Kindle Fire musings, Kobo Vox as the Dark Horse, Nook Color 2 thoughts

The Kindle Fire is available now for $199 at Amazon.

Earlier Version of Post:

The Kindle Fire will be revealed tomorrow – here’s some pointless speculation nonetheless.

Will Kindle Fire set things on fire?

Opinions are divided and it seems that there’s little guarantee Amazon’s Kindle Fire Tablet is going to dominate the non-iPad market.

  • Amazon has a wealth of advantages when it comes to making a consumption Tablet i.e. Prime, MP3 store, Kindle Store, AWS, lots of infrastructure, lots of customers, great customer experience, etc. Will that be enough? Will that overcome the fact that they haven’t built this Kindle Fire Tablet from the ground up themselves?
  • The Kindle was in the work for 4 years before release. It’s been 4 years since that first Kindle. We are talking about a total of 8 years. How much time has Amazon spent on Kindle Fire?
  • What is going to be the Kindle Fire’s killer feature? Will it have more than one?
  • Amazon seems to be tending towards ‘value for money’ and offering free Prime streaming and ‘Special Offers’. That might work well. However, it suggests that the focus is the low-priced Tablet market and not the iPad.
  • It’s logical but disappointing that Amazon is targeting Nook Color instead of iPad.
  • Will Amazon actually hit $199? Seems really hard to believe they can pull that off.
  • Will the closed nature of the Kindle Fire (probably, almost certainly) turn off people interested in Android Tablets? Will hacks and workarounds convince people to buy it (and root it later)?
  • Is Android too much of a disadvantage (in terms of user experience)? Will Amazon’s custom UI solve that problem?

There are a lot more questions than answers.

Also interesting are the Kindle related musings the launch of the Kindle Fire inspires.

  1. How will Kindle Fire affect Amazon’s focus on the Kindle?
  2. Is it that the Press is focused only on Kindle Fire and that makes it seem Amazon has shifted focus to the Kindle Tablet? There are rumors that the Kindle Team (Lab 126) refused to work on the Tablet and wanted to focus on Kindle. If it’s true I’ll gladly buy any/all of them a drink any time they are in Montreal. A sentiment that probably every Kindle owner shares. Here is the snippet –

    Amazon’s own Kindle group (called Lab 126) apparently opted not to take on the project, in favor of continuing to work solely on next-gen E-Ink-based devices.

    From there, Amazon’s team determined they could build a tablet without the help and experience of Lab 126, so they turned to Quanta

  3. If the previous point is true then it means the one team at Amazon best suited to making a Kindle Tablet didn’t take part. Not a good sign.

Kindle Fire (that name is getting annoying very quickly) is really interesting. Really, really interesting launch for Amazon.

Kobo Vox strikes like the pox?

We found out today about the Kobo Vox eReader Tablet. Kobo joining the party is great and it must worry both B&N and Amazon.

  1. Kobo has very little to lose and can take big risks. Neither B&N nor Amazon can.
  2. It’s global. While B&N only competes with Amazon in the US, Kobo puts pressure on Amazon in lots of markets.
  3. Kobo has done things it doesn’t get much credit for – First $150 eReader, first company to compete with Amazon in lots of markets, their Reading Life feature, lots of coupons and discounts, sells to any device (since its books are in ePub format). It’s more dangerous than people realize.
  4. Both Nook Touch and Kobo Touch are strong competitors to Kindle 3. Amazon has tremendous advantages – But on a device-only basis both Nook Touch and Kobo Touch probably edge the Kindle 3. This suggests that Kobo Vox might give Kindle Fire a real run for its money.
  5. It’s choice. Kobo as a third choice is valuable for the market. Kobo as a second choice in lots of countries is valuable. Kodo as a second choice for ePub Books is very valuable for Nook Color and Sony Reader owners.

Kobo impresses me more every day. You expect it to die out and yet it keeps coming back and keeps putting pressure on Amazon and B&N to evolve faster.

That brings us to the Tablet that we know the least about.

Nook Color 2 – Does B&N really have two Tablets up its sleeve?

If Nate the Great’s B&N has 2 Tablets sources are correct, then B&N is showing more ambition than Amazon and will have –

  1. A $249 Nook Color 2 that is an improvement over the existing $249 Nook Color. You have to imagine that a year of experience and customer feedback gives B&N lots of opportunity to improve what is already a delightful device (better screen than iPad 1, great as a Reading Tablet, etc.).
  2. A $349 Nook Color 2 Acclaim that is focused on gaming and comes with add-ons like a better screen and perhaps more memory.

If this is true then –

  1. B&N is doing what Amazon should have been doing.
  2. It’s sad that instead of leading and innovating in the Tablet space, or even keeping up with iPad and Nook Color (Tablet and Reading Tablet respectively), Amazon is lagging behind by a year or more.
  3. Nook Color must be a pretty big success. For B&N to release two new variants.
  4. B&N is embracing the fact that its Nook business is effectively a billion dollar business. With a good Nook Color 2 and an even better Nook Color 3 B&N could turn it into a $5 billion business in the next 3 years.
  5. Can something designed by Quanta compete effectively with Nook Color 2? How much of a difference will Amazon’s backing make?

If the Gdgt article is true and Kindle Fire is just a PlayBook variant, then it would be extremely disappointing. There’s something special when a company makes a device from the ground up (such as the Kindle). Amazon really should prioritize purity of the device and its purpose over everything else.