Dethroning Samsung will require persuading developers to create apps for Amazon smartphones. The value of a device is pegged to its apps and services, and what those apps and services allow someone to do. The more compelling the apps and services, the more compelling the smartphone.
Pioneering innovative technology like 3D interactions is one way to attract developers. Another is to combine the web and Android in a powerful way, allowing Amazon to instantly tap into a pool with millions of developers and entrepreneurs.
iOS and Android, the mobile operating systems offered by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), optimize for native apps and relegate web apps to second-class citizens. Amazon could augment Android, since the code is available as open-source, and bake web apps into the heart of its platform. As Chrome apps prove on the desktop and PhoneGap apps prove on mobile, deep platform integration erases the disparity between native and web apps for most cases.
By modifying Android, Amazon could arm web apps with the same privileges as native apps, including one-click payments, push notifications, and access to the camera, microphone, and other hardware components - subject to the same constraints and controls imposed on native apps. App discovery could happen on the web or through a central store containing both native and web apps. Web apps could get bundled and installed like their native brethren, appearing as accessible icons on the home screen just a few taps away.
For developers, the appeal of web apps is faster release cycles and more freedom to experiment. For Amazon, the appeal is access to a vibrant ecosystem of developers and a shorter path to compelling apps.
To kickstart the initiative, Amazon could launch a $25M magnet program, offering free devices to 10K developers and guaranteeing $100K to the top 200 applicants.
Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it. The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: I have friends who work at Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft.