I’ve been reflecting upon his departure and that’s what it comes down to. Just pause for a second and understand who Brandon is and who he isn’t. From his own About:
I am a retread at Microsoft, having left the company in 1999 to head out to Wall Street and a couple of startups. Having spent time at Soros Private Equity, I learned a ton about the other side of the table, investing over $70 million, mostly in technology related businesses. Post Soros, I decided to take a management position at RLX, one of our portfolio companies. We sold that business in 2005 to HP. I went on to found IMSafer, a consumer Internet company focused on protecting kids online, in early 2006, built the company up to 150K customers, and sold that business to a company in the UK.
After that sale, my wife and I wanted to get back to Seattle, and, quite honestly, with two kids under age three at the time, I needed some time to breathe. Once me we made the decision to return to Seattle, the lure of coming back to the company where I cut my teeth, and rejoining with so many of the friends I had made so long ago was a great lure.
He’s a business man that’s great at marketing and management with a knack for getting people to rally behind him, exactly like he did for Windows Phones. He’s not a software engineer – he just uses his business background in tech fields. So why does Amazon want him? They’re starting to hit their strides using Android in the Kindle Fire. In fact, it’s the only Android tablet that’s selling and has a real name for itself. There’s not much standing in the way of giant releasing a Kindle Phone. You know, take the Kindle Fire, add some cameras and radios and make it cheap – dirt cheap like the Fire. Like $200 without a contract or free on contract type cheap. A guy like Watson can pull together a nice team and ensure that their marketing is focused for this endeavor and he’s learned a lot marketing phones over the last few years at Microsoft.
So why is it an Android phone and not a Windows Phone? Well Amazon is already in bed with Android with a marketplace and the Kindle line all running Android. And they’re doing just fine that way. They’ve differentiated the software and made the Kindle Fire a standout device in a sea of tablets and they’ll be able to do the same with their phones.
To those who think they’d want Watson to bring Windows phones to Amazon that doesn’t make sense. I mean, why buy the cow when they can have the milk for free? By that I mean if they wanted help developing a Windows Phone they wouldn’t need to spend a dime to get Microsoft employees. Microsoft is doling out money as it is. Think of the deal they have with Nokia. Think of the deals they have with key software devs to assist them with porting apps. If Amazon was making a Windows Phone then Microsoft would assist them with both cash and engineers en masse to ensure that it goes well. Bottom line: it doesn’t make sense that they’d hire Microsoft employees when they could get that assistance for free.
So when will the Kindle Phone launch? I’m betting it’s a Christmas 2012 launch – all speculation but Amazon already has an OS on the Fire so now it’s more about optimization.
And yeah, I do think it sucks that someone who helped build Microsoft’s OS is now working for the enemy, but Watson is a business guy – he married his wife, not Microsoft and he represented them very well. I appreciate loyalty to the end, but I understand that a guy like Watson can be worth a lot and I think Amazon is making it worth his time.