Monday, April 30, 2012

Amazon Kindle Fire, Some Thoughts After Extended Use


I received my Kindle Fire right after it came out. I've used it extensively since then and for the most part I've really enjoyed the experience. I'm going to talk briefly about the thingI don't like today, explain why I don't like it and make some suggestions for possible fixes.

When the Fire came out everyone wanted to compare it to the iPad and while there is some overlap I didn't see them as existing primarily in the same market space. My opinion hasn't changed. Size, feature sets and user experience all differ substantially enough to make it obvious that they have different use cases and thus different customers for the most part. Amazon isn't a dumb company. They never intended to go head to head with Apple with their first generation tablet. They had a specific niche in mind centered around media and application content delivery and they did a good job of executing to that.

There are some warts though. In keeping the manufacturing costs low Amazon delivered a product that doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. The lack of hardware volume controls for instance. For the most part I can live with the limitations given the price point. The one thing I am finding frustrating though is the lack of storage. It doesn't take much to fill 8gig. A modest assortment of Apps plus a few hundred good quality MP3's and one or two half hour TV shows is enough to have the low storage message popping up constantly for me.

Given the intended niche for this product I can't help but think that Amazon has shot themselves in the foot because of that. I'd buy more stuff if it wasn't such a pain to manage my local storage. Yes, there is the Amazon cloud and while it is very nice the Fire is wireless only and I'm much more likely to be off the network than on when I want to listen to music, use an application or watch video.

There are a couple of different things Amazon could do to address this deficiency in the next generation of their product. The obvious one would be to up the internal storage. The better solution is to add an SD card slot. Apple differentiates their iPad models in part by the amount of internal storage they provide. Apple is primarily in the business of selling hardware with apps and media sales being a steadily growing side line. Amazon on the other hand has a business model where the hardware is just a means of enabling people to buy other stuff from them. This is very similar to the video game consoles where the hardware is sold at cost or for a small loss with the knowledge that sales of games in the future will more than make up for any losses on the initial hardware sale.

So in this case Amazon has no incentive to try to differentiate their hardware based on the amount of local storage. In fact they have an incentive to find a cost effective and simple way for people to up the amount of storage their devices have if this encourages additional sales of content and if my experience is meaningful I think it would. Adding an SD card slot would increase manufacturing costs modestly but would enable consumers to up the amount of local storage significantly. Amazon could also optionally bundle different sized SD cards with their next generation Kindle Fire which would make it easy for people to create a customized experience in this area.

So, the bottom line Amazon needs to find a way to make more local storage available on the Fire if they want to increase their after purchase revenues. All other concerns are secondary in my opinion.

I have some thoughts on a second generation Kindle Fire but I'll leave them for another day.

Amazon-New-Detail-Page (Photo credit: kokogiak)
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