Amazon's Kindle upgrade has left me cold, and not just because of the paltry feature updates and mild interface redesign. Once again, the online shopping giant is missing a big opportunity to make the Kindle more than a single-function dead tree replacement.
I wrote about the problems with the Kindle platform back in October, and had high hopes that Amazon would address some of the deficiencies around the device with the 2.0 refresh. Even though there's little reason not to do so, Amazon is still sticking to a closed ecosystem around the ebook.
Which is a shame, because the Kindle could be much more than just another way for Amazon to sell things -- while still remaining a way for Amazon to sell things, of course, and perhaps sell even more.
One example: Right now, it's possible to get PDFs and other documents onto the device by mailing a file to Amazon. However, using the free service, I've seen delays of days before the converted document shows up in my inbox. Not terribly useful when I'd like to send a couple of work docs to myself to read on a plane.
If Amazon would open up just its document conversion tools, they'd likely improve the quality of the tools for its own use converting published material as well.
But, if they took it a bit farther, they could also open the annotation tools on the platform -- and make the Kindle the killer device for anyone who does a lot of reading and work in transit.
What about a decent email client on the Kindle? While that might increase the traffic on Whispernet, which would you rather use to read and respond to email -- that dinky BlackBerry, or a nice book-sized device with a much more pleasant screen?
I was an early adopter of the Kindle, and don't plan on retiring the 1.0 anytime soon. It's a fantastic device for anyone who enjoys reading on the road without the hassle of dragging along a bunch of dead tree weight. But Amazon has failed to give a compelling reason to buy the 2.0. Granted, it looks like they've gotten rid of some of the most annoying facets of the 1.0, but that's not enough to make me shell out the extra $350 after spending the last year getting used to not accidentally turning pages.
But I bet the platform would have seen some massive improvement if they'd given the device a chance to develop a community of contributors instead of just a set of customers. Here's hoping Amazon learns its lesson by Kindle 3.0.