Amazon's Firefly will flicker on iOS, Android

Analysts agree that Amazon will extend the Firefly technology to apps for solid strategic reasons

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Singh wasn't so sure. "I don't see much of a hardware tie-in except for the Firefly button, so we could see the app on other platforms at any time," he said. "Maybe right after Fire phone's initial marketing blitz, unless [Amazon's] AT&T agreement gets in the way."

The faster Amazon issues a Firefly-enabled app for Android and iOS the better, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "It's an advantage for them to have Firefly-enabled phones out there," Moorhead said. But not just to sell more products, virtual and physical, to Prime members.

Moorhead had a different interpretation of the Fire phone's mission, and it was all about Firefly's data acquisition capabilities.

"A device plus Firefly is a context-sucking machine to sell you more stuff," said Moorhead in an interview. "It's really about the data, and finding out more about you so they can sell you more things. That would be Nirvana for Google, to know everything about what you, your friends and family buy. But they're not trusted like Amazon."

Moorhead envisioned Firefly as a data miner, and so the more devices the app was on the more data Amazon could collect. That data could then to used by Amazon itself to pitch appropriate products to its customers -- either as in-app recommendations or in-app ads -- or Amazon might be even more ambitious. "Why not turn around and sell that [data] to advertisers or create their own [advertising] network?" Moorhead asked. "Whoever has the best data is the most valued company. It's why investors allow Amazon to make lower-than-average profits."

Some experts, convinced that the headwinds of iOS and Android, Samsung most notably, were too firmly established in the U.S. for Amazon to effectively compete in the smartphone market, questioned the sequence of launching the Fire before pushing Firefly onto other platforms.

"It seems backwards," asserted Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "The pool of iOS and Android is far larger, with millions of those devices available to Firefly. Amazon should have done it the opposite way, release Firefly for iOS and Android first, then the Fire phone."

Why? "Because it's all about Firefly for Amazon," Gottheil answered. "On Android and iOS, that would have driven business for Amazon."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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