The Kindle Fire is coming under some really heavy attacks in the press recently. The bar it is being held to is the $500 iPad.
Just wanted to write a general post on – Why most of these attacks are amusing, the importance of stores for Kindle Fire sales.
Context is Everything – Why most attacks on the Kindle Fire are amusing
A lot of the attacks on the Kindle Fire come with in-built assumptions that the people don’t really spell out i.e.
- They ignore the price difference between a $200 tablet and a $500 tablet.
- They assume a $200 Tablet will perform as well as a $500 Tablet.
- They believe there’s only one design philosophy that can be good.
- They think that if a new tablet uses some paradigms that they are not used to, then it must be terrible.
- They are aligned with one particular company and are invested in its success i.e. write about them, make apps for them, or some other alignment. They assume that this alignment doesn’t color their motivations and words.
Yet, all these people write pretending there is no bias. That’s the first thing that makes the attacks amusing. The complete lack of self-awareness.
My post isn’t pure as snow either – Writing about the Kindle and making Kindle Apps means I’m biased towards Kindles and Amazon. I will try to account for that but spelling it out so you’re aware that this is just one person’s biased perspective.
The second thing that is really amusing is the nitpicking and the complete lack of understanding that this is a V1 product.
Kindle Fire is a V1 product, but it’s getting zero benefit of the doubt
Kindle Fire is experiencing what Nook 1 did.
Nook 1 was built up by the Press as the most amazing device ever – a combination of LCD and eInk. When the first version had some bugs and was sluggish the Press turned on it violently.
Nook still did well. B&N fixed quite a few of the bugs. B&N went on to release more Nooks and, perhaps most importantly, Nook Color.
At the time, I’d written in defence of the Nook. The way Kindle Fire is being treated by some people is just as disappointing, if not more.
First, the Press tried to paint it as a magical $200 device that would be just as good as $500 Tablets. Then, when they realized it isn’t as good as $500 Tablets, they attacked it like rabid dogs.
You don’t write-off or bad-mouth a first generation product because of a few bugs. It’s a V1 - even Nostradamus couldn’t make a product that was perfect in V1.
With Kindle Fire, it’s fascinating to see how interesting some of the complaints are (my thoughts in italics) -
- It’s sluggish and unresponsive. Note: Haven’t found any problems - marginal speed differences aren’t my forte. iPad, Nook Color, Kindle Fire – all three seem fine to me.
- The Carousel is difficult to use. Yes, this is indeed the case. Let me go find $300 so that I can avoid the unbearable agony of the Cover Flow UI not being perfect.
- This is an exact quote – “The asymmetrical bezel’s chin is distracting in landscape orientation”. Asymmetrical, Bezel, Chin – Those are three words I would never have expected to find in such close proximity. If you can get distracted by an asymmetric bezel’s chin, then one has to wonder exactly what a device would have to do to keep your attention.
- Page Turns (it’s always the page turns) aren’t animated well enough. The exact quote – “The page-turn animation, a simple full-screen slide, is distracting, too long, and jerky.”. It took me a lot of trying to understand exactly how this writer got worked up about the 0.1 second long page turns. It’s literally a page sliding off quickly and another sliding on – there’s nothing long or distracting about it. Let’s hope, for the sake of his mental health, that he never runs into an actual physical book.
- Another exact quote – I kept inadvertently turning pages when I intended to bring up the menu. Anyone who owns a Kindle Fire is going to have a hearty chuckle at this. You tap the middle of the page to get the menu. You tap the left edge to go back and you tap the right edge to go forward. Perhaps we need to have the device read your brain waves – except that wouldn’t make you happy either because it would keep going to BaconWithAnimatedPageTurns.com instead of to the next page. Dear Mr. Complain-A-Lot – you do realize that if you keep writing things like this people will start thinking you are a page-turn challenged nitpicky whiner.
- It’s not an iPad. I only write good things if it’s an iPad. Thanks for clearing that up. Yes, it’s not an iPad. Flip it around – You see the big ‘Kindle’. That’s your first clue. How many more do you need?
That brings us to the two real gems. First, we have a complaint about the free Prime videos -
The free Prime video selection is very poor compared to Netflix’s streaming library. The TV selection is particularly misleading: they’ll list a show, but only one season, or some subset of its episodes, is actually free.
Let’s get this straight - You paid $79 and got free 2-day shipping for a year. Amazon also added in free movies and one free book loan a month.
Now, you’re complaining that the free movies thrown in aren’t as extensive as what you get from Netflix for $7.99 a month. Well, please hold on Sir Complain-A-Lot. Let us reunite the cast of Friends for you and have them shoot the new season in your house. Perhaps you would still complain that you’d have preferred Seinfeld.
Next, we have a complaint about being ‘almost uncomfortable’ -
The bottom-left corner of the Fire, when held in portrait, gets noticeably warm during use. It’s almost uncomfortable to hold during long, moderately intensive tasks… such as video playback.
This is what happens when you let men get manicures and pedicures and tell them it’s OK to get in touch with their emotions.
Let’s imagine Sir Complain-A-Lot coming up to Chuck Norris and saying – Chuck Norris, my Tablet got noticeably warm today and it was almost uncomfortable. What should I do?
Chuck Norris would probably reply – You should let me roundhouse kick your ‘almost uncomfortable’ness out of your head.
If we’re lucky that roundhouse kick will also take care of the addiction to perfectly animated page turns.
The third thing that’s amusing, and sad, is that these are reviews written not for users but for the review writer’s own gratification.
Attacks on the Kindle Fire are self-serving, and not customer-oriented
What’s been missing is any attempt to write a review from the perspective of the people who would actually want to buy a $200 Tablet. People who don’t believe that the only correct design philosophy is Apple’s. People who don’t really care that if Kindle Fire cuts into iPad sales then there might be an impact on the earnings of people who make iPad apps.
Lots of users want to know whether to buy a $199 Kindle Fire or a $199 iPod Touch. Yet, all the Kindle Fire articles are fixated on comparing Kindle Fire with iPad. Perhaps they don’t realize that the decision being made is usually Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet vs iPod Touch. That the number of people who are actually choosing between a $200 Tablet and a $500 Tablet is relatively small.
The strangest thing is reviewers saying – Yes, we know Kindle Fire is $200 and iPad is $500 but Kindle Fire is not as shiny as the iPad. When we watch movies on it they don’t have animated page turns.
The Importance of Being Exactly As Fast as the $500 Tablet
One of the best examples of this obsession with comparing Kindle Fire with $500 Tablets is the whole ‘sluggishness’ debate.
Some reviewers are claiming that the device is sluggish. An almost identical number of reviewers are claiming it’s fast and responsive.
Who do we believe?
It was fast and responsive for me. However, every person’s definition of fast and responsive is different. So, how can a person tell whether it’s fast or sluggish?
The simplest solution: Go to a store and try it out for yourself. Chances are – you’ll like it.
If someone has been using a $500 Tablet and then finds Kindle Fire to be marginally slower – That doesn’t make it sluggish. It just makes it ‘not as fast as the $500 iPad’.
Kindle Fire haters are mostly writing from the wrong context (expecting a $200 Tablet to be as fast as a $500 Tablet, assuming the only right design choices are what Apple decides, safeguarding their livelihoods or their tech religion).
If Apple had removed the volume buttons, then the tech press would be calling it revolutionary. If Amazon does it, it’s a ‘terrible design decision’.
If you’re looking for a good, low-price tablet, don’t let the attacks on the Kindle Fire sway you. Why not go to a Store and see for yourself?
The Importance of Stores for Kindle Fire Sales
The reason stores are critically important for Kindle Fire is that Apple people are once again waging a war based on unreality. Since they have chefs cook tech journalists customized omelettes at their events, they have the tech press playing along.
Note: Let it not be said that Apple doesn’t allow customization. As long as it’s omelettes it’s fine.
Apple people are doing a combination of things -
- Comparing the $200 Kindle Fire to the $500 iPad non-stop. How can you, in good faith, compare Kindle Fire to a device that is 2.5 times the price?
- Drawing up a list of 10 to 15 vague complaints. Add these on to the real drawbacks (and there are a few) and a good Kindle Fire Tablet suddenly seems terrible.
- Being intentionally vague. How on Earth does anyone respond to an asymmetric bezel’s chin? Make it symmetric and Apple sues you in court for stealing the design (apparently they think other Tablet makers should make their Tablets triangular). Make it asymmetric and reviewers will complain about your Tablet’s chin (Jane Austen could probably write a lot about what a man’s chin says about him - but it’s a special gift to be able to seriously discuss a Tablet’s chin).
- Neglecting to mention any of the good qualities – low price, visually attractive user interface, very easy to use, light, can hold with one hand, easy to carry around, size is great for email and browsing. With Kindle it was understandable – most tech journalists didn’t read enough to be able to appreciate it. You can’t blame a tech journalist who only reads movies to understand the Kindle. What’s the excuse now?
- Waging a concerted campaign and trying to prevent Kindle Fire from getting momentum. That’s really what it is. The possibility that Amazon might sell 5 million Kindle Fires in 2011 has scared the Apple people and they are pulling out all the stops. Soon they’ll be blaming Kindle Fire for global warming.
Apple people are experts in vague and intangible attacks. Amazon can’t win a war against them by fighting on their terms.
Amazon says – Here’s Kindle Fire. For $200 it does 80% of the things the $500 Tablets do.
Apple says – But the animated page turns aren’t perfect. Is it really worth $300 to lose the ability to have that page glide perfectly across the screen?
Amazon can’t win the war of words and stories.
The only way to beat reality distortion is via reality. The Stores will do that. Those 16,000 stores selling Kindle Fires are 16,000 soldiers fighting a war against the reality distortion of the tech press. Walk into these stores and suddenly $300 means $300 of hard-earned money. And page turns become things you don’t even notice if you’re actually reading a book.
People are very smart. They know what they want and they know it when they see it. No amount of perfectly crafted and precisely imprecise attacks will change that. Very few people are stupid enough to pass on a very good Tablet just because it doesn’t have the sort of chin that would allow Apple to sue it in court.
Perhaps the Kindle Fire at $200 is perfect for you. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps you expect a $500 Tablet for $200. Perhaps you’re happy with what you get for $199. The best way to find out is to go to a store and see for yourself.
It’s really unfortunate that the tech press keeps comparing Kindle Fire with the iPad. That it keeps writing Kindle Fire reviews and articles that assume every day people want the exact same things that tech journalists do. Kindle and Nook and Nook Color have all survived this intellectual dishonesty of the Press and Kindle Fire will too. Meanwhile we should call Chuck Norris so he can do something about all these Complain-A-Lots and their unhealthy obsession with Tablet chins and animated page turns.
Note: Chuck Norris was not hurt during the making of this post. Actually, Chuck Norris can never be hurt - we just put in the note to avoid unnecessary concern on your behalf. Chuck Norris says that if one more person who really doesn’t read much writes about how important animated page turns are for reading, Chuck Norris might get a headache.