the agency-model revolt that Apple helped along with iBooks)

Sure, these are disparate group of initiatives, but I think they’re all largely connected. In fact, the more recently aggressive behavior by Amazon in cloud streaming and app stores was a result of Apple’s app-store rules, something I speculated in February would result in Amazon looking to create an iTunes alternative, something which look to be fully intent on creating.

And while Amazon may be showing the most aggressive behavior of all the big digital media giants, there’s no doubt the other big dogs will bite back, and no doubt its likely to happen soon.

For more on Amazon’s first-mover advantage among the media giants and its relationship with Apple, see our latest weekly update over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of Flickr user Beverly & Pack

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