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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the Fire smartphone.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the Fire smartphone.

Amazon.com is looking to boost hiring by at least 27 percent at its little-known Lab126 hardware unit over the next five years, pushing workforce at the Silicon Valley operations to 3,757 people by 2019. The move signals Amazon.com’s desire to become more of a force in hardware devices, competing against the likes of Apple and Google.

Amazon has met with success with its Kindle e-readers and tablets, but it has fallen far short with its Fire Phone device. The price of the Amazon smartphone was recently dropped to 99 cents amid lackluster demand.

The Amazon Fire phone
The Amazon Fire phone

Reuters reporters Deepa Seetharaman and Noel Randewich dug up the information on the secretive Lab126 in documents filed with the state of California tied to tax breaks being offered to Amazon. The documents also show that Amazon plans to invest $55 million in its facilities in Cupertino and Sunnyvale.

According to Reuters, Lab126 is testing a new breed of “connected-home devices, an area where Google has made big inroads in recent months with the $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest (thermostats and smoke detectors) and the $555 million purchase of Dropcam (home security).

According to unnamed sources, Reuters reports that Amazon’s Lab126 unit is testing a wi-fi-enabled device that will allow customers to order goods from the kitchen pantry or bedroom closet with the push of a button. The company also is exploring the idea of wearables, an area where Google also is investing with its Google Glass project.

Lab126 is best known for Amazon’s line of Kindle e-readers and tablets, an area of expansion in which founder Jeff Bezos has personally been involved. It employs about 3,000 people. The secretive nature of the division makes the Reuters report that much more interesting, pointing where the unit and Amazon.com may be headed over the next few years.

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