Amazon.com Inc. is building up a technology development hub in Orange County that it could use as a springboard to bring services and content to smartphones, tablets and televisions in a broad battle with Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Apple Inc.
Teams in Orange County are working on technologies core to Amazon's efforts to offer apps, games and other kinds of content that span various devices. The efforts include a budding Amazon Games Studios, a game distribution service, Amazon's Appstore and software for the Kindle. The company is currently hiring on its website for more than 50 positions in Irvine and Lake Forest.
Amazon quietly bought Lake Forest publisher and game distributor Reflexive Entertainment in 2008 for an undisclosed amount. The company had created a digital download service for casual video games (similar to Valve's popular Steam platform) that Amazon wanted.
Though Amazon is tight-lipped about its plans -- the company did not respond to a request for comment -- Lars Brubaker was the CEO of Reflexive and stayed with Amazon for three years after the purchase. He's since moved on to start a 3D printing company, MatterHackers, that's headquartered in the same Lake Forest office park as his former company. In an interview, Brubaker said he thinks Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whom he never spoke with, was interested in the distribution service and its partnerships with developers and got a game studio as a bonus.
"As (Bezos) wanted to do more intellectual property...he saw that games were an opportunity," Brubaker speculated. "We helped create their casual games distribution platform."
Early last year Amazon leased more than 100,000 square feet across five floors at 40 Pacifica next to the Irvine Spectrum for A2Z Research and Development, an Amazon subsidiary connected to other development sites in San Francisco, San Luis Obispo and Seattle.
A2Z's divisions include Lab126, whose vision is to "make available in less than 60 seconds every book, ever written, in any language, in print or out of print," according to the Lab126 website. Another division is Zero Mass Engineering, which develops "technologies to allow authors, filmmakers and musicians around the world to distribute their books, DVDS and CDs inventory-free and make them available for sale to millions of customers" as well as Amazon's digital music services.
In January 2011, Amazon publicly revealed that it was working on a virtual storefront for apps built on Google's Android platform. It started inviting developers to submit their apps for sale in the new store, which eschews Google's own store for apps and offers daily free downloads to lure users. An archive of the A2Z website showed that by February Amazon was already publicly looking for developers to work on the platform in Orange County.
Later that year, the service became integral to Amazon's low-cost entry into tablets -- the Kindle Fire -- which used Android as its underpinnings but offered apps through Amazon's Appstore. Amazon leaves profits from sales of the device on the table -- selling it initially at a dirt-cheap $200 (now its $159) -- in hopes that people buying content in Amazon's stores for apps, books, movies, games and music would eventually provide profits. Since the Kindle Fire's launch, Apple and Google have introduced lower-cost tablets.
In Irvine, 39 positions being advertised on Amazon's job site include an assortment of software engineers, including those who work on Android, the iPad and the Web. Another 12 openings in Lake Forest are for game designers, engineers and animators. A product management leader position in Irvine listed on Amazon's site will "own the product roadmap to support our mobile devices strategy."
Amazon's Game Studios formed last August and launched its first game in November -- "Air Patriots" -- launching simultaneously for free on Apple, Amazon and Google app stores.
Most Popular Stories
- Bipartisan Budget Deal Gets Key Support in House
- GM to Stop Making Autos in Australia
- Clinton to Keynote Annual Simmons Leadership Conference
- Bitcoin Clones Lurch Onto Financial Scene
- Selena Gomez, Shakira Among Top Hispanic Searches
- How Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies Work
- PhD Project Grooms Business Profs
- It's Primary Time in Texas
- How to Survive a Subzero Stranding
- N.M. Dems Say Nonprofit Helping Martinez Campaign