firephoneThe Wall Street Journal has an interesting article (paywalled; Google the headline to bypass it) on changes taking place at Amazon’s top secret product lab, Lab 126, which has been responsible for many of Amazon’s innovative products including the Kindle e-reader itself. The Journal reports that Amazon has “dismissed dozens of engineers” who helped develop the Fire Phone, which flopped so badly that Amazon is now all but giving it away. The layoffs are reportedly the first in the product lab’s 11-year history.

The company also has scaled back or halted some of Lab126’s more ambitious projects—including a large-screen tablet—and reorganized the division, combining two hardware units there into one, people familiar with the matter said.

So things might not be looking so good for that rumored 12” tablet after all.

The article goes into detail about some of the other products Lab 126 has come up with—the Amazon Dash bar-code scanning wand, the Amazon Dash Button product reordering button, the Amazon Echo Bluetooth speaker—as well as the Fire Phone’s tempestuous history. There are also more tantalizing hints about potential (or potentially discontinued) future products:

Amazon has also halted or scaled back other development projects, according to people familiar with the situation, including a smart stylus internally called Nitro, which translates a users’ scribblings into digital shopping lists; a device dubbed Shimmer for projecting images on walls and other surfaces; and a tablet code-named Project Cairo, with a 14-inch screen.

Still in the works is a high-end computer for the kitchen—code-named Kabinet—designed to serve as a hub for an Internet-connected home and capable of taking voice commands for tasks like ordering merchandise from

There are also references to a tablet using the Fire Phone’s face-camera-based pseudo-3D image system (perhaps the big-screen tablet of rumor? 3D images would be a lot more impressive on a screen that size) and a Kindle e-reader battery that could last up to two years on a single charge. If any of these things are still coming, they’ll certainly be exciting when they get here. But as secretive as Amazon is, don’t expect to hear much more about them until they do arrive, if they arrive.

(Found via CNet.)


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