While the web browser space isn't typically the most exciting area, there is a quite a bit of hype around Amazon's entrance into the market. The Internet retailer introduced Amazon Silk in conjunction with its announcement of Kindle Fire, it's first tablet device.
The most unique aspect of Silk is the fact that it splits functionality between the mobile device and the cloud. Although others have done this in the past, Amazon hopes to take it to a new level.
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Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC, spoke with WebProNews and told us that he actually wasn't surprised that Amazon made this move. As he explained to us, Amazon is a leader in backend cloud services as well as cloud support capacity. The move was actually natural since Amazon also has a content-based motive with Kindle Fire.
"It wasn't really a completely new idea, but it made perfect sense for what Amazon is doing," he said.
Opera is the browser that is most recognized for the split browser, but according to Hilwa, its approach is different from Amazon's. He said that Opera wants to make its browser available on every network and every device, while Amazon does not. Amazon is more concerned with making its devices extremely optimized and responsive as well as potentially allowing the browser to support its advertising backend.
Although Silk will not be released until next month, Hilwa believes that the technology behind Silk creates a lot of opportunities for Amazon. For instance, Amazon may decide to put it on very inexpensive devices that do not have a lot of processing. This would then allow it to put 3G or 4G on the devices, which is a move that Hilwa thinks would be "synergetic" for tablet makers.
"A browser architecture like this makes is possible to have real economical network consumption patterns that either Amazon pays for or the user pays for," he said.
In spite of the excitement surrounding Silk, there are also some concerns. The browser leverages Amazon's Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2) in order to allow for speedy information retrieval. However, to deliver this speed, Silk tracks the traffic patterns of individuals' behavior.
"This kind of browser puts it in charge of a lot of information from browser users, and therein lies one of the issues with this kind of technology, which is that Amazon simply has a lot of information that you might otherwise keep cached on your desktop machine and not aggregated in any one place," said Hilwa.
"Whenever one particular location/place/vendor aggregates too much information about people, particularly about you, me... a single individual, then there's a danger that the information will get abused somehow. [There's] something spooky about these vendors knowing too much about you and targeting you very, very specifically with the amazingly targeted advertising that's based on a search you may have done... that's a little difficult for people to swallow," he pointed out.
Silk has an "off-cloud" mode that users can use that will prevent Amazon from aggregating information, but it's unclear, at this point what the default settings will be. Hilwa told us that, while these are concerns, there are certain capabilities that could not be possible without such a browser.
Overall, he said that Silk has the potential to be very successful but that it was hard to speculate before it is actually released.
"This is great synergy for what they're doing," he said. "It makes a lot of sense for them. Of course, we'll have to wait and see if this technology actually works in terms of when it's demoed [and] when it's actually available on devices."
He also told us he could see other browsers makers including Google and Microsoft adopting this type of technology in the future.
"This coupling of backend clouds with frontend devices - we're going to see more and more of that and more and more optimizations across it," said Hilwa. "The browser is going to be the crucial link that helps that happen."
Do the cool features of Silk outweigh the privacy concerns or vice versa?