Amazon's unusual launch event teaser: CEO Jeff Bezos' favorite childhood book

Could a 61-page children's book unlock clues about Amazon's plans for its mysterious launch event? Jessica Dolcourt read it to find out.

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A children's book is certainly a unique way to welcome spectators to Amazon's event. James Martin/CNET

Beyond any hints contained within an invitation, companies don't often send journalists clues about product launches ahead of the event. And certainly not in the form of a children's book.

That jolt of confusion, followed by curiosity, and perhaps even delight is exactly what Amazon was going for in mailing "Mr. Pine's Purple House" to attendees of its June 18 product launch in Seattle, Wa. In fact, standing out among the crowd is the story's entire premise, and Amazon's strategy for dazzling mobile industry-watchers when it at last unveils its mystery device.

A note affixed to the book's front cover, tied off with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' printed signature, says it all:

We're excited that you'll be joining us next week in Seattle. Enclosed is my favorite childhood book -- Mr. Pine's Purple House. I think you'll agree that the world is a better place when things are a little bit different. See you soon.

Bezos' note emphasized the penultimate sentence by coloring it the same shade of purple as the house that the titular Mr. Pine eventually paints in his quest to differentiate his domicile from the other homes on the same street.

Does this mean we're in for a purple smartphone? Probably not -- that would be too obvious, and bypasses the book's main point, which is one of individualism and expression, and of inspiring others by daring to be different.

Indulge me (and Bezos) with some choice passages. " 'A white house is fine,' said Mr. Pine, 'but there are FIFTY white houses all in a line on Vine Street. How can I tell which one is mine?' "

And later, after the deed is done: "Everybody on Vine Street came to look at Mr. Pine's purple house. No one had ever seen a purple house before."

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Whatever it is, Amazon's device claims to stand out in the crowd. James Martin/CNET

Amazon's dangling carrot is clearly that its device has a wow factor that other cookie-cutter products lack. A teaser video depicts users declaring the device to be "awesome," "amazing," "very real life and uncomparable [sic], and "pretty damn intuitive."

Most rumors suggest that the mystery device in question is Amazon's smartphone at long last, and that its "flawless and seamless" feature that "moves" with you is a 3D experience, whatever that means. We do know that Amazon is working with sensors -- that was one detail the company asked about on its invitation request form for members of the public.

Whatever the jaw-dropping feature may be, you can bet that Amazon won't have it exclusively for long before rivals start integrating it into their own products. In fact, Amazon would do well to consider the cautionary scene contained within "Mr. Pine's" very (purple) pages:

"What a very pretty purple house," said Mrs. Green. "I will paint my house, too!"

"OH, NO! NO! NO!" said Mr. Pine. "Not FIFTY PURPLE HOUSES, all in a line on Vine Street!"

Good luck, Amazon. In this cutthroat, fast-reacting industry, 50 purple houses are exactly what you get.

Tags:
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Tablets
About the author

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.

 

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