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Amazon Kindle Fire Quick Review: Don’t call it an iPad competitor

I’m just crossing 48 hours with the Kindle Fire and have a few quick observations that I think need to be brought to the surface on this great little device.

  1. It isn’t an iPad competitor any more than a Mercedes SUV is a competitor to a Toyota Prius.  A 7-inch tablet is an entirely different use case than a 10-incher.  At $199, it is more likely to take away iPod touch customers rather than iPad customers from Apple.  But mostly, Kindle people will be people who wouldn’t have considered an Apple tablet previously.
  2. The Fire isn’t a speed demon.  A few minutes navigating with the Fire is all it takes to realize that there are hiccups.  To me, it feels more sluggish than a Galaxy Tab 7 from last year, especially on CPU intensive stuff.  Amazon has done nice things with the interface and they should be congratulated on their virtual keyboard (it is one of the best I’ve used), but make no mistake, inside of this case is bargain basement components.
  3. If you are new to Amazon’s ecosystem, there isn’t a lot of content in there.  Getting some will be expensive.  In my family, my wife has the Prime account and our music in the Amazon Cloud is tied there as well.  That means any audio and video has to be purchased or brought over manually.
  4. The Kindle quickly became a Hulu Plus and Netflix player in our house – which the Barnes and Noble Nook can do just as well.  Or any Android tablet.
  5. The Silk browser wasn’t impressive.  It is slow, (probably more a processor thing here than a software thing).  I had more success with the Dolphin browser.
  6. The speakers are nice but the volume is a pain in the @55.  This is a media consumption device and Amazon has built personal area stereo speakers in.  Watching Hulu at night in bed with 2 people works fine with the speakers all the way up.  Unfortunately, to change the volume, you actually have to go into settings and move the volume – there are no hardware buttons and no software buttons in either the Hulu or any other application I used.  I think Amazon has to change this in upcoming revisions.
  7. The Fire is Android and Amazon somehow left the option to install 3rd party apps in the settings.  Once activated, you can download APK files and get most of them working.  For instance, I got Google Maps working (without GPS – even Wifi) working perfectly.  Layers worked well.  I think maybe people will want  to take a stab at Google’s native Android apps which are some of the best on the platform.  As pointed out, you can install the Barnes and Noble Nook app on the Kindle Fire, which can’t be that exciting for Amazon.
  8. $199.  That is the key thing to remember here.  No name brand 7-inch tablet makers are even coming close (OK, Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet is $249 and their older Nook Color is $199.)  But for the Blackberry and Samsung’s of the world, this should be a wake up call.  Amazon has two advantages here.  One, they were smart enough to make good tradeoffs.  They save design money by taking the Blackberry Playbook design instead of creating their own, saving development costs.  They also don’t have the latest and greatest processor, cameras, a mic, 3G, much RAM, their own OS, or anything else.  But that allowed Amazon to price this out of Blackberry or Samsung’s reach.  The other advantage: Like Barnes and Noble, Amazon doesn’t expect to make a profit from hardware sales.  They want to just sell more media.  As someone who now has a Fire but doesn’t have any Amazon media, I can tell you to enjoy this thing you need to pay Amazon some more money.
  9. Along with the Nook, the Fire is a new type of Tablet model.  Amazon sells you the tablet at around cost and makes its money from media sales.  This is 180 degrees different than Apple’s model.  Apple sells hardware and breaks even, or makes a slight profit on content.  This is similar to the razor blade model, or more technologically related, the Printer-Ink model.  Sure you only pay $199 to enter the market.  But for $199, you don’t get much.  You have to start paying for everything you consume.
  10. This thing is going to sell like crazy.  While it isn’t fast nor does it have all of the capabilities of a current baseline Android tablet, Amazon made the right choices here.  Anyone who owns a Kindle is an obvious possible customer.  Anyone who passes on an iPad because it is too expensive is a possible customer.  There is a huge untapped market that Amazon’s Kindle Brand can attract.  Remember, Amazon was selling the black and white Kindle for $200 not too long ago so people will see this as an incredible upgrade.
The Kindle Fire is available at Amazon for $199 (shipping in 2-3 days) or in retail Stores today

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