Kindle 3 Expectations – What Readers expect

The Kindle is still sold out and people are still speculating on what it means.

Consensus amongst the main-stream Press seems to be that Amazon didn’t anticipate demand for the $189 Kindle and sold out all its stock. One article even claims Nook and Sony are laughing at the Kindle shortage – Guess the summer is the worst possible time to run out of stock. It would have been far less damaging to run out of stock during Christmas when everyone is buying gifts and … wait a minute.

Consensus (hope?) amongst Kindle owners seems to be that the Kindle 2′s disappearance means the Kindle 3 is about to arrive.

What are people’s Kindle 3 expectations?

Ran into this comment at the official kindle forum about what a user expects the Kindle 3 will be like (courtesy T. Semple) -

I have pretty low expectations for K3: basically just the Pearl screen (and dark enclosure) is the only new feature I really expect, and that is probably not enough to entice me. So I’m ready to be surprised…

You know what – It’s hard to disagree. Kindle DX 2 had the screen and the graphite casing and that was pretty much it. Don’t get me wrong – It’s a hugely impressive screen. However, there’s nothing else. There’s not much reason to think Kindle 3 is going to arrive with extra features on top of that. It’s been a month since the Kindle DX 2 came out so perhaps we might get 1 or 2 software tweaks or perhaps a microphone that lets you take notes via speech to text.

Well, let’s go through some more people’s Kindle 3 expectations and then draw up a realistic list of what might be in Kindle 3.

Optimistic Kindle 3 Expectations

Let’s start with some wishful thinking (courtesy BareThoughts, and me) – A Kindle with a Qualcomm Mirasol screen. This is actually fairly unlikely. Qualcomm has said their screens will be ready and arrive in devices by end 2010 to early 2011 which in ePaper technology parlance means end 2011.

There aren’t really very many people with high expectations. Kindle DX 2 has pretty much set the expectation that we will have an incremental Kindle 3 release - a new Kindle that differs from Kindle 2 only in screen contrast and color of the casing. 

Pessimistic/Realistic Kindle 3 Expectations

 S. Dunham pretty much captures the general sentiment -

I don’t think we’ll be getting a K3. I think it’s just going to be a K2 Graphite. When the rumors of a new Kindle coming August started, it did talk about a thinner Kindle and better contrast but no other new features. Not even WiFi was mentioned.

Given what the Kindle DX 2 is like it wouldn’t be a big surprise if Kindle 3 was indeed a graphite Kindle 2.

There are even a couple of people who feel it might just be an out of stock event -

Amazon’s either keeping this secret really well, or they’re just out of stock and there’s no secret to keep.

Well, so it seems Kindle 3 expectations are generally very low and given the massive Kindle 2.5 upgrade it’s hard to imagine Amazon would have been able to add-on much. Perhaps we’ll see Amazon take a few more months and release a Kindle 3 at the end of the year.

Most Probable List of Features for Kindle 3

For an August Kindle 3 release it’s really hard to say. The list would probably include -

  1. A graphite case (since it’s an easy way to improve readability and it’s already been done for Kindle DX 2).
  2. The eInk Pearl screen.
  3. Two software improvements – My money would be on some speed improvements and perhaps another experimental feature.  
  4. 1 or 2 hardware improvements – Perhaps speech to text and perhaps an SD card slot.
  5. Kindle 3 might come in at a $200 price. This is assuming the eInk Pearl screen is cheaper and that’s not a given.

There’s also a borderline chance we get some news on the Kindle App Store. There isn’t yet open entry to the App Store Beta so it’s hard to say if Amazon is ready to launch or if it’s still experimenting.

If Kindle 3 doesn’t arrive soon then it’ll probably arrive in time for Christmas and come with -

  1. eInk Pearl Screen. For now let’s assume Qualcomm Mirasol screen Kindles won’t be here till 2011 – That way there’s no disappointment.  
  2. Definitely a few software features – Expect something of the scale of the Kindle 2.5 upgrade with perhaps better PDF support and other improvements. Hopefully we don’t get too much social stuff unless it’s Kindle to Kindle.  
  3. Definitely hardware improvements. It might make sense for Amazon to go with a 7″ screen for Kindle 3.  
  4. Perhaps a touchscreen and stylus.
  5. Definitely the Kindle App Store. Don’t see why Amazon wouldn’t release it this year – especially as it would give Amazon a big advantage for Christmas. 
  6. The price would be less and would probably be around $170 to $190.
  7. There’s a chance we get some feature that we haven’t yet thought of.

There are additional things Amazon has mentioned that might make it in this year – accessible menus and a better browser. However, you have to think those are lower priorities and not as likely as PDF and speed improvements.

WiFi is a possibility if the Nook WiFi ends up selling well. It’s really hard to figure out what Amazon has planned for Kindle 3 and the Kindle App Store and the rest of the year. There will obviously be changes based on what happens with Nook 2 and iPad 2 – The one certainty for Kindle 3 seems to be the new eInk Pearl screen and that’s a good thing.

eReaders and Customer Expectations

The hue and cry around Amazon’s delay of the Kindle 2.5 update highlights a very interesting trend in customer expectations -

Customers expect regular updates with lots of great features. They also want them quickly and with minimum inconvenience. Additionally, they want them free or at very cheap prices.

Basically, we’ve had a number of very different things combine to create rather unrealistic customer expectations -

  1. Lots of start-ups started giving away their service, hoping that someday they’ll figure out a way to make money. 
  2. The handful of hugely successful tech companies decided that instead of finding additional profitable businesses they should just start destroying all possible revenue streams – though experts would claim that giving away products for free has to do with defensibility and guarding your core business.  
  3. A couple of companies learnt to cut costs so well that they far exceeded past expectations of value for money (WalMart and Amazon).
  4. A couple of companies made things so easy for customers that users started feeling all products should be so easy.
  5. Lots of companies started telling customers what they wanted to hear i.e. without customers the companies are nothing and so forth.

The net result is that Customers have gone from a situation of little knowledge and lesser control to having a lot of knowledge and a ridiculous amount of perceived power. It’s perceived power because customers have started believing the marketing and PR nonsense some companies have been feeding them.

Two Examples of unrealistic customer expectations

Facebook Piracy Fiasco

Facebook in my opinion is a pretty evil company – it’s pretty much auctioning off user data without really asking users. However, it’s funny to see what customers want – They want Facebook to keep providing all its free services and also do what customers want.

It’s the sort of delusion you could only find online - We use your free service and benefit from it and we pay nothing for it so you better run it the way we would like.

The Kindle 2.5 update

Let’s think about it for a bit -

  1. Amazon added Folders, sharper fonts (for a lot of people noticeably sharper fonts), super sized fonts, password protection, Popular Highlights, and Twitter and Facebook integration.
  2. They added this for free.
  3. They added it in the midst of delivering Kindle for iPad and Kindle for Android (which is coming soon).
  4. They also removed the $2 extra charge for book deliveries outside the US (for US owners).
  5. They added free Internet browsing in 40 or 50 countries.

Yet, Kindle owners are up in arms.

Why? Because Amazon made the fatal mistake of promising an update for the end of May and then delaying it approximately 20 days.

How to misinterpret a great customer-centric move

You can take the glass half empty perspective – Amazon promised and didn’t deliver, Amazon made us anticipate and then delayed the release for 17 days, they are just doing it to compete and not for users, we should get free upgrades anyways.

You can take the glass half full perspective – Amazon delivered lots of good features. Amazon delivered them for free. Amazon delayed only to fix bugs and make the transition better for users.

Notice how the first set of reasons are all intangible reasons (except the competition factor) and the second set of reasons are very solid benefits. Yet the intangible reasons bother people to the extent that they forget the solid benefits. It’s simply because Customer Expectations have become totally unreasonable.

It’s become inordinately difficult to meet customer expectations

The heightened customer expectations eReaders face were evident when the Nook was torn down due to having lots of bugs when released. In the past the Version 1 of a product would have been given some leeway. Not last Christmas as the Press and some customers tore the Nook to shreds.

We are seeing more signs now with the Kindle 2.5 release where it’s not just enough for the update to be big and free - it should also arrive exactly on the date promised and in the exact manner that customers think is appropriate.

Customers are expecting all the best qualities

With eReaders customer expectations have gone totally out of hand and they want a mix of the best qualities of each eReader -

  1. The free WhisperNet and free Internet of the Kindle.  
  2. The focus on reading of the Kindle. 
  3. The promise and finish of the iPad. 
  4. The openness of the also-rans.
  5. The Lending the Nook provides.
  6. Support for library books and the touchscreen of the Sony Reader.
  7. The Free Books of something like the Internet Archive or Gutenberg.

Customer expectations have reached the point that no company could possibly meet them.

An artificially high bar makes things really difficult for eReader companies

Amazon works hard and delivers what is, by any reasonable measure, a pretty important and impressive update. It gets crucified for being off by a few weeks on the release date.

Barnes & Noble delivers a device that introduces Lending of eBooks for the first time, dual screens (although the idea might be ripped off from the Alex eReader), and provides a counter-weight to the Kindle. It gets crucified because in its rush to deliver it didn’t work out half the bugs.

What reasonable company would want to enter this space?

It’s interesting to hear talk of how there aren’t enough options and how not enough companies are entering the space after so many had made promises. Perhaps it’s because the customers are showing them that its folly to enter the eReader space. That rather than focus on the improvement compared to Publishers and physical books readers have become influenced by the sense of entitlement pervading the Internet and are holding eReaders to unrealistic standards.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too

Readers are pushing too much. They want an open system and also want lots of investment in R&D and polish which an open system cannot support. They want cheaper prices than physical books and still want to be able to resell them and lend them out.

Here’s a question -

Is it realistic to expect an eReader to hit every single item on your wishlist? 

And the follow-up question -

If a company did manage to produce such an eReader and store and service – How long would it survive?

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