Free Kindles for All! You Heard it Here Second...Or Third

John Gruber links to this post, in which Kevin Kelly speculates about the Kindle's steady price decline:
Since then I've mentioned this forecast to all kinds of folks. In August, 2010 I had the chance to point it out to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. He merely smiled and said, "Oh, you noticed that!" And then smiled again.
This fits well with the theory that Amazon isn't in the e-reader business to profit on hardware. They're in it to marry people to Amazon.com. Profit margins on hardware rarely match the margins on software, and e-books are much more like software than they are like hardware (hardback/paperbacks in this case).

This also puts an interesting twist on a comment I heard Steve Jobs make on Charlie Rose years ago. When asked about whether Apple would move into the e-book business, Jobs answered that the entire publishing industry is flawed from the top because people don't read (or buy books) nearly as much as they listen to (and buy) music. His speculation was that there wouldn't be enough volume in the business to make it worth pursuing.

Many people have forgotten this, but when Apple created iTunes and the iTunes Music Store, it was a sort of fun side-project for them (like Apple TV is today). It wasn't expected to be a profit center. It was to the iPod and the Apple ecosystem exactly what the Kindle reader is to Amazon: a way to complete a user experience seamlessly and easily. They needed something to connect their newborn iPods to people's computers. I've often wondered if Apple uses this "fun" disclaimer as a sort of corporate emotional self-protection. They can say they're just playing around with a new technology and if it succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams they can say "See! We do this kind of thing without even trying!" and if it fails miserably, they can say "oh well, we weren't really all that serious anyway."

Along the "Free Kindle" lines, I think TiVo would be a much more successful company today if they'd given their DVRs away for free and made up the cost on subscriptions starting about seven years ago. Back then, this would've sounded to most people like "you saying I can replace my VCR for free?!" and a lot of people would've jumped all over it, I think. Just like people today think and iPhone "costs" $199.