In December, Jeff Bezos spoke at the Stanford GSB to students. In the Q&A session, one of the students asked Bezos to assess the viability of the Kindle after the success of the iPad.
Bezos responded (I’m paraphrasing). “Screens are like shoes. You have tennis shoes, hiking shoes, wingtips and slippers. Each one is suited to a particular purpose. I believe screens are the same way.”
I was reminded of this over the weekend when I took a look at my apartment. We have 4 laptops, 2 iPads and 2 mobile phones in the house. One of the laptops powers the TV. We stream Hulu, Rdio, iTunes shows and Netflix through that laptop. There are 2 work laptops in the office.
And there’s a laptop in the living room that acts as a chat, email and telephone machine. It’s always logged into GMail. When someone calls, the laptop rings as does our mobile phone over Google Voice. Most of the time I answer the call on the laptop, but if I need to move around I pick up the handset.
Add the two iPads (his and hers), for reading, controlling music around the apartment, and you have six screens. Plus the two phones, which primarily text and make calls. Each of these has a narrowly defined function but is capable of performing most of the tasks of the others.
All this raises the question, as we have more screens in our lives, how specialized will they become? If the operating systems powering all these are iOS and Android, we can have consistent apps across all of them. But will we want different hardware form-factors and customized experiences across them?
Bezos believes there will always be an audience for a dedicated reading device – or so he said. I’m not so sure.