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Amazon to launch mystery product with public spectacle

The e-commerce company invited customers to compete for the chance to join CEO Jeff Bezos at a new product event. Best bet: It's a new Amazon smartphone.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read


Amazon is unveiling a new device that it thinks will wow customers, and everyone's invited.

The company is opening up to the public an invite to a launch event in its hometown of Seattle on June 18. The catch: You have to convince Amazon to give you a spot at the event.

The e-commerce giant tweeted a link to its online invite form Wednesday, telling customers to "Join Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos for our launch event" on June 18. People have to submit a request for access, and customers are required to write why they want to attend. (They can additionally submit video to make their cases.) Amazon is also taking submissions from developers and journalists.

To apply for a spot at the mystery device's launch event, Amazon asks you to enter the email address associated with your Amazon account. The company will let you know by June 12 if you made it in. Amazon isn't saying how many folks total it will let into the event, but a spokeswoman did say that it will arrange travel and lodging for any selected customers or developers who live outside of Seattle.

Hints from Amazon's Twitter account indicate that the device could be the long-rumored Amazon smartphone. A video posted in one of the tweets depicts people looking down at an off-screen device in their hands, exclaiming things like, "awesome," "it moved with me, " and "I don't think I've ever seen anything like this." Previous reports about the phone indicated that it would have 3D technology that would make objects appear to leap off the screen.

In the developer application, Amazon asks developers to describe an "innovative way" they've used gyroscopes, accelerometers, and sensors with apps. Additionally, it wants to know if they are interested in machine learning or want to develop apps that work with a "new type of sensor."

This is the first time Amazon has broadcast one of its events so broadly. It's an unexpected move, given that large tech companies, Amazon included, typically keep tight reins over who gets invited to a launch event. But Amazon is challenging that image by opening its doors to the public instead of just journalists and partner developers. The company has repeatedly said it's No. 1 focus is its customers, so the quasi-open invite to consumers may be another way for it to drive the point home.

The company has faced plenty of public scrutiny recently due to its book pricing war with publisher Hachette. Amazon restricted the sale of titles from the publishing company as a negotiating tactic. While some consumers are frustrated that they can't order certain book titles, Amazon has tried to pass off the move as a way of getting more value for its customers.

Update, 2:57 p.m. PT: Added more information from Amazon.