Article: Fired

by on November 28, 2011

Amazon’s Kindle Fire has been the buzz for the last couple of weeks, and now that all the Black Friday-related sales have died down, I thought I would throw in a bit of commentary on the Amazon Kindle Fire. This isn’t a review, as I don’t own one. I’m not trying to say if it will survive in the market or is a great or terrible product. I think it has potential to disrupt a certain part of the tablet industry.

Android was supposed to be the open-source alternative to everything else out there, most notably iOS. It could be an operating system for consumer electronics devices, much like embedded versions of Windows CE or Linux, but also scale for tablets, and its home base, the smartphone. Until now, the tablet market has been the iPad versus everything else. Android tablets aren’t gaining traction nearly as well as the iPad, partially because there are so many unknowns. If you buy an Android phone, and aren’t a hardcore Android fan, it’s often because you want a smartphone that is also inexpensive or has a feature not offered in iPhone or BlackBerry models.

The iPad sells because it’s easy to understand (the big iPod touch metaphor is both awful and great at the same time), runs iPhone apps, but has a number of its own that are fantastic, and if you have an iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, or any combination of the three, you’re already locked into the ecosystem. Android tablets come in all sorts of shapes, specs, and OS versions, and some are even viewed as big Android phones to the point that tablet-specific apps are not being written.

When Amazon stated that the Kindle Fire would be running a special version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), this was both great news for people who wanted to expand it on a software front, and bad news for the Android platform as a whole. Not that Apple is licensing iOS, but it would be like a new tablet or e-reader being sold running iOS 3.x (or maybe 4.x) in a world of iOS 5. Since Amazon tweaked the experience so much, most users of the Fire won’t notice that they’re running an outdated OS, as far as Android is concerned. That doesn’t matter though—most Kindle Fire owners will be more concerned about what they can get through Amazon. Amazon will make sure everything that is advertised for the Kindle Fire will work on it, rather than the confusing mess of multiple app stores, different OS versions, and such that have hurt the Android tablet experience so far.

And this, the idea that Amazon is controlling, nay curating a great experience for Android users who may not even realize they are Android users. This may hurt the platform in long-run, but will get the platform out to more users, and even though the Kindle Fire isn’t great compared to other tablets, it’s a good start and I suspect the Kindle Fire 2.0 and/or some software tweaks to this one will make it popular seller for those who may not want or need an iPad or other $400-$700 tablet.

This is the biggest thing to look at—not Kindle Fire vs. iPad, but Kindle Fire vs. Nook Tablet vs. every 7″ Android tablet. Maybe one should even think of the Kindle Fire as a better Kindle. Although it does not feature the e-ink goodness compared to the other Kindles, it does offer more multimedia and non-book content.

Amazon clearly sees the Kindle Fire as a product with huge potential and has the store to back it up. This combination, along with price and positioning mean the Kindle Fire may be competitive eventually, but will be no iPad killer, much like how the iPad isn’t a Kindle killer. If anything, the iPad has become a laptop killer for some, while computers, even netbooks, have nothing to fear from the Kindle Fire.

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