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What an Amazon smartphone would bring to the table

Amazon could enter the smartphone market and do well. Consumers could stand to have a No. 3 mobile platform and the usual suspects just aren't up to challenging Android and Apple's iOS.

What if, what if: Might a Kindle smartphone look something like this? David Carnoy/CNET

Amazon is reportedly planning to launch a smartphone to compete with the Android army as well as Apple's iPhone. And why not? There has to be a No. 3 mobile platform and Amazon has the moxie to make it happen.

Bloomberg is reporting Amazon is prepping a smartphone and there are many observers receptive to the idea. The reality of the wireless industry is that there's a duopoly---Android phones and Apple's iOS. Together, those two platforms own the wireless device market. Within that duopoly there are two primary hardware players---Samsung and Apple. The rest of the pack arguably road kill over time. Just look at HTC's dismal results as Samsung surges

Carriers see this wireless structure developing and say: "We need a No. 3 platform." Verizon, AT&T and others are rooting for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Research In Motion to eventually deliver on its BlackBerry 10 promises. Wireless buyers would like a No. 3 choice too, but so far seem perfectly content with Android and iOS.

The upshot of all this is that a No. 3 platform won't emerge merely based on charity. In fact, the No. 3 wireless platform is likely to come from a player not even in the market today.

That new entrant could easily be Amazon. Here's what Amazon brings to the table:

  • A content, music and video ecosystem.
  • A model that could support an e-commerce or ad subsidized device.
  • A penchant for disruption.
  • Distribution.
  • And a boatload of credit card and customer data already on file.

Reports of Amazon building a phone are quite believable. These reports made sense months ago and seem like a lock today. The other obvious mobile platform contender would be Facebook, which has the moving parts to be a wireless player.

Bottom line: The wireless platform race today is going to see the contenders shift. Microsoft and Research in Motion have a short and closing window to cement positions as a No. 3 platform. If these challengers remain mired in single digit market share, Amazon, Facebook or someone else may just step in.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Amazon, smartphones and the quest for a real No. 3 mobile platform."