Kindle DX 2 feature-set is very puzzling

Now that the Kindle 3 is available with all its improvements the Kindle DX 2 suddenly looks strangely out-of-place. You have to wonder why Amazon would release it at the time it did (very early July) and with the feature-set it did (only 3 big improvements – eInk Pearl screen, graphite casing, lower price).

Just finished a rough Kindle WiFi or Kindle 3 or Kindle DX 2 comparison and the part that was totally inexplicable was that a lot of Kindle 3 improvements didn’t make it to Kindle DX 2.

Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 feature-sets are too far apart for products released 2 months apart

Let’s start with the Kindle 3 hardware improvements and what might be hardware related -

  1. WiFi. Why doesn’t the Kindle DX 2 have WiFi?  
  2. Up to 1 month of battery life on the Kindle 3. For DX 2 this is 2 to 3 weeks. With wireless on it’s 10 days versus 7 days.
  3. 20% faster page turns due to some sort of tuning.  
  4. Improved screen contrast (over what the eInk Pearl screen brings) due to tweaks and tuning.
  5. New quieter page turn buttons. Re-arranged buttons.

Most, if not all, of these are improvements Amazon must have figured out a long time ago.

Why produce the Kindle DX 2 without these? 

Take the WiFi and the quieter page turn buttons – For people who don’t get AT&T reception or those who read a lot in bed these are a big deal. Yet, for some strange reason, the DX 2 doesn’t have them.

Things get even stranger when we look at Kindle 3 software improvements

Perhaps we can explain away some of the hardware improvements. However, how do we explain this long list of software improvements that are missing from Kindle DX 2 -

  1. Choice of 3 Fonts.
  2. CJK Font Support, Cyrillic Font Support.  
  3. Better PDF support. 
  4. New WebKit Browser. 
  5. More words per page. By removing the top bar and moving the progress bar to the very bottom of the screen (thanks to Atom for noticing that).
  6. Voice Guide and hence full accessibility.
  7. Lots of smaller improvements – View Downloads Progress, Set Time Manually, Better Progress Bar inside books.

Note that the faster page turns, screen contrast improvements, and battery life may be software based too. There’s no way all these software improvements were done in just 2 months. That must mean a conscious decision to introduce them in Kindle 3 first – Why?

The saving grace is that Amazon could add these to the Kindle DX 2 fairly quickly. Adding all these improvements to Kindle DX 2 really is the right thing to do. DX 2 owners paid more than double what Kindle 3 owners will be paying.

Is Kindle DX 3 on the way? Why is Amazon behaving as if Kindle DX 2 is the less expensive Kindle?

When the Kindle DX first arrived there was little doubt it was the higher end Kindle – It was expensive, it had a larger screen, it had PDF support, it had an accelerometer, it had screen rotation. You paid the $489 premium and received things that the Kindle didn’t have.

When the Nook arrived with PDF support Amazon was forced to add PDF support to the Kindle and cuts its price. However, nothing was added to the Kindle DX 2 to compensate and its price wasn’t cut either.

Now things are even more extreme – the Kindle DX 2 is double the price of the Kindle 3 and has less than half the improvements. You saw the list above – It’s almost as if Amazon is trying to see how low they can take the DX 2 on value for money (especially when compared with Kindle WiFi). 

 Where’s the DX 2 value proposition? Is there a new Kindle DX WiFi? A Kindle DX 3?

There are a few possible reasons why the DX 2 has been left behind -

  1. Amazon plans on adding software upgrades to Kindle DX 2 a few months after Kindle 3 is out – that would certainly reduce the value gap between Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2.  
  2. There’s a new, cheap Kindle DX WiFi in the works – perhaps for around $250. At that time software improvements added in Kindle DX WiFi will be added to Kindle DX 2.  
  3. Kindle DX 2 is just a lower priority. Perhaps the market for large screen, expensive eReaders just isn’t that big. Kindles have always sold a lot more than Kindle DXes and perhaps that’s continuing.
  4. Amazon hasn’t achieved economies of scale. A screen with 2.5 times the surface area is going to be much more expensive to produce (higher chance of defects). If the numbers are low then you can’t really scale up and everything from the screen to the body to the chips cost more.
  5. Amazon might be consciously positioning the Kindle DX 2 as the high-end eReader. Perhaps the higher price is a filter.
  6. Perhaps Amazon sees the DX 2 as an education eReader and wants to keep it at that price to account for later additions like touch screens and color.  
  7. Amazon wants a device that competes with the iPad as a large screen eReader. They don’t want to cut the price too much. They might want to kill off the Kindle vs iPad comparisons but keep the Kindle DX vs iPad comparisons.

The likeliest possibility is that Amazon hasn’t hit economies of scale and that the software upgrades will be added a few months after Kindle 3 is released. Perhaps Amazon feels that it needs to ‘save up’ all these improvements for Kindle 3 so that the Kindle 3 seems truly extraordinary with a bunch of improvements no other eReader has.

Amazon is free to play whatever positioning games it wants to play – Let’s just hope it gets all the Kindle 3 software features it can into Kindle DX 2 a month or two after Kindle 3 ships.

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