Kindle Fire musings, Kobo Vox as the Dark Horse, Nook Color 2 thoughts

The Kindle Fire is available now for $199 at Amazon.

Earlier Version of Post:

The Kindle Fire will be revealed tomorrow – here’s some pointless speculation nonetheless.

Will Kindle Fire set things on fire?

Opinions are divided and it seems that there’s little guarantee Amazon’s Kindle Fire Tablet is going to dominate the non-iPad market.

  • Amazon has a wealth of advantages when it comes to making a consumption Tablet i.e. Prime, MP3 store, Kindle Store, AWS, lots of infrastructure, lots of customers, great customer experience, etc. Will that be enough? Will that overcome the fact that they haven’t built this Kindle Fire Tablet from the ground up themselves?
  • The Kindle was in the work for 4 years before release. It’s been 4 years since that first Kindle. We are talking about a total of 8 years. How much time has Amazon spent on Kindle Fire?
  • What is going to be the Kindle Fire’s killer feature? Will it have more than one?
  • Amazon seems to be tending towards ‘value for money’ and offering free Prime streaming and ‘Special Offers’. That might work well. However, it suggests that the focus is the low-priced Tablet market and not the iPad.
  • It’s logical but disappointing that Amazon is targeting Nook Color instead of iPad.
  • Will Amazon actually hit $199? Seems really hard to believe they can pull that off.
  • Will the closed nature of the Kindle Fire (probably, almost certainly) turn off people interested in Android Tablets? Will hacks and workarounds convince people to buy it (and root it later)?
  • Is Android too much of a disadvantage (in terms of user experience)? Will Amazon’s custom UI solve that problem?

There are a lot more questions than answers.

Also interesting are the Kindle related musings the launch of the Kindle Fire inspires.

  1. How will Kindle Fire affect Amazon’s focus on the Kindle?
  2. Is it that the Press is focused only on Kindle Fire and that makes it seem Amazon has shifted focus to the Kindle Tablet? There are rumors that the Kindle Team (Lab 126) refused to work on the Tablet and wanted to focus on Kindle. If it’s true I’ll gladly buy any/all of them a drink any time they are in Montreal. A sentiment that probably every Kindle owner shares. Here is the snippet -

    Amazon’s own Kindle group (called Lab 126) apparently opted not to take on the project, in favor of continuing to work solely on next-gen E-Ink-based devices.

    From there, Amazon’s team determined they could build a tablet without the help and experience of Lab 126, so they turned to Quanta

  3. If the previous point is true then it means the one team at Amazon best suited to making a Kindle Tablet didn’t take part. Not a good sign.

Kindle Fire (that name is getting annoying very quickly) is really interesting. Really, really interesting launch for Amazon.

Kobo Vox strikes like the pox?

We found out today about the Kobo Vox eReader Tablet. Kobo joining the party is great and it must worry both B&N and Amazon.

  1. Kobo has very little to lose and can take big risks. Neither B&N nor Amazon can.
  2. It’s global. While B&N only competes with Amazon in the US, Kobo puts pressure on Amazon in lots of markets.
  3. Kobo has done things it doesn’t get much credit for – First $150 eReader, first company to compete with Amazon in lots of markets, their Reading Life feature, lots of coupons and discounts, sells to any device (since its books are in ePub format). It’s more dangerous than people realize.
  4. Both Nook Touch and Kobo Touch are strong competitors to Kindle 3. Amazon has tremendous advantages – But on a device-only basis both Nook Touch and Kobo Touch probably edge the Kindle 3. This suggests that Kobo Vox might give Kindle Fire a real run for its money.
  5. It’s choice. Kobo as a third choice is valuable for the market. Kobo as a second choice in lots of countries is valuable. Kodo as a second choice for ePub Books is very valuable for Nook Color and Sony Reader owners.

Kobo impresses me more every day. You expect it to die out and yet it keeps coming back and keeps putting pressure on Amazon and B&N to evolve faster.

That brings us to the Tablet that we know the least about.

Nook Color 2 – Does B&N really have two Tablets up its sleeve?

If Nate the Great’s B&N has 2 Tablets sources are correct, then B&N is showing more ambition than Amazon and will have -

  1. A $249 Nook Color 2 that is an improvement over the existing $249 Nook Color. You have to imagine that a year of experience and customer feedback gives B&N lots of opportunity to improve what is already a delightful device (better screen than iPad 1, great as a Reading Tablet, etc.).
  2. A $349 Nook Color 2 Acclaim that is focused on gaming and comes with add-ons like a better screen and perhaps more memory.

If this is true then -

  1. B&N is doing what Amazon should have been doing.
  2. It’s sad that instead of leading and innovating in the Tablet space, or even keeping up with iPad and Nook Color (Tablet and Reading Tablet respectively), Amazon is lagging behind by a year or more.
  3. Nook Color must be a pretty big success. For B&N to release two new variants.
  4. B&N is embracing the fact that its Nook business is effectively a billion dollar business. With a good Nook Color 2 and an even better Nook Color 3 B&N could turn it into a $5 billion business in the next 3 years.
  5. Can something designed by Quanta compete effectively with Nook Color 2? How much of a difference will Amazon’s backing make?

If the Gdgt article is true and Kindle Fire is just a PlayBook variant, then it would be extremely disappointing. There’s something special when a company makes a device from the ground up (such as the Kindle). Amazon really should prioritize purity of the device and its purpose over everything else.

9 Responses

  1. Ya know, just because it’s made by the same team as the PlayBook, or even has some of the same internal component choices, doesn’t mean it will look anything like it. The PlayBook has good hardware. And there’s not that much variation between wat RIM needed and what Amazon needs — A SoC with CPU, GPU, and RAM, a wifi chipset and maybe 3G, a battery charger, and most importantly, a screen and a touch panel. There’s only so many ways to put those together — you can’t make the thing thinner or lighter just by willing it — and there’s only so many options for each one of them. Generally, there either is one that is massively better price/performance than the competitors, and you already have it, or there’s a bunch of competitors that are fairly similar.

    • I would argue that what Amazon needs is something that would be really, really good.

      The assumption that using same hardware as every other Android tablet is good enough is a poor one.

      • I usually agree with you but I’m not sure in this instance: if by “hardware” you mean stuff like the processor, screen and battery, I don’t see why having the same hardware as other Android tablets is a bad thing.

        Their problem, as I understand it and, IIRC, you have pointed out, wasn’t the hardware — it was their lack of a rationale. I forgot who wrote this but someone said that there is no “tablet market” — there is an iPad market and there may be Kindle Fire (blech!) market and a Nook Color market, etc.

        IOW people don’t want tablets, per se. They want what tablets will let them do: consume media in ways they find agreeable. You yourself mocked the idea that anyone cared about whether the Amazon tablet had a single or dual-core processor.

        The inside-baseball propeller-head talk about whether the KF is a redesigned playbook misses this point: what matter is if people want what Amazon is offering and whether the experience, i.e., the interface lets them get it in a way they enjoy. A far bigger problem than the hardware is if the UI is half-baked or buggy. Design, as in Apple chic, has never been Amazon metier. User experience is.

        I may have just talked myself into buying one. Drat!

      • The hardware is a critical part to the software being able to do what it has to do.

        So it’s easy to say – Android Tablets all have good hardware. They just mess up the software and/or the positioning and/or the usefulness.

        However, the Tablet hardware plays a part too. For Example: Should a $240 tablet ape the design of the iPad? Probably not. If you look at the Nook Color, which has done quite well, it’s pretty different from the iPad whereas most of the Tablets that have failed are almost clones when it comes to hardware.

        Basically, the problem is that the hardware and the software are interconnected. It’s like the mind and body relationship. You can try and make a great software that overcomes the hardware but unless the hardware and software have been built from the ground up with the same coherent vision you are not going to get the best results.

        Amazon using Playbook type hardware for Kindle Tablet is a bad idea if what customers really want is 5 physical buttons for Forward, Back, Shop, Home, and 1-Click. Amazon probably didn’t have a choice or it got stuck. However, it’s impossible that if the Kindle Tablet is built using standard Tablet hardware – that it will be as good for Amazon’s purposes as if it were built from the ground-up for Amazon.

      • Physical buttons are mostly not implied to be the same simply because the hardware is based on the same things. Buttons are in fact the easiest thing to change. When we say “based on”, that means architecture — the SoC, the WiFi chip, the screen controller, the screen. Internals. Not the appearance at all, let alone to such details as what hardware buttons are there or not.

  2. So Lab 126 “opted not to” work on the tablet project? Does the internal structure of Amazon really allow individual units that much latitude?

    • Gdgt claims so. I suspect Amazon does allow this much freedom. It’s in California and probably has more freedom than other groups.

    • Lab 126 is not really part of amazon in any meaningful way — it’s a completely separate business, that just happens to be owned by them.

      I suspect they could, legally speaking, force them to do stuff — but it’d result in the 1985 Apple while they’re going for the 2005 Apple.

  3. I’m not that hyped for Wed big news on the 99$ Kindle or the Kindle Touch and being in Canada and wanting to borrow from libraries and buy from a variety of sellers the Kobo Touch is my most probable purchase. Where Kobo seriously lags behind Kindle is it’s (in my mind) pathetic selection of cheap books. The Kindle Daily Deal, the Kindle price matching of competitor daily deals and the huge number of 0.99 to under 5$ titles not to mention the equally huge number of 0.00 books obliterates anything Kobobooks has at this time. So Kobo Touch and googling apprentice alf and drm, and caliber seem the best option

    Being only interested in a dedicated ereader device makes tablets et.al of no interest to this avid reader.

    Thanks for the many excellent posts. I am enjoying this site

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