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article imageAmazon laying off hardware staff after $170m Fire Phone failure

By James Walker     Aug 27, 2015 in Technology
Dozens of Amazon engineers responsible for its failed attempt to enter the smartphone market with the Fire Phone are being told they are no longer required, according to a report today. The company is reorganising its general hardware efforts.
The Wall Street Journal writes today that Amazon has "curtailed" the development of consumer devices and has decided to "retrench" from the smartphone market instead of hoping that the Fire Phone could come to a happy ending after all.
The developers who brought the ill-received handset to life are being made redundant while Amazon's entire hardware development centre, the secretive Lab126, is receiving a serious organisational makeover. Projects are being cancelled or streamlined to allow the company to concentrate on its successful hardware, like the Kindle e-reader.
Some of the affected under-development devices include codenames Cairo, Shimmer and Nitro. Cairo was a large 14-inch tablet, Shimmer a projector and Nitro an intelligent stylus that could convert handwritten notes into shopping lists. It is believed that this is the first time that Amazon has ever fired staff working at Lab126.
Not every project has been cut from the schedule though. Cairo may be gone but there is still a tablet in the works, apparently with a 3D display that won't require glasses to be worn for viewing.
Kabinet also still exists, a high-end computer "for the kitchen" that is controlled with voice commands and acts as a smart hub for the home. In perhaps a slightly less niche development, Lab126 is reportedly working on a battery that will keep the next Kindle away from the wall for two whole years.
The state of the smartphone experiment is currently unknown. The timeline for a Fire Phone replacement has apparently been stretched out "indefinitely", although one source told the Wall Street Journal that the company has actually moved its phone staff to Seattle and merged them with the Fire tablet and Kindle e-reader teams.
The Amazon Fire Phone has barely been out for a year but most people have already long since forgotten it. The handset is now very cheap but its alienating user experience made it undesirable, perhaps also because of the retailer's name on the back. The company had promised a follow-up but ultimately accepted a $170 million loss on the unsuccessful device.
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