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.

Kindle DX 2 for $379

Amazon has just introduced  new Kindle DX 2 for $379 and also cut the price of the existing Kindle DX. There are now two Kindle DX versions -

  1. Kindle DX 2 in graphite.  This is going to be released on July 7th, 2010 though you can preorder now. It’s being referred to as Kindle DX latest generation though you’d think Kindle DX 2 would be a more accurate title.
  2. Kindle DX 1 in white. This is in stock and shipping now and being referred to as Kindle DX 2nd generation.

The Kindle DX 2 is $379 – a lot cheaper than the Kindle DX 1′s $489 price. To match the lower price of the Kindle DX 2 the price of the existing Kindle DX has also been cut to $379. 

Kindle DX 2 is basically Kindle DX with better screen contrast and a $110 lower price

Looking through the specifications and there isn’t very much that’s different -

  • The price is $110 cheaper than the Kindle DX’s $489 which is a welcome change. Of course Kindle DX 1 has also been reduced in price.
  • The color is graphite. You have to imagine this is going to help readability as text will stand out more due to the graphite border around the screen.
  • There are claims by users at the official Kindle Forum that the screen is clearer - This seems to be validated by Amazon writing that there is a new 10:1 contrast ratio and advertising 50% better screen contrast.
  • Instead of Previous Page and Next Page text there are ‘<’ and ‘>’ arrows on the buttons. Note that this is clear from images on the product page for the graphite Kindle DX 2.

The other features are pretty much the same – 9.7″ display, 18.9 ounces weight, 10.4″ by 7.2″ by 0.38″ dimensions, 4 GB memory, 2 weeks battery life without wireless on and 1 week with wireless on.

Amazon add on all the new Kindle 2.5 features on the Kindle DX 2 page and list them as ‘New Features’ though they are also available on the Kindle DX and on the Kindle DX US.

Kindle DX 2 at $379 - Is it worth buying?

The only actual physical difference of note between Kindle DX 2 and the earlier Kindle DX is the new 10:1 contrast ratio. Amazon claims it’s 50% better contrast and that’s certainly worth something. The real star is the $110 price cut.

If you own a Kindle DX there isn’t really enough here to warrant buying a new Kindle DX 2.

If you don’t own a Kindle DX and had been thinking about it then the new Kindle DX 2 is quite compelling - it’s $110 cheaper, the graphite case will help the text stand out more, the new 10:1 screen contrast ratio is supposedly 50% better contrast, and there is the fact that usually ‘Version 2 of a product has most of the bugs worked out’.

At $379 and with its new improved screen contrast the Kindle DX 2 is much more appealing than the earlier Kindle DX.

Kindle DX 2 Wishlist

Let’s start off with a Kindle DX Vs Kindle 1 video -

  1. It gives us a good idea of how far we’ve come since the original kindle.  
  2. Reminds us that we’re still in the initial stages of what will be a long evolution of Kindles.

Here’s the Kindle DX compared with the Kindle 1 (thanks to my friend for taking the video) –

After going through almost every single kindle dx review out there, its easy to see what features people are most looking for. The lists below assume an April 2010 release for the Amazon Kindle DX 2, giving Amazon 9-10 months of design and development time.

Kindle DX 2 Wishlist – Low Hanging Fruit

The Top 7 

  1. A price below $350.
  2. Folders – Lack of folders in Kindle 2 is appalling. In the DX its worse.  
  3. Next Page, Previous Page and Home buttons on the Left Side. Next Page and Previous page on the bottom for when in landscape mode.
  4. Support for links, resizing, reflowing, and scrolling in PDFs.   
  5. Support for notes, highlighting and clippings in PDFs.
  6. A keyboard that works – bigger keys, less spacing between keys, a row for numbers, alphabets on the keys printed big. 
  7. Special Modes – Recipe Mode, Sheet Music Mode, etc. that adds specific features for those types of documents.

A few more –  

  1. A shortcut to go to the next note or highlight or bookmark in a book.
  2. Put wireless on/off switch as a physical button next to the power switch.
  3. Put the usb port alongside the power button.
  4. More games – Sudoku. Crosswords.
  5. Make accelerometer less sensitive or Figure out a way to kill the accidental orientation changes.
  6. Personalized Screensavers and Personalized Themes.
  7. Kindle wishlists.
  8. WiFi.
  9. Print to Kindle feature. Let users take any webpage or clips from any site and print them to Kindle, and have them sent wirelessly and/or available on their PC to transfer via USB.
  10. 16 GB memory. Better yet – A microSD card slot (surely that wouldn’t endanger the thinness).
  11. More features in the Mp3 player.

Here’s an image of how I envision the wireless on/off, microSD, and prev and next page buttons getting added to the Kindle DX top -

Kindle DX Top Redesign - Click for full image

Kindle DX Top Redesign - Click for full image

Kindle DX2 Wishlist – Big Features

The Top 7 -

  1. Subscription Model – $100 Kindle DX 2 with the option to get a 2 year $50 a month data plan or agree to buy 4 Kindle books a month for 2 years. Personally, I think this is terrible for customers. However, if customers are asking for it Amazon will have to do it.
  2. Kindle for PC. 
  3. Color – PixelQi screen gets you color and video. To be honest April 2010 might be too early to fully integrate the technology.
  4. TouchScreen. 9 months is more than enough time to figure out how to add a touchscreen without messing up readability. 
  5. ePub support.
  6. Reduce the weight by 30-50%. We have super-light netbooks and cameras smaller than credit cards. This ought to be possible.
  7. Kindle in UK and Europe.

A few more -  

  1. A unique Kindle DX design and availability in multiple colors.
  2. Faster Screen Refreshes.
  3. Better browser.
  4. Better and more varied Font Support.
  5. Upgrade Option where Amazon takes Kindle DXes and Kindle 2s from owners, refurbishes and sells them, instead of making people do this themselves.

Kindle DX 2 Wishlist – Wishful Thinking

The Top 7 -  

  1. A price below $300.
  2. A feature like the Windows 7 Libraries feature. It basically takes all files of a certain type, regardless of what folder they’re in, and shows them together. 
  3. Read to Me on PDFs. Apparently this is a big technology challenge. Perhaps someone more familiar with PDF technology can enlighten us.
  4. Bring back the google maps feature Kindle 1 had as full fledged GPS support. You’re already syncing with cellphone towers – adding location should be doable.
  5. Ability to buy anything from Amazon.
  6. Section in the Kindle Store devoted to Independent Authors.
  7. Kindle in Canada. Mostly in the wishlist category because the canada market is much smaller than UK and Europe.

A few more -  

  1. A Kindle specific newspaper that’s free. Perhaps club together 4-5 of the popular kindle blogs.
  2. An in-built kindle social network and in-built forums.
  3. Kindle worldwide.

Closing Thoughts on the Kindle DX 2 Wishlist.

Looking forward to hearing your most wanted features and wishes for the Kindle DX 2. 

Also thanks to everyone who left a kindle dx review at amazon - lots of great insights, across the first 100 kindle dx reviews the average rating is 4.12 stars.

The Kindle DX is a good product – we do have to give Amazon leeway since its their first stab at a textbook/document reader. Much as the Kindle 2 really catapulted Kindles into prominence, Kindle DX 2 will do the same for the DX line.

And if, like Microsoft believes and iPod demonstrates, the third release of a product is usually the superstar hit, then both Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 3 will be the ones to give Amazon control of the future of publishing.

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