The online retailer quietly enters the red-hot arena of consumer product reviews with a new software application called zBubbles.
Amazon posted a Web page devoted to the new tool, describing it as a way for users to access product recommendations.
"zBubbles shows you comments from other buyers about where to go to get the best prices," reads a description on the zBubbles home page. "And, if Amazon.com sells the product, you can buy it from any page on the Web." The service can be accessed from an icon that resides on the browser toolbar.
Amazon representatives were not immediately available for comment on the service.
With zBubbles, Amazon follows a growing crowd of Web companies that aims to compile consumer product reviews and pricing information. Rivals include Deja.com and ePinions for consumer reviews, as well as software applications (or shopping agents) such as RUSure.com.
Amazon's entry into the comparison shopping market is a strategic one, because agent technologies that canvas various sites looking for the best prices could threaten the brand-driven success of well-known sites such as Amazon. Because zBubbles lets users purchase a product from Amazon regardless of what Web page they're looking at, the application is a clear attempt to regain consumer control.
Amazon currently is offering zBubbles only for use with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, version 5, and on the Microsoft Windows platform.