On Monday, the e-commerce and cloud computing giant announced that it had launched Inspire, a service that gives K-12 teachers free learning materials that are either crowdsourced from fellow educators or directly submitted by partners.
Inspire, whose interface looks much like Amazon's regular site, aims to cut learning materials expenses for schools and make life easier for millions of teachers who, according to Amazon, spend an average of 12 hours per week looking for materials.
Those are the official goals, at least. But as with so many other Amazon product and service launches, there's a broader strategy at work.
Just as Prime Video and Prime Music are meant to drive new subscriptions and renewals for Amazon Prime as a whole, and just as the various tools Amazon provides to enterprise to migrate their workloads to Amazon Web Services (AWS) are meant to drive usage of AWS's cloud infrastructure services, Inspire acts as a way for Amazon to sell teachers and schools on using its extensive lineup of paid offerings for the education market.
That lineup includes digital textbooks, Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, school supplies and third-party PCs. In addition to being the dominant player in the U.S. e-book and e-reader markets, Amazon is a top seller of Chromebooks, which have seen strong traction in the education market.
IDC estimates U.S. schools spent $4.9 billion last year on PCs and tablets, and a trade group estimates they spend over $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content. Apple (AAPL - Get Report) has been aggressively targeting the education IT market as well, pitching schools on buying iPads, Macs (much more costly than Chromebooks), and digital textbooks, among other things.
It's worth noting that not every new digital platform Amazon launches strikes gold. The company shuttered its Amazon Local daily deals platform last year after failing to unseat market leader Groupon (GRPN - Get Report) . And so far at least, its Handmade at Amazon craft goods marketplace doesn't appear to have put a big dent in market leader Etsy's (ETSY - Get Report) business. But Inspire does show Amazon is trying hard to cater to the unique needs of a specific set of clients, with the goal of being an indispensable, end-to-end solutions provider.
That's an approach that has served Amazon quite well a number of times.