Kindle Fire Cost vs Price, 6 million Kindle Fires might sell in 2011

The Kindle Fire has taken people by storm -

  1. Journalists are stunned that it isn’t identical to the $500 iPad 2. Oh Lords, why is this $199 Tablet not identical to our beloved $499 God of All Devices?
  2. Kindle Fire owners have decided to drive normal Kindle owners crazy by taking over the Kindle forums and asking all sorts of wondrous questions – Why does my Kindle Fire not transform into an eInk Reader in sunshine? Is it because I was a bad girl and Santa has no presents for me this Christmas?
  3. Apple people are quaking in their boots AKA pretending aesthetic superiority. Yes Dorian, I do realize it is incredibly cheap but it’s not really the sort of device I would carry with me to the Society Ball.

Perhaps the worst affected are analysts of all stripes and colors. Let’s consider two examples.

Apparently, now there might be 6 million Kindle Fires sold in 2011

Here’s how analysts’ opinions have varied over the last 3 to 4 weeks -

  1. 4 weeks ago: Might I add, there is absolutely no market for a non-iPad Tablet. Amazon will just be the latest tragic debutante.
  2. 3 weeks ago: $199? It is appalling how shamelessly Amazon competes on price. It doesn’t realize the importance of being earnest and overpriced? Let’s project 3 millions Kindle Fire sales – just to be on the safe side.
  3. 2 weeks ago: By Jove, it’s selling like those scandalous gossip rags. We will have to raise our estimates to 4 million. Of course, thy iPad shall not be affected for it is more than just a Tablet, it is a delight and a true gentleman would never stoop to a $199 Tablet.
  4. 1 week ago: Lord Ashby, this is rather discomfiting. This Fire thingie keeps on selling. Let me call for my carriage and go check the neighbourhood GoodPurchase to see what it looks like. Also, increase my estimates to 5 million. I would not wish to look like a fool if this sells well.
  5. Today: This thing keeps selling and selling. Tell the Evening Rags that my estimates are now 6 million Kindle Fires. And bring me some tea and strumpets … I mean tea and crumpets.

Here we have (via CNET, via Teleread) analyst Shim’s shimmering estimate (shimmering as it rushes in to replace yesterday’s estimate and gets pushed out by tomorrow’s estimate) -

“Our supply chain numbers are up to 6 million now,” Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch, said in a phone interview Friday.

Shim said the timeline for manufacturer build plans was originally at 4 million units. “Shortly after preorders they upped it to 5 [million],” Shim said. “Then, about a week and a half ago as they were getting closer to the actual launch date, they upped it to 6 [million].”

6 million Kindle Fires. But, Lord Shim of Analystshire, there was no tablet market – only an iPad market. Where has this magical and contradictory Tablet market appeared from?

Meanwhile we have the Sir Complain-A-Lots droning on -

A $199 Tablet couldn’t possibly affect sales of a $499 tablet. It’s just money. Would you exchange $300 for the feeling of aesthetic superiority and the additional deep meaning it gives your life?

I don’t like the shape of the Enter button. Did you notice that the Enter button is almost perfectly square when it should have triangular-quadratic edges that fill eyes with happiness and the nectar of the gods?

Apparently, not even 1 out of the 6 million people buying a Kindle Fire considered an iPad. And there will be no effect whatsoever on iPad sales.

Amazon is losing $2.70 on Kindle Fire sales … if you assume Fire went straight from Mr. Bezos’ imagination to a factory in China and then was teleported to customers

The mainstream press seem intent to pretend that Kindle Fire isn’t a bargain.

The latest example is how pretend-analysts are estimating how much Amazon is losing on each Tablet sold.

iSuppli did a rather neat break-down of how much Kindle Fire components cost and what it would cost to put them together into a Kindle Fire. Their answers were -

  1. Cost of components: $185.60.
  2. Cost after adding in manufacturing costs: $201.70.

Naturally, pretend-analysts jumped at this figure and assumed this means Amazon loses $2.70 per Kindle Fire.

Not so fast, dear pretend-analysts. We forget a few small things -

  1. Design Costs. There was a design process involving people on salaries.
  2. Software Costs. The code didn’t exactly write itself. Someone probably spent a lot of time figuring out how to make the Carousel super-embarassing. Let’s not just limit it to showing the last inappropriate book they read, let’s throw in the last few sketchy websites they visited too.
  3. Marketing Costs. Amazon has been doing a lot of marketing. Even space on the website is space that could be used elsewhere (opportunity cost).
  4. Shipping Costs for getting Kindle Fire from the factory to Amazon warehouses. No, there weren’t a bunch of Shipping Companies offering Amazon free 2-day shipping on the Kindle Fire. No, the storks didn’t deliver Kindle Fires to Amazon warehouses either.
  5. Commissions. Lots of people, such as brick and mortar stores and websites (including this website), get a cut from Kindle Fire Sales.

My rough estimate would be (averaged over all Kindle Fires, assuming 15 million sold for the first generation Fire): $2 in Design costs, $4 in Software Costs, $3 in Marketing costs, $2 in Shipping Costs, and $3 in Commissions (probably more if you consider what brick and mortar stores get).

That’s $14. There are probably other items we missed so let’s make it $17.

Of course, now we get the interesting costs that no one ever considers -

  1. Customer Service.
  2. Returns.
  3. Faulty units.

Those probably add $5 per Kindle Fire sold (remember – customer service is over the lifetime of the device). It might go up if Amazon doesn’t fix the bugs quickly.

We get a total of $22. We probably missed a few things so let’s say the range is $22 to $28.30.

Kindle Fire Cost to Amazon is probably $223.70 to $230 per Kindle Fire. We’ve been pretty conservative and it might be more. Additionally, things like lots of returns would increase costs drastically.

Why is Amazon still selling them for $199?

Firstly, it doesn’t have a choice. It can’t let B&N tie up the low-price, high-quality Tablet Market.

Secondly, it thinks (quite rightly) that it can more than make up the loss over time.

So, we shouldn’t worry too much about the loss-leader $199 price of Kindle Fire. Amazon will make back the $23 to $31 it is losing – over time.

Importance of Stores for Kindle Fire Sales, Amusing Attacks on Kindle Fire

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.

  1. They ignore the price difference between a $200 tablet and a $500 tablet.
  2. They assume a $200 Tablet will perform as well as a $500 Tablet.
  3. They believe there’s only one design philosophy that can be good.
  4. They think that if a new tablet uses some paradigms that they are not used to, then it must be terrible.
  5. 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) -

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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 -

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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?
  5. 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.

Kindle Fire – Unfiltered Kindle Fire first impressions

Got the Kindle Fire yesterday morning (thanks Nick!), and these are the first 10 things that registered strongly.

It’s a LOT better than the press would have you believe

After expecting something terrible, it was a pleasant surprise to find out it’s a really good tablet. It seems the press was suffering from ‘$200 = $500′ disease. It’s understandable - since tech bloggers get ‘free’ review units and they don’t have to decide whether Device X is worth $300 more of their hard-earned money.

For a $200 Tablet, the Kindle Fire is really, really good. The rest of this post has some rather harsh words. However, it’s all within the context of:

Amazon’s Kindle Fire has continued the tradition that Nook Color started and IMPROVED on it. Value tablets are now providing 80% of what high-end Tablets provide.

It’s going to be a massacre – unless Apple releases Tablets in the $300 to $350 range soon (by mid 2012).

Warning: If you value form over function, do not even think about buying the Kindle Fire. If you’re a ‘value for money’ and ‘ease of use’ type of gal, you’ll love Kindle Fire. If you’re an ‘animated page turns are more important than the words’ kind of guy, you’ll hate Kindle Fire.

The 7″ Screen and overall Kindle Fire Size and Weight are great and underrated

Quite a few Kindle Fire reviews from tech pretend-journalists have claimed that 10″ is some magical size for Tablets. That’s complete nonsense.

There’s a special term for people who claim that moving from a physical keyboard and a 21″ monitor to the iPad’s keyboard and 10″ monitor is no problem at all, but moving from a 10″ screen to a 7″ screen is a cataclysm – vocal minority.

At least 75% of people will find the 7″ screen size better.

You have to look at the context: Apple was tired of struggling against Windows (Mac currently has 5% global market share) and wanted to make post-PC devices. It really did think, and probably still thinks, that 10″ tablets can replace desktop PCs and laptops.

The 10″ screen was not the result of some pure aim to make the best Tablet. It was an attempt to replace laptops and netbooks.

The real questions are – What is the best size screen for a tablet? Should an actual Tablet be something you can hold in one hand? Should it be something you can carry around easily?

B&N and Amazon are making Tablets you can actually hold and carry around easily.

7″ is a much better screen size for most things – reading, watching movies, carrying, portability. You have to consider size and weight and how much of the screen you can reach.

Here’s an example of Apple devotees’ arguments about having a screen size that is ‘accessible’:

  • iPhone screen size of 3.5″ is better than 4.3″ screen size of rival smartphones because ‘you can’t reach more than 3.5″ of the screen with your fingers’ while holding a phone.

Well, that exact same argument holds for why a 7″ Tablet is more convenient. Plus the additional problem that a 10″ Tablet is too heavy and awkward to hold with one hand. It even tires you out if you hold it with two hands.

My recommendation would be to consider the things you’ll be doing with your Tablet – watching movies, reading books, surfing the web, doing email, shopping. For most of these - a Tablet that is easy to hold, and where the screen is easy to reach, is much more valuable than a larger, heavier one.

Reading in bed, at night, is a perfect example – 10″ is way too big for most people. It’s supposed to be a Tablet not a pillow.

Kindle Fire is more of a Store than a Tablet

It’s hard not to notice that everything in the Tablet seems optimized towards stuff you bought from Amazon.

If you’re looking for a tablet that supports your relationship with Amazon – Kindle Fire is perfect.

The Carousel was a really easy way to go through all my Kindle purchases and pick out the ones that are interesting. It’s just strange that the only way to interact with content is the Carousel and Shelves. Plus the amount of finger dexterity required is just ridiculous. It’s made for guitarists and piano players.

Kindle Fire is a Tablet meant for you to buy Kindle books and Kindle Store magazines and download Amazon Music and movies. Apps take a backstage and things you might want to add yourself - even more so.

Silk might as well be Sandpaper

The whole grand Silk browser and its caching in the clouds either seems worthless or it’s only making up for some coding deficiency in the browser. The Kindle Fire’s browser was exactly as fast as Nook Color’s browser – when averaged across various sites. It was marginally faster on 4 sites and marginally slower on 2 sites. Not what you’d expect after all that Silk talk.

Kindle Fire isn’t demonstrably better than Nook Color

Bottom line: I would not replace my 1-year-old Nook Color with the Kindle Fire. This should be very worrying to Amazon if it intends to steal existing Nook Color owners.

Of course, chances are that Amazon doesn’t care at all about existing Nook Color owners as prospective Kindle Fire owners. Perhaps it only wants to scoop up existing Amazon customers. Kindle Fire is pretty good for that.

Kindle Fire is about as good as Nook Color when you consider various pros and cons – other than the connection to Amazon. The addition of a tight connection to Amazon will probably seem like a big win for existing Amazon customers.

Kindle Fire is literally a connection to Amazon

This point is intriguing and might lead to a lot in the future.

Amazon isn’t so much selling you a Tablet as an umbilical cord to Amazon. That’s why a device that is $203 in just parts (which excludes software costs, shipping, marketing, customer service) is sold for $199.

Firstly, Kindle Fire is more of a store than a tablet (covered above). Secondly, it’s literally a connection to Amazon and it’s interesting/worrying/curious just how strong the connection is.

I get the feeling Silk is more about safe-guarding the user’s path to Amazon than it is about Speed. Making sure Google or someone else doesn’t get in the way. That explains why there was so much focus on ‘speed of Silk’ when it isn’t noticeably faster. Perhaps Amazon just wants to deflect attention from how it’s kicking Google out of the customer purchase path.

Jeff Bezos needs to hire Jonathan Ive

Please Mr. Bezos.

Now you have a phone in the works. There are endless generations of Kindles and Kindle Fires and Kindle Phones lined up.

Please, for the love of all that is beautiful on this Earth, hire someone like Jonathan Ive who will add that missing dimension. Someone, anyone, who will stand up to you and say – It’s NOT OK to send out a device that looks like a Scion XB.

It doesn’t take money, it just takes someone with the conviction to say – For the same amount of effort and money we can ship something absolutely beautiful. Adding Gorilla Glass does not mean you have to make the Tablet a Gorilla.

If Jonathan Ive makes future Kindles and Kindle Fires and Kindle Phones as pretty as Audrey Hepburn, then he gets the recognition he deserves as one of the greatest designers ever.

Right now, Kindle Fire is literally a block. It’s just a slab with a beautiful Tablet inside it. That whole ‘the statue is already in the rock, and we just have to carve away the excessive rock’ thing. Well, Amazon forgot to carve out the excessive rock.

The design of the buttons at the bottom almost makes you cry and the border around the screen and near the edges is just terrible. The ‘slide to unlock’ strip must have been design by committee because there’s no single person capable of something so completely tasteless. Bonus points for making the font size of the date literally 1/7th the font size of the time.

Kindle Fire is, overall, a demonstration of Amazon’s strengths and weaknesses

It highlights what Amazon does well -

  1. Provide a Store and sell things.
  2. Create strong connections to users.
  3. Do good software.
  4. Make things simple to use.
  5. Provide a complete solution for buying everything or almost everything.
  6. Cut on prices while not compromising quality much.
  7. Cater to everyone without any qualifiers.

It also, unfortunately, highlights what Amazon doesn’t do well -

  1. Make pure devices that are ‘the best device available’ when separated from the ecosystem. Kindle Fire’s biggest strengths are its connection to Amazon and its low price – as opposed to the quality of the device itself.
  2. Polish V1 products to super high quality. Kindle Fire is a 5 to 10 million person Beta Test.
  3. Make big radical changes. Kindle Fire is supposedly built on the Playbook design. The design sure does look like it was photocopied from some other device’s blueprint.
  4. Think of devices as things users own. We see it with the lack of the option to set screensavers. Android supports live wallpapers but those aren’t supported either. It’s Amazon’s store-front in your hands and they like to control what you see. It also preserves the option to later add sponsored screensavers for Kindle Fire.
  5. Release only finished products. Amazon loves to do continuous beta testing and Kindle Fire is the starkest example yet.

Just a Quick Note: $100 bet that Amazon had thought of using sponsored screensavers to sell other Amazon things even before the Kindle was launched in 2007. That the plan all along was to build up to this ‘Kindle Fire AKA Kindle Store’ in users’ hands.

Kindle Fire represents Amazon’s biggest strengths and most exploitable weaknesses.

$199 is a very good price, and we are all in a Beta Test

My rough estimate would be – You’re getting a device worth $350 but in Beta Stage. So it’s more like getting a $250 device.

If you’re an existing Amazon customer – it’s a steal and a very valuable Tablet. If you’re not an existing Amazon customer – consider whether you will benefit or not from becoming an Amazon customer.

You could also, if you so choose, root the Kindle Fire and use it as an Android Tablet. However, my suspicion is that the 512 MB of RAM just isn’t enough for it to work with a version of Android that isn’t optimized for Kindle Fire. Would hate to have to use the already slow browser without ‘Cloud Silk Condensation Spider Poison’ magic.

The Tablet for everyone else

My overall impression of Kindle Fire is much better than I thought it would be. It’s a Beta Test and it’s unpolished but it’s a winner.

Yes, it’s a connection to Amazon and it’s built primarily as a means to get people to buy more things, digital and physical, from Amazon. However, what we end up with is a very capable 7″ Tablet that is easy to use. It’s also not difficult to root - plus you can install apps on it from other sources without rooting.

Once you’ve bought it, it’s yours. You can choose not to buy anything from Amazon. You can choose to root it and install Android 4.0 (when it becomes available). You could also choose to partake from the Amazon umbilical cord in small doses.

Kindle Fire ignites the low-price, high-quality Tablet race. B&N has cut Nook Color’s price to $199. It has released its new powerful Nook Tablet for $249. It is lining up video content. Lots of other Tablet companies are going to participate in this race. It will bring high quality Tablets to a LOT of people. People spurned by the narrow-minded companies selling $500 Tablets.

Kindle Fire and Nook Color and Nook Tablet and other low-price, high quality Tablets will bring high quality Tablets to the rest of us. It will fill lots of stockings which aren’t big enough to hold $500 Tablets.

The Kindle Fire at $200 is a good buy. My recommendation would be to peruse some Nook Tablet reviews from actual users over the next few days and also read the Kindle Fire reviews at Amazon. You should then get a pretty clear picture of which is the better Tablet for you.

If money is no object, then iPad is definitely the most polished Tablet and some other Tablets like Asus’ Transformer are much better netbook and mini-laptop replacements.

A Kindle Fire inspired question - What is the aim of technology?

Is it to provide 99% quality to the 10% of people who can afford to pay a lot? Is it to provide 80% quality to the 50% of people who can afford to pay a reasonable amount?

Kindle Fire is filling the huge void left by Tablets made for rich people. Nook Color and Nook Tablet will fill it too. All the arguments against low-price, high quality Tablets are amusing exercises dealing in ‘intangibles’ and ‘things that can’t really be put into words’. When you have something solid like $300 on one side, then there needs to be something more substantial than ‘intangibles’ on the other.

Kindle Fire does two very critical things – It anchors the price for Tablets at $199. It sets the benchmark for how tightly you can connect a customer to a store.

The first is great for users and the second is great for retailers. $500 Tablets are going to have to capitulate and bring out cheaper models. For $300 less, Kindle Fire provides 80% of the benefits that $500 Tablets do. It also has advantages in size and weight. Because Amazon can keep making money from Kindle Fire owners over the years, it can sell Kindle Fire at a price that is really hard to compete with.

Kindle Fire Review roundup

The Kindle Fire is in reviewers’ hands and a flurry of Kindle Fire reviews are out. There are lots of very interesting opinions flying around and it’ll be fun to do a Kindle Fire review roundup.

Kindle Fire Review Round-up – Top 10 Things

The Price is Right

The shiniest thread running through all the Kindle Fire reviews is the impressive price of $199. That’s the one area Amazon has really delivered in.

MSNBC has an entirely too positive Kindle Fire review, and has one line that stands out -

 The Kindle Fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price.

If 80% of what people do on Tablets is email, surfing the web, watching movies, playing casual games, and reading books – Then this isn’t far from the truth.

The Performance isn’t Perfect

A surprisingly large percentage of the Kindle Fire reviews say performance is sometimes sluggish. It’s a surprise given the assumption that Amazon would use its magic software skills to turn the not-very-impressive hardware into a super fast beast.

Kindle Fire is a Store

Engadget points this out very well. Kindle Fire is basically a very tight integration of Amazon’s digital offerings into a Tablet. It’s a mini Amazon store.

Kindle Fire seems to be very easy to use

While very few Kindle Fire reviews address this directly (since they seem to miss the fact that users care a lot about ease of use), the overall picture that is emerging is that Kindle Fire will be very easy to use.

You have your carousel of everything you opened or read or watched or played with. You have your shelves where you can stack up your favorites. You have your shelves of Amazon purchases. It’s all quite well laid out and simple.

Kindle Fire Reviews miss the core uses of Tablets

It would be really cool if one or more Kindle Reviews listed the 10 uses cases that make up 90% of Tablet usage i.e.

  1. Surfing the Web
  2. Email
  3. Watching Movies
  4. Playing casual games.
  5. Reading Books
  6. Watching TV Shows
  7. Checking Facebook
  8. Reading Magazines and Newspapers
  9. Photo Frames and Photos.
  10. Shopping and Searching.

And discussed those. Rather than talking about how Kindle Fire’s battery life is 5% less than this $399 Tablet’s and 20% less than that $499 Tablet’s.

That really is what is missing. Just tell us whether it does these core things. And how well it does these core things.

The one review that comes closest to doing that is Andy Ihnatko’s Kindle Fire Review. It’s probably the best Kindle Fire review.

Kindle Fire Reviewers keep comparing the $199 Kindle Fire to $400 and $500 Tablets

It’s a bit strange.

Here’s the list of devices Kindle Fire reviewers keep comparing the Kindle Fire to – iPad, Galaxy Tab, Playbook, iPad 2, Motorola Xoom.

What do all those devices have in common? They are all 2 to 2.5 times more expensive than the Kindle Fire.

For some strange reason, most Kindle Fire reviewers don’t know about Nook Color or don’t want to do that comparison. It’s painful that they wouldn’t do the most obvious comparison. Engadget goes to the extreme of comparing Kindle Fire with the T-Mobile Springboard from Huawei.

A lot of hating of 7″ screens going on

Percentage of reviewers who claim that many Tablet functions are useless on a 7″ screen: Approximately 50%.

Percentage of reviewers who point out the weight and portability benefits of a 7″ screen: Approximately Zero.

Found it amusing that people keep claiming that surfing the web, reading magazines, and several other ‘Tablet functions’ are useless on a 7″ screen.

Browsing the web, playing games (casual ones), writing email, etc. are all perfectly fine on a 7″ screen. Of course, I only have a year’s experience with a 7″ Tablet so the 4-day experience of these Kindle Fire reviewers is far more meaningful.

The one area the smaller screen will be an issue is magazines and newspapers.

The advantages no one seems to be mentioning – easier to hold, easier to carry, you can hold it with one hand, itweighs less. 7″ Tablets have a lot going for them and are far more ‘mobile’ than 10″ Tablets.

Silk is good but not as good as expected

Amazon’s Silk browser was supposed to make browsing really fast. It turns out it’s more of a case of Silk making browsing decently fast and compensating for the limited amount of RAM.

Where reviewers ran into trouble was interacting with the pages – things were sluggish and awkward. Amazon really shouldn’t have promised a lot with Silk. It made it seem Silk was Moore’s Law in action and the unfulfilled dream of the Network Computer finally fulfilled. Apparently, it’s neither.

The Dichotomy – People either think Kindle Fire is amazing or disappointing

It’s quite inexplicable.

  1. You have Gizmodo saying – The iPad finally has serious competition.
  2. You have Wired giving Kindle Fire 5 out of 10.
  3. Who’s right?

There’s a rather sharp dichotomy of Kindle Fire reviews - some absolutely adore the Kindle Fire while others treat the Kindle Fire like the Prada-wearing Devil treats her interns.

How could the same Fire Tablet result in such vastly different reviews?

Amazon needs to beef up the App Store

Not going with the standard Android Market is a problem since it limits apps to what Amazon can get approved and fine-tuned for Kindle Fire.

We are talking about a few thousand apps compared to the iPad’s 50,000 or 100,000 Apps.

Tablets are currently toys but Kindle Fire reviews are pretending otherwise

It’s quite funny to hear lots of people claim the iPad is a full-fledged computer and a productivity machine and replaces a laptop.

Really?

Apparently, the only people who disagree are the ones buying Tablets.

We have a situation where most people are buying Tablets and using them to surf the web and watch movies and check email. Kindle Fire does all of these well (at least it seems that way from the Kindle Fire reviews and videos). However, it’s being dragged across the coals because it’s not ‘a laptop replacement like the iPad’.

The $200 Toy isn’t as productivity-enhancing or computer-like as the $500 Toy. How tragic.

Kindle Fire Review Roundup – Pros and Cons

Pros of the Kindle Fire

  1. Great $199 Price.
  2. Covers 80% of what the $500 Tablets do.
  3. 1024 by 600 IPS LCD screen.
  4. 1 GHz dual-core processor.
  5. 2.4 GHz WiFi works well.
  6. Gorilla Glass display.
  7. 169 dpi is pretty good density.
  8. It has a backlight and will be great in bed (despite its boring looks).
  9. Pretty good battery life. 7 hours and 42 minutes of playing video according to Engadget.
  10. Decent Email App.
  11. Amazon’s Customer Service. None of the Kindle Fire Reviews mention this.
  12. Amazon’s Infrastructure.
  13. Link to the Amazon Store. Of course, there is the accompanying risk of your spending increasing.
  14. Great if you’re already a Prime subscriber.

There are quite a few other benefits. Do read the Kindle Fire reviews.

Cons of the Kindle Fire

  1. Only 512 MB of RAM. Software tweaks and enhancements apparently don’t compensate for this.
  2. The design is painfully unimaginative.
  3. No physical buttons at all – no Home button, no volume buttons. This is madness. No, this is Sparta!
  4. 8 GB memory is rather low.
  5. You don’t get any default editing software for Excel and Powerpoint. OMG It’s not a productivity machine. Burn it at the Stake.
  6. Speakers aren’t very good. Audio even with headphones is lacking.
  7. No HDMI output for playing movies through a TV.
  8. No ambient light sensor. Which is such an important feature to have since using our own eyes to see how much ‘ambient’ light there is might be too stressful.
  9. No 3G.
  10. Can’t read it in sunshine as it’s not eInk. Amazon will have to pull its reading on the beach and by the pool advertisements. What will the snarky lady do now?
  11. Few customization options. Amazon has strangely ruled out all Wallpaper Apps and taken away one of Android’s big pluses over iPhone. Perhaps it will allow custom screensavers instead of showing us members of The Dead Poet’s Society.
  12. 7″ display is a bit small for magazines.
  13. No micro-USB data cable included.

There are also some other negatives. The Kindle Fire reviews cover some of the ones I’ve missed.

Kindle Fire Review Round-up – 3 Biggest Surprises

1) Silk is not silky smooth. Silk either failed or it only managed to compensate for the lower amount of RAM.

2) Amazon’s User Interface and Kindle Fire’s performance isn’t super fast (as had seemed earlier).

3) The Amount of Tablet you get for $200.

I think people still don’t fully realize that you are getting 80% of what the $500 tablets deliver – in terms of usability and utility. Kindle Fire is not going to be as fast, or have as many technical terms to adorn itself with – However, it will deliver 80% of the features of $400 to $500 Tablets at 40% to 50% of the price. Which makes it a winner no matter how you look at it.

Kindle Fire Review roundup – The 3 Best Kindle Fire Reviews

I really wish Amazon had given units to people like Mike Cane and Nate at The Digital Reader. People who could step out of the ‘Let’s compare this $200 Tablet with $500 tablets’ miasma and give a really smart review.

Here are 3 Kindle Fire Reviews that were quite good.

Andy Ihnatko Strikes Gold

The Kindle Fire Review in the Chicago Sun-Times is great.

It starts with the title -

Kindle Fire is no iPad killer – but it is a killer device.

It continues by nailing what most reviewers are missing -

Take an iPad, solve its two biggest problems, and you’d hope to wind up with something exactly like Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The iPad has a 10-inch screen and costs a minimum of $499.

Instead of ignoring the price difference ($499 and $299) and pretending that the 10″ screen has no disadvantages, Andy Ihnatko writes a forthright review.

The review seems to be a bit too positive at times. It glosses over some points of concern (Is Silk actually faster? Does the hardware measure up in performance?). However, the big thing it gets right is that it talks about what the Kindle Fire is, and not what tech journalists want it to be.

It’s just crazy to compare a $200 Tablet with a $500 one and the only reviewer who seems to realize that is Andy Ihnatko. He throws in a bonus – Kindle Fire is a big threat to iPod Touch sales.

The Second Best Kindle Fire Review – The Verge

While the review is quite harsh, it’s the second best Kindle Fire review on the basis of the thorough coverage. There is also a nice, systematic breakdown. The Verge gives the Kindle Fire (my thoughts in italics) -

  1. Design – 6 out of 10. Have to agree – it’s so box-shaped, cardboard boxes are getting jealous.
  2. Display – 7 out of 10. That’s really unfair. It’s an IPS display with 169 dpi and Gorilla Glass. What more do you expect out of a $200 Tablet? I’ll wait to see the Nook Tablet’s Vivid View display and the Kindle Fire’s display side by side before discussing this further.
  3. Speakers – 7 out of 10. Based on the reviews this seems fair to generous.
  4. Performance – 8 out of 10. This seems fair.
  5. Software – 8 out of 10. This seems fair too.
  6. Battery Life – 9 out of 10. This seems generous.
  7. Ecosystem – 7 out of 10. Not sure about this.

It’s a little crazy that The Verge doesn’t cover Price, Value for Money, Customer Service, Cloud Infrastructure and all the other Amazon strengths. How short-sighted.

Overall, the verdict from The Verge is – There’s no question that Kindle Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price.

Engadget’s Glowing Kindle Fire Review

Engadget’s Review of the Kindle Fire is a bit too forgiving at times. In fact, there are times when it’s practically fawning -

what Amazon has delivered is a device that is intimately familiar yet mysterious

This thing feels incredibly solid, as if Amazon simply put a chisel to a big piece of slate, gave it a good whack and then put the resulting slab into a Frustration-Free box

Unfortunately, it looks like a slab too.

What saves this Kindle Fire review is that Engadget points out both the weaknesses and flaws. It’s a good overview of Kindle Fire’s strengths and weaknesses plus there are 2 well-done Kindle Fire review videos thrown in. Here’s part of Engadget’s summary -

The Kindle Fire is quite an achievement at $200.

When stacked up against other popular tablets, the Fire can’t compete … Other, bigger tablets do it better — usually at two or three times the cost.

Kindle Fire Review Roundup – Summary

It seems that Amazon has managed to exceed and miss expectations at the same time.

Kindle Fire at $199 is way more Tablet for the money than anyone expected. Amazon has certainly delivered on price and value for money.

Amazon’s talk of nattily-dressed UI and elegant software optimizations and strong, muscular 1 GHz dual-core processors and Silky Smooth Browsers had everyone excited (especially romance novel lovers). However, it seems all these embellishments only manage to compensate for the cost-cutting Amazon has done.

We were, perhaps wrongly, hoping for a miracle – a $200 Tablet that is neck to neck with the $500 iPad. Surprise of surprises – it isn’t. Kindle Fire is just a really good $199 Tablet that delivers 80% of what a high-end Tablet would.

The Kindle Fire is about to upend the Tablet Market. Just not in the way we thought it would.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet

This Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet review is actually more of a comparison. We’ll break it into three parts -

  1. Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet in plain English. No terminology other than ounces and inches.
  2. Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – Certain Important Areas. We’ll go into some technical details here but will also explain them in pure English.
  3. Where the $199 Nook Color fits. Because it does have a role to play.

My experience with Tablets:

  1. Kindle Fire – None. It hasn’t shipped yet. Just know the specifications and details Amazon has chosen to share.
  2. Nook Tablet – None. It hasn’t shipped yet. Just know the specifications and details B&N has chosen to share.
  3. Nook Color – Lots. Have had it since launch and use it a lot. Note: It’s good enough to effectively end my use of the iPad. If you are also considering an iPad – Think twice before paying double or triple for a device that does mostly the same things that Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will do.
  4. iPad – Quite a bit. Don’t use it any more since it’s just not as convenient as a 7″ Tablet. Plus the Nook Color’s 169 dpi screen blows away the iPad 1′s 132 dpi screen.

Let’s start with Part 1 of our Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet review & comparison.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet (Plain English version)

These are both 7″ Tablets.

Here’s how they measure up:

  1. Price: Kindle Fire is $199 which is $50 cheaper than the Nook Tablet’s $249 price.
  2. Screen: It seems that Nook Tablet’s screen will be slightly better. It is supposed to even support HD movies. However, we really need to wait and see how the two screens (which both use stunning IPS technology) compare.
  3. New Books: Amazon has more new books and slightly better prices. B&N isn’t far behind, but it is behind.
  4. Free Books: B&N has more free books in its store (millions from Google). Basically, it’s easier to get free books in B&N’s store. Amazon has more offers on new books but it also does no quality control so there are lots of terrible books amongst these offers.
  5. Prime Program: If you pay $79 a year, then you can join Amazon Prime and get three main benefits – 1 book to read every month out of a few thousand books, 2-day free shipping on any purchases at Amazon, free Amazon Prime video streaming (smaller choice than services like Netflix). Amazon adds in 1 month of this free with Kindle Fire but you shouldn’t factor this in until you include the $79 price.
  6. Movies: Nook Tablet will have Netflix and Hulu+ built-in. Kindle Fire will have Amazon’s Video streaming service built-in and also is in talks with Hulu+ and Netflix. Please Note: These have to be paid for separately. None of these are free, unless you are a Prime Member in which case Amazon’s Video streaming (a limited set) is free.
  7. Magazines: Both seem very good for magazines. No differences here.
  8. Newspapers: Again, both are good for newspapers. No significant difference here.
  9. TV Shows: Please see section on Movies. B&N has an advantage in that it already supports Hulu+ and Netflix. However, Amazon might nullify that soon.
  10. Free Movies and TV: This depends on whether you get Prime. If not, then there’s little difference here.
  11. Music: Amazon has its own store. It will probably also support some services like Pandora. Nook Tablet comes preloaded with Pandora and trials of Rhapsody, MOG, and Grooveshark. These are paid and not free. If you want to load iTunes or Amazon store music – both will work. Kindle Fire will have better integration for music bought from Amazon’s music store.
  12. Weight: Kindle Fire is 14.6 ounces, while Nook Tablet is 14.1 ounces. Given that you might be doing things like Email and reading books and watching movies, a difference of 0.5 ounces isn’t negligible.
  13. Size: Kindle Fire is 7.5″ by 4.7″ by 0.45″. Nook Tablet is 8.1″ by 5″ by 0.48″. It seems that Kindle Fire is a bit smaller and that might be important to you.
  14. Battery Life: B&N is promising 11.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of video with wireless off. That seems almost too good to be true. Kindle Fire promises 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback with wireless off. Given that both companies are probably stretching things a bit, Nook Tablet seems to have a significant advantage.
  15. Ease of Use: This is a tough one. Nook Color is very easy to use – so Nook Tablet should be too. Kindle Fire has been getting good feedback from people who have seen it in action. This might be a tie or Amazon might win this one.
  16. Speed: B&N’s Nook Tablet is likely to win this one comfortably.
  17. Speed of Browsing the Net: Kindle Fire uses the Silk Browser and is likely to win on browsing speed. You might have privacy or other concerns with the fact that everything goes through Amazon’s servers but not sure if that’s big enough to nullify the speed advantage the Silk browser will have.
  18. Browsing the Web: We’ve covered speed already. General browsing should be fine on both tablets. I’ve done things like grocery shopping on Nook Color and it’s very workable.
  19. Email: B&N’s Email software is very good. It takes a bit of tinkering in some cases but it works great. Kindle Fire will probably have good email support too. We’ll have to wait and see before declaring one the winner.
  20. Memory: Nook Tablet wins this. Kindle Fire comes with 8 GB memory and 6 GB of that will be available. Nook Tablet will come with 16 GB memory and presumably 14 GB of that will be available. This is one area where I’ll disagree strongly with a lot of the main stream media – Cloud Storage does not make up for less memory. There’s nothing quite like having the file right there with you and not being dependent on WiFi. The difference between 14 GB of available memory and 6 GB of available memory is very significant. Note: B&N tends to reserve some of the memory for B&N purchases – so you might be left with less than 14 GB of available memory.
  21. Memory Expansion: Nook Tablet wins this too. Kindle Fire can only expand into the Cloud. There is no SD Card slot. Nook Tablet has an SD Card slot which allows adding up to 32 GB of memory and also things like easily swapping in a SD Card from your camera to see photos. You can also carry around an SD Card with an Android hack that lets you switch between B&N’s default OS and a version of Android easily. In my opinion, if you’d like to hack your Tablet, then the Nook Tablet’s SD Card slot allows for a lot of convenience (the option to switch between B&N and Android OSes smoothly).
  22. Children’s Books: B&N has made a very concerted effort in books and apps for children. Kindle Fire will probably be close but Nook Tablet will have a slight advantage.
  23. Apps: Amazon’s Android App Store has ‘thousands of apps’ and probably more range than B&N’s App Store which has around 1,100 Apps. The latter is adding apps at a very steady pace and might reach 2,000 apps by end of 2011. Note: Amazon hasn’t yet broken out how many Kindle Fire compatible apps it has.
  24. App Prices: Both stores have good prices. Amazon focuses more on free apps which means you will get more free apps in the Amazon store. In the long term, it might hurt Amazon since the focus on treating apps as commodities and developers as commodities might scare off quality developers.
  25. Cloud Storage for Content bought from Amazon/B&N: Both offer Cloud Storage. Amazon is the world leader in Cloud Storage so its clouds are probably whiter and puffier and have a thicker silver lining. If Cloud Storage is something you care about, Amazon edges B&N.
  26. Display Strength: Amazon seems to have Gorilla Glass for the Kindle Fire. That’s a clear advantage over the Nook Tablet’s prettier but less sturdy display.
  27. Stuff from Outside and Format Support: Amazon will make it tough to get things from other stores. It will add Netflix and Hulu Plus. However, ePub books are not supported and less formats are supported. B&N has the edge here. B&N supports more formats of nearly every type (ebooks, movies, audio).
  28. Hackability: Nook Tablet will be easier to hack and the SD Card slot will make it easy to switch back and forth. You can use the SD Card to easily switch between B&N for ebooks and Android for lots of free games. Note: Hacking will be possible with Kindle Fire too. It just won’t be as convenient. If you’re not tech-savvy but are willing to experiment a bit – then Nook Tablet is a better choice. If you’re tech savvy – then both are the same.
  29. Office Support: Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will both have apps that support Office documents. Nook Tablet does support more formats straight off the bat. Nook Tablet supports – Excel, Word, Powerpoint. Kindle Fire supports Word. You can get apps for either that support all Office Applications.
  30. Customer Service: Amazon wins here.
  31. Store Customer Service: B&N wins here. Amazon doesn’t have stores.

That was a longer list than ideal. Let’s look at it from another perspective.

Areas where Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are near-identical

  1. Movies. If you’re willing to wait until Amazon gets Netflix and Hulu+, then there is little difference here.
  2. Free Movies. If you don’t care about getting Prime and getting the videos included in Prime streamed free to your Kindle Fire, then there’s little difference here.
  3. Magazines, Newspapers.
  4. Music if you buy from iTunes - no significant differences.
  5. Ease of Use.
  6. Browsing Experience (other than speed). Listing this separately since there are two aspects – what sites you can use it for, how fast those sites are. If speed isn’t very important to you, then both Tablets are equivalent (or rather – should be equivalent).
  7. Email.

It’s interesting to see that Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet is a tie in most of the key areas i.e. movies, music from iTunes, Email, browsing (if speed isn’t a big thing for you).

Areas where Kindle Fire is better

  1. Price – this might be the Kindle Fire’s biggest advantage. Please do see my note on ‘future-proof’ness below.
  2. New Books. Slightly.
  3. Prime Program. This is very specific – If you’re a Prime member, then that might make Kindle Fire very compelling because of the free streaming and the 1 free book a month offer (out of a limited set of movies and books, respectively).
  4. Music, if you buy from Amazon (due to better integration).
  5. Size. Kindle Fire is slightly more compact.
  6. Faster Browsing.
  7. Apps. Note: In the long-term, the B&N store might pull ahead because it is focused on apps for just one device. Amazon’s App Store caters to a lot of different devices and also to Android phones.
  8. App Prices.
  9. Cloud Storage. B&N will have this too but Amazon is best of breed in Cloud Storage.
  10. Display Strength. An underrated advantage.
  11. Customer Service.

The big advantages for the Kindle Fire are – Price, Prime Program (if you get it), Faster Browsing, Apps (though not in the long-term), App prices, display durability, customer service.

Price is the killer advantage and the one that might gift Amazon the #1 spot in the sub $250 Tablet market. Display durability is one very significant advantage that’s being ignored.

Areas where Nook Tablet is better

  1. Screen. Nook Tablet might have a significantly better screen.
  2. Free Books. Easier to get free books on Nook Tablet though you can also get all those books on Kindle Fire (with a little more effort).
  3. It’s future-proof to a much larger extent. More on that below.
  4. Weight.
  5. Battery Life. Significantly better – based on claims of both tablet makers.
  6. Speed. Nook Tablet is likely to be faster for anything that is memory intensive (RAM memory).
  7. Memory for storage.
  8. Memory Expansion.
  9. Children’s Books.
  10. Support from Outside and Format Support.
  11. Hackability.
  12. Office Support. B&N has a slight edge since it supports Excel and Powerpoint natively.
  13. Store Customer Service.

Nook Tablet’s main advantages are – Future-Proof, probably will have a better screen, significantly better battery life, more memory and memory expansion, much better support for formats including ePub and in-built support for Excel and Powerpoint, hackability.

The most underrated advantages are – it’s Future-Proof (explained more below), more memory and memory expansion, hackability, wider format support, wider retail availability.

The common consensus is that the $249 price of the Nook Color means it automatically loses. Unfortunately, people are very focused on the short-term and the pundits might be right about the $50 price difference dooming the Nook Tablet. It would be a pity since -

  • Nook Tablet is much better prepared for the future.
  • The $249 Nook Tablet seems to be as good a buy as the $199 Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – What Future Proof means and why you should consider it

If you can’t afford more than $199, then you should disregard Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet and consider Kindle Fire vs Nook Color.

However, if $50 more is something you can afford, you really should think about how long you will own a Tablet and what you would like your ownership experience to be over the life of your Tablet.

Nook Tablet has a lot of features that make it future-proof i.e.

  1. The processor is dual core and 1 GHz. This is the same as Kindle Fire. It’s a very fast processor and very capable of handing your evolving needs.
  2. The memory is 1 GB (this is RAM memory, which is used when apps or video or browser are being run – this is one of the most important determinants of performance). This is double that of the Kindle Fire’s 512 MB. Note: This is used for every thing you do – So it has an impact on everything. Things like reading a book, the difference will be slim to none. However, the minute you jump into watching video and playing advanced games – it will make a difference. With time, the impact will be more. By mid 2012, you’ll be very glad you have 1 GB of RAM on your Nook Tablet.
  3. Space for storing movies and music and apps is more than double on the Nook Tablet. 6 GB of available memory for Kindle Fire and probably 14 GB for Nook Tablet. Note: B&N tends to reserve some of the space for B&N purchases. So you might be left with less than 14 GB of available space.
  4. Memory Expansion. The SD Card slot on the Nook Tablet makes it easy to expand even further. Take the iPad – You could get a 16 GB version for $500 or pay hundreds more for a 64 GB version. With Nook Tablet you can easily expand using just an SD Card (prices of which are constantly falling). Plus you can keep expanding by exchanging SD cards.
  5. ePub support. You can get books from other stores.
  6. More formats are supported. It’ll be easier to keep using Nook Tablet if your usage patterns and needs change.
  7. Slightly easier to hack and SD Card allows easy switching. Another thing that’s insurance for the future – especially if you are not tech-savvy.

Note: If you can follow simple instructions - you will probably be able to hack the Nook Tablet. The SD Card slot means you can run the hack from the SD Card and not interfere with the Nook Tablet OS that is on the Nook tablet’s in-built memory. So #7 is a big advantage for people who are not tech-savvy but can follow simple directions.

My main take-away from doing this Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet comparison – Nook Tablet offers considerable insurance for the future.

That short-term $50 savings might be pretty costly in future. The double RAM memory seems excessive – However, with increasing requirements from games and movies, and ever evolving technology, it’s very good insurance. It’s the same with the 16 GB memory and the SD Card slot and ePub support – these are all real benefits and shouldn’t be swept under the rug of ‘not everyone needs these benefits, my needs are never going to change’.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – the importance of $50

There might be good reasons why $50 is too much of a difference for you i.e.

Your Gift Budget is just $199. Your budget is just $199. You don’t need insurance against the future (perhaps you plan on buying a new Tablet in 9 months).

There might also be reasons that aren’t really good reasons i.e.

You’d rather save the money for $50 worth of books (which isn’t really worth it if you consider what you’re losing in future insurance).

If $199 is your hard limit, then consider this rough Kindle Fire vs Nook Color comparison.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet – Amazon’s Ecosystem and Amazon Prime

If you are already firmly embedded in Amazon’s ecosystem, or if you find Amazon Prime very compelling, then the Kindle Fire at $199 seems an especially good bet. Here are some pros and cons to be aware of -

  1. You have to pay for Amazon Prime. It’s $79 a year. The ‘Free Prime’ you see is just one month of free Amazon Prime.
  2. Amazon Prime offers free 2-day shipping on things you buy from Amazon. That’s a clear benefit. Amazon Prime comes with free video streaming - However, the number of titles and the range is limited. We aren’t talking about a range like Netflix. Amazon Prime comes with Free Book Lending (1 a month, only 1 out at a time) – However, the number of titles is limited to a few thousand and none of the Big 6 Publishers are participating. The only really big advantage is free 2-day shipping. The others are nice bonuses but not as big as you might think.
  3. Amazon has a big advantage in Cloud services and overall Ecosystem and is likely to continue to expand this advantage.

It’s a very strong dichotomy – If you’re already an Amazon customer, then Amazon is making things better and better for you. If things like Amazon Prime don’t hold much value for you (the free 2-day shipping), then most of these advantages are quite limited.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet should factor in ‘Tablet ecosystem’ and ‘full Tablet lifetime’

Tablet Ecosystem - Benefits of Amazon’s ever-evolving ecosystem. B&N’s ecosystem is still in the emerging phase.

Full Tablet Lifetime - How well will Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet cope as Tablets in 1 or 2 years?

Do you want the benefits of Amazon’s ever-evolving ecosystem OR Do you want the strong insurance against the future that the Nook Tablet provides?

It’s a choice between -

  1. Amazon’s Cloud + $50 + Amazon Prime benefits. Versus.
  2. Nook Tablet’s stronger foundation which better prepares it to be a tablet that can handle the next 2 to 3 years.

The good news is that you can’t really go wrong. Choose the Kindle Fire and you can always point to the benefits of the Amazon Cloud. Choose the Nook Tablet and you can always point to the double RAM memory and more than double available storage.

Additionally, both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will have excellent resale value since they are both heavily subsidized. You should be able to get $125 for Kindle Fire and $175 to $200 for Nook Tablet for most of 2012.

Does Nook Color have a place in Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet?

Very roughly, we would say -

  1. Nook Tablet as your best choice if you want a Tablet that can handle the next 2 to 3 years smoothly.
  2. Kindle Fire as your best choice if you want a $199 Tablet with all the Amazon Ecosystem goodness.
  3. Nook Color as your best choice if you want a $199 Tablet that offers memory expansion and ePub support and B&N benefits.

These three Tablets are very, very close when it comes to value for money.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet comes down to what you find important, and what you want from a tablet. Will add in my full recommendation after playing around with Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet in the second half of November. At the moment, both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet seem dangerous, hungry new Tablets that will bite real chunks out of the Tablet market. My recommendation – you really can’t go wrong with either. If you’re future-focused, then get the Nook Tablet. If you’re Amazon-focused, then get Kindle Fire.

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