NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Warning: This is one of the few bearish takes you'll get from me on Amazon.com (AMZN). As such, there's a better than zero chance I'll wind up kicking myself for questioning my long-standing bullishness. Whereas blind faith in most leaders can get you killed, I've never had a problem slurping Jeff Bezos's Kool-Aid.
That said, last month in Amazon's Retail Strategy Needs a Soundtrack I questioned the company's practice of knocking off hardware and other initiatives for the sole purpose of fueling its core ecosystem.
In that article I argued Amazon has the opportunity to do something different -- even groundbreaking -- with its rumored streaming music service. It's one thing to just roll it out there with the goal of making Amazon Prime more attractive. It's entirely another to meaningfully change the game in some fashion.
Come June 18, at an event in Seattle, it doesn't look like Amazon will introduce streaming radio. Instead it will birth its smartphone. And by the looks of things, Amazon thinks it has something to differentiate itself from Apple (AAPL) and Android:
Looks and sounds gimmicky to me. And not only is it making the aforementioned Amazon strategy wear even more thin, it illustrates the superiority of Apple.
It doesn't take a whole bunch of rhetoric to make the point: Apple's doing things with iPhone to make it more useful. From home automation to heath and fitness to payments (?) to who knows what else, Apple looks at what it has and considers how to extend it just the right touch beyond its original incarnation. That's what keeps the all-important upgrade cycle alive and the halo effect well.
Amazon does not appear to be taking as sophisticated or holistic of a view, opting instead for a stubborn Pandora (P)-like focus (see this article on the prospects of a Pandora buyout for color on the analogy) on the bread and butter that brought it to the dance.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.