Amazon are not only the world's largest bookseller (in fact, they are the largest online consumer retailer), but also one of the world's major software companies. They are the leading provider of cloud services, and thousands of enterprises and organisations of all sizes, from the very largest down, rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to store data and run their applications. They are a highly sophisticated operation, who lead the market in many areas - they are, for example, one of the first companies using drones in a meaningful commercial way. So with the wealth of talent and experience at their fingertips, how did they manage to mess up the launch of their Kindle Oasis so badly?

First of all, the technology on the Oasis seems to be first class (I say seems, because I don't have one in my hands yet...). Most reviewers have been flattering about everything except the price, and the lack of waterproofing (I do wonder whether the name Oasis is something of a mistake given that a splash of water will kill the device). It looks like they have a successful product on their hands.

Which means we have to ask how they mis-calculated the demand so badly? Current wait times as listed on Amazon US (which is their first and best served market - I daren't even look at places as remote as England, Italy, or Thailand...) are as follows: 

  • Black Wifi with special offers         - Aug 10
  • Black Wifi without special offer     - Jun 14
  • Black 3G with special offers             - Aug 20
  • Black 3G without special offers       - Aug 18
  • Brown Wifi with special offers        - Aug 11
  • Brown Wifi without special offer    - Jul 27
  • Brown 3G with special offers            - Aug 3
  • Brown 3G without special offers      - Aug 27
  • Merlot Wifi with special offers          - Oct 8
  • Merlot Wifi without special offer     - Sep 27
  • Merlot 3G with special offers             - Jul 9
  • Merlot 3G without special offers      - Sep 27

Clearly, despite the focus groups and the customer testing that they performed, they have made a serious error in calculating either demand (especially for the Merlot cover) or on how quickly they could manufacture the devices/covers. Before anyone begins the argument that this is a clever marketing trick and they are deliberately keeping initial stock low, can we note that this is not a standard Amazon procedure - if they have something, they sell it. This is a sad story that shows how far we still need to move in both forecasting techniques, and in our ability to scale manufacturing based on demand. It may not seem very important when someone gets a Kindle [although I'd really like my Merlot version before I go on vacation in July... despite ordering almost immediately, I ended up with a delivery that is scheduled to leave the depot in August :( ], but what if we were talking about pacemakers? Or a life-saving drug? 

I work in technology, and I expect more of the firms that lead the industry. Amazon, where is your scalable manufacturing process? Where is your highly effective predictive analytics?  Where is your imagination (you could sell the kindle without the cover, and have these as an after-market sale...or a follow on...or...)? And where is my Kindle Oasis?!