Monday, September 3, 2012

Kindle Fire, The Sequel?

Kindle Fire and Coffee
Kindle Fire and Coffee (Photo credit: arellis49)
In a few short days we'll likely know what the next Kindle tablet will look like and how it will be priced. I ordered my first generation Kindle Fire as soon as they became available for pre order and have been generally happy with it. I almost always skip a generation or two before upgrading though so I don't see myself ordering the new Fire.

There is as a lot of speculation as to what the successor will look like and what it's specs will be. Price is the most important factor so far as this device is concerned so I'm not expecting to see a top of the line device when it comes to performance. Given the role of the Kindle Fire in the Amazon ecosystem there is no reason for it to be anything more than pedestrian when it comes to things like screen resolution and processor power.

The biggest deficiency of the first generation Fire was in the area of storage. Eight Gig is just not enough if Amazon wants to maximize their ability to sell digital content. This seems like an important thing since selling digital content is the whole point of the Fire. I gave up on buying video when I discovered I couldn't even keep one or two episodes of a half hour show around if I wanted a decent selection of songs and and applications. WiFi is common now but far from universal and I if I don't want to blast through my five gig MiFi cap I can't be downloading video via my cell plan either. All of which points to the need for more storage so content can be loaded when I'm on my relatively inexpensive home broad band service.

There are three ways Amazon can address the storage deficiency.
  1. Add more built in storage
  2. Add some sort of storage card slot
  3. Add a Fire model with cheap or free 3G wireless
Option one is probably the most likely. I'll be surprised if the new Fire doesn't come with 16gig standard but frankly even that isn't enough. The problem with adding an SD card slot is it adds cost to the manufacturing of the device and a bit of complexity to the user experience so I can see Amazon shying away from that. 

It seems unlikely that Amazon would be able to find partners willing to offer inexpensive or "free" 3G coverage but not impossible. Consider for a moment that 3G networks are starting to become a thing of the past. Apple's next iPhone will almost certainly be an LTE enabled device which will mean the last major maker of exclusively 3G phones will have finally made the leap. Phone company 3G networks should be seeing declines in usage over the next few years and the chance to make a few bucks off of legacy infrastructure by way of devices like a Kindle Fire might be attractive. The speeds on a 3G network aren't bad either even for streaming video.

The next biggest deficiency of the current Fire is a bit harder to address. The screen size is great for reading books and fine for watching video but it leaves a lot to be desired when you're trying to read magazine or other large format content. I suspect this is why Apple's rumored mini iPad is said to have a nearly eight inch screen. I'm not sure that is large enough but it's certainly a step in the right direction. The tricky bit of course is that the screen size of the Fire is also an asset as it is very easy to carry around compared to the iPad or other full sized tablets.

I don't see Amazon having a significant impact on Apples sales. Amazon might in fact have a bit of trouble replicating the success of the first generation Fire since the often rumored iPad Mini appears to be imminant. The two companies have different business models for the most part but there is some overlap both in the customer base and the way each plans on making money off of their tablet ventures.
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