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Amazon.com’s Resolution

January 22, 2006

Filed under: future,Internet — Terry Wohlers @ 07:12

On January 4, 2006, CNNMoney.com published a thought-provoking article titled “Tech’s New Resolutions: What Google, Apple, Microsoft, and others should shoot for this year.” Author Erick Schonfeld, Business 2.0’s editor at large, subtitled one part of the article “Amazon.com’s resolution: Let customers design their own products.” In five paragraphs, he explained why Amazon should offer part fabrication services to anyone with an Internet connection.

Schonfeld explained how Amazon could give customers the opportunity to use web-based tools to design custom products, such as kitchen cabinet hardware, cell phone cases, and action figures. He said that “tight design parameters would ensure a basic floor of quality.” He went on to say that Amazon could set up CNC machines, 3D printers, and other rapid prototyping tools, or could outsource the production of the parts to machine shops and service providers.

I agree that the idea could work. Amazon would not want to offer a blank screen from which to conceive a new product. Instead, it could provide basic shapes of new designs—a starting point—with specific dimensions that could be changed to a point. These limits would prevent amateur designers from making features of a design too large or too small. The design experience could be somewhat analogous to piecing together a new computer configuration at dell.com. You are offered many combinations of options, but limits are built into the system so that you configure a computer that is manufacturable. The same is true at nikeid.com where you can very easily and quickly produce a semi-custom pair of shoes.

Schonfeld continues by explaining how Amazon could expand the service to include a design marketplace where customers, and even engineers and designers, could trade and sell designs. I believe that all of this will probably occur in the future. However, a small start-up will likely pioneer the idea. After lots of trial ‘n error by the small company, an established corporation, such as Amazon.com, will then enter the business. And it could grow into something very big.