My first impression is that Steve Jobs is overconfident, and the reason is that I don't buy classical music from the iTunes store. So I wonder what kind of books are going to drive Apple's iBookstore revenue. No matter what size the reading market is, people who are accustomed to buying books at Amazon, are going to need a powerful incentive to switch their hardware and content formats.
How big is the Kindle market? Forrester says 2.5 million. How long will it take for Apple to sell that many units? Hard to say, but they won't all be for eBook reading. So it would have to be some goodly period of time before Apple starts eating into the Amazon base - let's remember that Amazon was first to go pure MP3. Will there be a price war? Privately, there's surely a bunch of negotiation going on right now behind the doors of publishers. But for the public, I don't think so. That won't get current customers moving one way or another until the market is relatively standardized, and then it will have to be loss leading.
In the meantime, you've got to be wondering what's going on in the minds of publishers that they would switch from Amazon to Apple or Google. I find it very difficult to believe that relations between Amazon and its publishing keiretsu are so dismal. But Jobs did talk last year about his new extended digital format. Whereas Amazon has multiple copies and versions of a number of low priced titles, I don't expect to see much of that on Apple. So I expect market differentiation with Apple taking a multimedia theme, Amazon taking traditional bookbuyers and Google taking the long tail.
The latest word is that Amazon just bought a little six man team of touch specialists out of NYC. They will join the leagues of extraordinary folks at Amazon and work big things. My advice to Amazon is to stay a low price vendor and make up the difference in retailing. Which is to say don't be afraid of the hardware business but do those things at cost and make the money on the content, which you've always done. Amazon will never be as good in hardware as Apple, and despite what's said about the iTunes Music and Apps Store, I don't think Apple will ever be as good in retailing as Amazon. Amazon knows how to make low cost items pay dividends, and Apple will never do that.
I'm a little disappointed that Adobe isn't front and center in this mix. Coming as I do, originally from Xerox and document-centricity, I have always been very impressed with Postscript and the PDF. PDF stands for Portable Document Format and it is the cool beans behind Acrobat. Now despite the fact that it was hacked by the Chinese and that's what got them on Google's bad side, PDF is a brilliant technology (and the hole has been plugged) Now that I've found my old copy of Acrobat 6, I'm using it more and more. I might even upgrade. But when I stick a PDF of mine on the Kindle, it really fails to perform. That for me is a big disappointment and even though there aren't many PDFs I'd like to read on my plane ride home, it's a shame that my iPhone works better on the format.
While I'm at it, I should add some obligatory seriousness about the eInk technology. Sometimes, as with my GShock Casio watch, LCDs are just better for reading outdoors. Bezos was smart to have the Kindle marketing emphasize that sort of portability, and I'd go that one better as he goes upscale to have the Kindle ruggedized. I'd like the Kindle in my backpack when I'm hiking the Sierras, the iPad is for Starbucks, Virgin America and the lounge at the W.
Anecdotally, Kindle folks are going to stay Kindle folks, or they will be gearheads and whales like me who will have both. But seriously, does the Apple demographic even read, you know like books?