An ant climbs up a blade of grass with a dedication which cannot be explained by its own biological imperatives, nor those of its colony. Gusts of wind blow it off and dew washes it back down, but it continues, driven by a parasite inside – a fluke. The fluke needs to enter the stomach of a sheep to complete the next stage of its lifecycle and so it drives the ant on which it parasites to the top of the grass, where it is most likely to be swallowed by the grazing sheep. (See Daniel Dennet on ants and ideas as parasites)
One type of transitional business model is also parasitic, though it doesn’t drive it’s unwitting host to self destruction in sheep guts, but rather to obsolescence.
Amazon parasited the bookshop chains, exploiting their bricks and mortar resources for its own survival. Waterstones, Blackwells et al were powerless to stop themselves becoming the real life browsing site for Amazon. Their advertising and marketing campaigns helping fuel purchases at the online retailer.
And then, as part of Amazon’s next lifecycle, it is working to replace the whole purpose of bookshops with Kindle designed to replace physical books and hence the need for bookshops.
At the same time, Amazon, having parasited on the infrastructure of bookshops, has created a symbiotic ecosystem infrastructure in which other vendors (potentially rivals) are invited to sell their own wares. The potential parasites are being brought into a mutually beneficial relationship. As these relationships grow, so do the storage needs of the Amazon system.
There is more to Amazon’s transitional business model. James Governor ( @monkchips ) of Red Monk reports that EMC CEO Joe Tucci said: “Amazon is clearly being subsidised by the bookstore at some level.”
One reading of this is what I mentioned before, that the real life bookshops act as unpaid browsing counters for Amazon.
Another is that (if I understand Governor), Amazon is growing its data storage capacities because “everything drives storage” (see above link) and this could, ultimately be the real bedrock of what Amazon ends up doing. So, for now, Amazon is parasiting its own book selling business to increase its storage capacity and, perhaps, transcend its original business model once more.