With the announcement of its third version of the Kindle, now an 18 month old product line, Amazon seem to have created a very American stage for the opening act of the new e-book era. There are still no announcements about Kindle appearing in Europe or elsewhere. Leaving the ‘RoW’ gap open for so long, while creating so much momentum is surely a risk.
While Sony’s ability to fully seize their opportunity seems a little lackluster, it appears that Plastic Logic might rise up in between the two. Plastic Logic are clearly talking to many of the major international news and magazine players. Perhaps they have to decide whether to become an e-book company or stick to being a display tech company; an ulcer-forming decision of the Geoffrey Moore variety.
In the e-everything boom of the late 90’s – this situation might easily have given rise to a consortium play. The publishers, fearing the rising power of a ‘new media’ intermediary more than their immediate competitors, might club together with a technology provider to try and create a common defense.
As a decade-old example of this playbook – Opodo was built by Europe’s major (and fiercely competing) airlines and Andersen Consulting, to stave off Travelocity and Expedia, with moderate success. The purpose of such an approach is not to dominate the emerging space but simply to frustrate and delay it for a few years – allowing the slower incumbent producers to gain some control of the negotiation with an emerging distribution model they don’t fully understand and the new, fast moving players within it.
I am certainly NOT predicting this will happen in the publishing sector as they wrestle with the rise of the e-book (and I have no inside information). I am saying, that if you were working through the business strategy options at the whiteboard in one of those major publishing firm head offices, it would come up as an option for consideration. And maybe we will see more of this in general over the next few years.
Such strategies fell into a deep trough of disillusionment in this decade but I wonder if we might see a resurrection? After all, more collabroative models of business are being actively discussed as the post-crisis future of capitalism is openly debated. It’s easy to forget the power potential of co-opetition consortia but even Visa and Mastercard were once founded as co-operatives.