The modern web term for what used to be called ‘lock-in’ is ‘walled garden’, a phrase I’ve always thought is suggestive of a rather pleasant, perfumed place. A verdant space, perhaps, where dreaming princes are lured into a sense of wellbeing, thence to pass away their soporific days and nights plucking from every fruit tree, a florid valley where there are ladders to scale but few use them. With the launch of Amazon Dash beyond US borders, starting in the UK, Austria and Germany, more of us will have access to a fine example of the perfectly constructed, cosy walled garden.
Remember Dash? Lots of people thought it a prank when first announced: a stick-on Wi-Fi-connected button which, when pressed, could be used to replenish everyday, forgettable goods like washing detergent and coffee capsules. Convenient, clever, high-tech, fun… what was there not to like?
Dash is a very Amazon product in that it is original, innovative and lures us deeper into the Amazonian garden of delights. Like Amazon.com and like Prime it is such an easy, attractive service that it can trigger the effect of users losing some of their senses usually reserved for comparing on price and value. The Amazon model (including AWS) is all about asking users to give up penny pinching and enjoy the chance to smell the flowers because, whatever you want to do, Amazon will take care of that.
Amazon made its name by providing the ‘Everything Store’ and became the ne plus ultra of one-stop shopping versus best-of-breed. Prime’s fast, reliable delivery and sweeteners justified its annual subscription and a huge number of users must continue to pay the subs even if they don’t use the service much. Even AWS is effectively a way to start cheaply and a bet on Amazon’s part that you stay with it even as accretive costs mount.
Dash is another in the pay-and-forget collection where buyers will have to weigh up the cost (surely cheaper elsewhere) and limited choice (based on pacts with chosen vendors) versus the undoubted convenience. A planned development will go further: topping up our printer ink and other commodities when devices tell Amazon they are running short. Use Dash and its successive labour-saving siblings by all means – and join me in my feline, quasi-catatonic state if you will – but don’t forget there is nothing free in this garden.
Phil Muncaster reports on China and beyond
Jon Collins’ in-depth look at tech and society
Kathryn Cave looks at the big trends in tech