It’s easy to bash Amazon’s Dash

Orwellian tool of control or the start of an incredible idea?

Amazon crossed the online-offline divide on Tuesday 31st March 2015 by announcing Dash. A button designed to sit on your wall next to your coffee, laundry or makeup, allowing you to order fresh supplies with a single click.

In his column for the New Yorker, @iancrouch wrote how the concept conjures up images of

“Our homes as giant Skinner boxes, and of us as rats pressing pleasure levers until we pass out from exhaustion.

His damning dystopian take resonates with me, but I there’s something here.

Eliminating complication

Dash screams simplicity. Simplicity sells. Remember: the core product of one of the world’s most valuable brands consists of just two buttons.

If it works online, why not offline as well?

A lot has been written over the last few decades on the torrents of information we deal with every day. We are now creating data far faster than we can structure it, let alone learn from it.

Daily in 2015: 100 terabytes of data are uploaded to Facebook, 175 million tweets are sent and hundreds of hours of video are posted on YouTube every minute of the day.

With data spilling out of each aspect of our lives, we need to minimise the menial. In David Allen’s classic handbook to productivity, Getting Things Done, he writes:

“The ability to be focused, relaxed and in control during these fertile but turbulent and unstructured times demands new ways of thinking and working. There is a great need for new methods, technologies and work habits to help us get on top of our world”

This simplification is important. It frees up our minds to think about things that matter.

We should be harnessing the connected infrastructure we’ve built around us — computers, routers, small cells and satellites — to reduce those niggling neural process nudging us to pick up milk on the way home.

With Great Power

But Amazon Dash isn’t perfect. Two things leap out at me:

  1. How many buttons will you realistically need in your home? I can see it starting a snowball effect. First you get one for toilet roll, then toothpaste, before you know it a row of switches adorn your wall like a sinister supercomputer of shopping. This concept can’t scale.
  2. It creates a monopoly of the mind. Only certain products are available, mainly from big brands. You are sacrificing choice for convenience.

Fast-forward

The real potential however lies in the opportunities Amazon’s Dash opens up to other companies. It is an initial foray into unchartered territory.

Smaller startups who can’t afford to invest as heavily in R&D as Amazon can will be able to see how the market responds to this home invasion innovation.

Just take wireless lightbulbs as an example: Philip’s Hue was one of the first widely available wireless bulbs, but it was quickly followed by competitors.

Amazon’s Dash could do the same to simplify shopping .

As often happens, the big players in the technology space are the first to get a initiative like this to market, but smaller fish will soon follow with superior and scaleable systems.

So, why delay the inevitable? It’s only a matter of time until we’re waking up like Wallace.