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.

Kindle Fire, Recurring Revenue, & Delaying Profit Gratification

The Kindle Fire gets another stream of content today as Amazon signs a deal with Disney-ABC.

Paid Content (which ironically is free) covers a new, somewhat limited, deal Amazon has struck with Disney-ABC to power Kindle Fire.

 It includes prior seasons of Grey’s Anatomy; all seasons of Lost; … prior seasons of Marvel’s animated shows Spider-ManX-Men EvolutionThor & Loki: Blood Brothers and Iron Man: Extremis; …

This will become part of Amazon’s Prime program – for $79 you get free 2-day shipping on all purchases from Amazon and all this free streaming content.

It illustrates Amazon’s approach i.e. give away lots of free things to create recurring customers.

Why would Amazon pay for Content and then Bundle it for Free with Amazon Prime?

It’s the magic of recurring revenue.

When a customer does certain things that customer’s chances of becoming a recurring Amazon customer increase dramatically.

  1. Buys once from Amazon.
  2. Enters Credit Card information and Shipping Information and saves them.
  3. Buys gifts from Amazon and saves friends’ and relatives’ addresses.
  4. Carries around a Kindle AKA Mini Amazon Store.
  5. Carries around a Kindle Fire AKA 7″ Amazon Store.
  6. Gets a Prime membership program.

On the surface, it seems pretty crazy to PAY Disney-ABC for content and then just bundle it for free. However, it makes perfect sense when we think in terms like ‘lifetime value of the customer’ and ‘recurring revenue from the customer’.

If you’re a company that only makes money from one-time purchases or makes negligible money from recurring purchases, then this approach seems crazy.

However, let’s consider an example.

What is the Monthly Recurring Revenue and Lifetime Revenue from 10 million Kindle Fire owners?

Let’s assume Amazon is selling Kindle Fires at a loss of $25 and sells 10 million on them in the next 9 months.

That’s a massive loss of $250 million. The end of the world. The Press Kings and Queens of Profit are now frowning upon Amazonians and shall drown them in a deluge of Short-thinking drivel. Wall Street is aghast because its yearly bonus shall not benefit from pump-and-dumps of Amazon stock.

However, it’s not that the Kindle Fire owners buy their Tablet, pay the money, and just disappear.

No, they become Kindle owners and Amazon customers and far more likely to buy things from Amazon.

Let’s say the ‘profit’ they will generate per month will be approximately –

  1. $3 a month from books bought (physical and electronic).
  2. $4 a month from Gift purchases.
  3. $1 a month from music and video purchases (physical and electronic).
  4. $3 a month from other purchases (including electronic).

That’s $11 a month in profit. From 10 million Kindle Fire owners that’s $110 million a month.

Amazon keeps focusing on showing the $250 million loss and is happy to let everyone think they are losing money. Because they really, really, really don’t want people to understand that the $250 million loss (aka customer acquisition investment) will create a revenue stream of a massive $110 million a month in profit.

If Amazon can get 25% to subscribe to Prime, the profit figures for that 25% go up to –

  1. $4 a month from books bought (physical and electronic).
  2. $7 a month from Gift purchases.
  3. $2 a month from music and video purchases (physical and electronic).
  4. $5 a month from other purchases (including electronic).

That’s $18 a month.

For that 25% who sign up for Amazon Prime – Amazon is losing $25 per Kindle Fire and $x on shipping and content. But it’s gaining $18 every single month.

If, by magic, Amazon can get all 10 million Kindle Fire owners on Amazon Prime, then it’s added $180 million a month in profits.

Recurring Revenue is RECURRING

If Amazon has 10 million Kindle owners and 5 million Kindle Fire owners by end of 2011. With each generating $11 per month in profits.

That’s $110 million a month from Kindle owners and $55 million a month from Kindle Fire owners.

Amazon has to do nothing extra for these users. No customer acquisition. Minimal maintenance costs.

The biggest bonus is the predictability. Unless there is a massive cataclysm and the world gets reset to 1100 A.D. that $110 million a month and $55 million a month is safe for the next 1 to 4 years. Very few companies have that guarantee.

So, Amazon is 100% Right and Delaying Profit Gratification is Awesome?

Well, there’s a slight problem.

Amazon’s plans assume a few things that aren’t 100% guaranteed.

  1. That there will be no huge event which changes the economy massively.
  2. That companies which are building up huge reserves of money won’t enter the market with their huge reserves. This is actually not a bad bet – Why would companies getting 40% margins on hardware or 70% margins on software get into retail with its 10% margins?
  3. That WalMart won’t hire the people at B&N that turned Nook and Nook Color into successes. People are laughing at the fact that B&N has started selling rugs to its customers. It’s the beginning of a very dangerous move that might end with B&N becoming the Pepsi to Amazon’s Coke.
  4. That a company won’t figure out a way to circumvent the bond Kindle owners have with Amazon. People will, and do, put their own self-interest over their sense of connection with Amazon. WalMart does have an opening if it decides to find it and take it.
  5. That Profit gratification is the best strategy if you have recurring revenue. As opposed to cashing in and ALSO building up recurring revenue.

That last one is the most dangerous. It would be obvious to anyone that there is one thing massively better than recurring revenue – recurring profit. Yet Amazon seems unwilling to consider that possibility.

Amazon’s current approach is maximizing things like recurring revenue and ‘profit in the future’ while minimizing things like ‘profit in the present’. It’s also not building up its cash hoard or its patent arsenal and sooner or later companies with one or both will come knocking.

Amazon’s ‘100% focus on the future’ strategy is a very dangerous strategy because it assumes things will either get better or stay the same. In some ways Amazon is doing too much of a good thing.

Can Amazon transition to Recurring Profit?

The problem is that Amazon wants to take over the World’s Retail. So its horizon is 40-50 years. It’ll be pretty happy to keep having short-term and middle-term losses. As long as its vision of huge recurring revenues in the future stay alive.

My feeling is that Amazon doesn’t want recurring profit. That, at some deep level, it feels that profit means it isn’t investing enough in the future. That some other company might beat it, unless it keeps building up more and more Delayed Gratification.

If there is an intervention and someone gives Amazon psychological/subconscious freedom to channel 10% of its earnings into a cash hoard – that would make for a very nice hedge against the possibility that all its delayed profit gets eaten up by a swooping Black Swan.

Amazon is doing the most intelligent thing out of all the big tech companies when it comes to recurring revenue and investing in the future (to be fair, another Seattle company is investing very heavily in its future). Amazon is the doing the least intelligent thing out of all the big tech companies when it comes to profiting in the present and building up its cash and patent reserves.