Layoffs Hit Lab126 as Amazon’s Mobile Efforts Flameout

by Matt Klassen on August 31, 2015

Building on a heavily modified version of Android, e-commerce giant Amazon broke into the mobile market last year with its own branded Fire phone, a high end handset that boasted the ability to create 3D images with four front facing cameras. That said, the phone failed to ignite any significant consumer interest, and now, just over a year later, it looks like the company is scuttling its mobile efforts, reportedly laying off “dozens” of engineers related to the Fire project.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the exact number of engineers cut from the company may never be known, as it’s likely non-disclosure agreements will prevent anyone from speaking publicly. That said, the job cuts are the first that have hit Amazon’s secretive Lab126 research facility, the division responsible not only for the Fire smartphone, but both the Kindle and Kindle Fire as well.

But like other tech companies of late who have found the pointlessness of attempting to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple in the mobile hardware sector, Amazon isn’t giving up on mobile technology, just taking another approach at it, reportedly redirecting resources into its new connected home division.

Now Amazon isn’t known for giving up, in fact the company has clearly demonstrated a stalwart willingness to stick by failures in the past, notably the flagging Kindle Fire. But rather than forge ahead with its mobile dreams, Amazon is looking to retool and refocus, abandoning the Fire phone, firing many who worked exclusively on the smartphone project, and refocusing its research and development arm, Lab126, on smart home gadgets instead.

Not only that, but Amazon has reportedly scaled back Lab126’s more experimental and moonshot projects as well, including the development of a large screen tablet, sources said. Amazon has also consolidated two hardware units into one, helping streamline the R&D division for its next big fight, connected home devices.

To that end, Amazon has already announced Echo, the company’s attempt at voice assistants. Unlike rivals like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Google’s Google Now speech-recognition programs, Amazon’s is exclusively geared towards the home, operating as a plug-in speaker instead of on a smartphone.

In addition, Amazon is also working on a connected kitchen concept dubbed Kabinet that would act as a hub for a Web connected home, using similar voice technology.

All that to say, it wasn’t that long ago when several companies were confident that they could become the third mobile player the market sorely needed, yet today almost none of them remain. Sure Samsung still has its own Tizen OS, but its small potatoes, unlikely to really make a dent in the market so long as Android and iOS dominate. On the hardware side, it’s really the same story, with Samsung and Apple dominating the market, leaving little room for anyone, no matter how big they are, to make their way into the mobile sector.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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