With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

Summary: With the wait for Amazon's Kindle Fire finally over, let's take a look at what stood out the most during the tablet's unveiling.


Probably the most important thing to know about the Kindle Fire is evident from a statement made by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: "We don't think of Kindle Fire as a tablet - we think of it as a service," Bezos said earlier today. And it's clear: Much like the Kindle before it, the Kindle Fire is only as important as the content that's stored on it. Amazon has clearly taken a page out of Apple's book and taken major moves to not only sell you a device, but also try as hard as it can to sell you lots of things to put on it. And it's going to make them lots and lots of money.

The Kindle Fire consumes (your cash)

Make no mistake, the Kindle is a media consumption device. From movies, to music, to apps, the Kindle Fire is meant mostly as a vessel for channelling purchases. That's evident even from the device's most notable but not especially significant, omission: A camera. Amazon says that its decision to build the Kindle Fire without a camera was made in an effort to keep the price of the tablet low, which is definitely true. But there is also a philosophical consideration here, and while its probably not intentional, its also pretty telling. The Kindle Fire most certainly won't be used for content creation, even if that creation is as minor as taking a photo of yourself or your dinner.

On the other hand, even the Kindle Fire's media consumption status is a bit strange considering that Amazon opted to give it a 7-inch screen. While indisputably more portable than a 10-inch tablet, at 7-inches, the Kindle Fire doesn't seem like it will be the best device for long periods of movie watching at home. At the same time, it's hard to conceive of anyone using the device as their primary music player -- or ebook reader, for that matter. (That's what the regular old Kindle Touch is for.)

The Kindle Fire UI

Considering how much effort Amazon put into stripping away much of Android's complexity and general Android-ness, it's strange to note that Amazon hasn't actually given the tablet's UI an official name. Instead, a rep referred to the UI as "the Kindle Fire UI", which isn't nearly as catchy as Sense or Motoblur.  Naming considerations aside, the Kindle Fire UI is pretty smooth and offers an easy way to access all sorts of media. Files on the home screen are organized according to what was last accessed, meaning albums and books that users repeatedly return to will be more accessible towards the front of the line. In terms of design, Amazon clearly took a cue here from Apple and Cover Flow. Which isn't a bad thing, all told.

Amazon: a company with its head in the cloud

Amazon threw the word "cloud" around an awful lot during the Kindle Fire's presentation. From media playback to page rendering, the cloud is going to play a pretty major role in the Kindle Fire. The generally infinitely expanding nature of the cloud is also why Amazon opted to keep the Kindle Fire's internal storage to a tiny 8 GB -- enough to store some media but certainly not much. That decision also certainly aided in keeping the Kindle Fire's cost down, which seems to be a very important factor with the tablet.

Web browsing - Fast and as smooth as Silk
Amazon Silk is the name for the Kindle Fire's browser. Half cloud, half local, the idea behind Silk is to take some of the load of webpage rendering off of the browser and dump it on the cloud. Amazon is putting a lot of faith in Silk - and for good reason. The browser loads pages extremely quickly, often to the extent that it felt like the pages were already cached on the Kindle Fire and were simply loading from there. To test that possibility, I asked an Amazon rep to load the ZDNet homepage (seen above), which he assured me had not been accesssed by the Kindle Fire he was using. Perhaps usurpingly, ZDNet loaded very quickly, homepage pop-up and all. This, the rep pointed out, was in spite of the fact that the device was accessing the web via a pretty congested public Wi-Fi network.

Wait, weight - don't tell me

Amazon reps assured me that the version of the Kindle Fire they were demonstrating was the final hardware, which was strange seeing as how that they seemed deathly afraid of letting attendees touch the thing. One reporter did get to hold one, remarking, to the Amazon rep's chagrin, that it was "very heavy" compared to the Kindle. I don't doubt that, considering that, at 14.6 ounces, the Kindle Fire is almost double the weight of the 8.5-ounce Kindle WiFi. Notably, at that weight the Kindle Fire also happens to be almost the exact same weight as the Blackberry Playbook.

The Amazon...PlayBook?

Speaking of the PlayBook, it's jarring how much the Kindle Fire feels like RIM's struggling tablet. One main difference, however, is that Amazon seemed intent on exclusively presenting the Kindle Fire in portrait mode, unlike RIM which tends to show off the PlayBook in landscape. It's a minor, but somewhat significant difference. (Another difference: the PlayBook has a camera.) As for the internals, Amazon reps were strangely unable to say whether the Kindle Fire's processor was the same one included in the PlayBook.

Amazon sets (Kindle) fire to Apple

There's going to be a lot of discussion in the coming days on how the Kinde Fire stacks up against the iPad - - and most of it will be completely useless. Not only is the Kindle Fire in a very different size and price class than Apple's tablet, but the relation between the two tablets is far larger than the devices themselves. Much like Apple, Amazon is trying to sell you not only a tablet, but a whole ecosystem of content as well. This severely diminishes the significance of each individual device while boosting the importance of the Bigger Picture. Amazon may sell a whole lot of Kindle Fire tablets this fall, but probably the more important factor will be what tablet sales mean for Amazon's content sales. That reality also serves to underscore why the possibility of Amazon releasing a larger version of the Kindle Fire seems so likely. For Amazon, the tablet race is just heating up.

Topics: Amazon, Hardware, Mobility

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  • Watch the demo.

    You can watch videos on the KF in landscape mode.
  • The only thing this sets fire to is iBooks

    I believe this "kills" (I hate that word) iBooks.

    Other than that, Apple is not affected by this at all.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      @toddybottom Hence the last paragraph which more or less says as much.

      And I doubt it'll kill iBooks. People are much too enthused about the virtual page turn than they are their actual books.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      @toddybottom: The Kindle iPad app already provides iPad owners with Kindle/Amazon eBook material. iBooks is just another iBookstore. I love my Kindle (original), but this Kindle Fire has the look of my completely detested Nook Color.
  • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

    So let me get this straight... In your last paragraph you muse that people will make baseless comparisons to Apple, yet that's exactly the same method you used to link bait in your title. Clever.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)


      No. The "house" that I'm referring to in the title isn't the iPad but Apple's entire media ecosystem.
      Ricardo Bilton
  • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

    It does set fire the original Kindle for sure. This is a tricky one...will it do well or will it follow the Playbook?

    It is not an iPad class tablet.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      @CowLauncher: Agreed. Not in same tablet class as iPad. I have never lost interest in my 3G orginal Kindle although I have the other devices. This new Amazon device is too much the Nook Color clone which is a cranky poorly designed example of how I can waste money on occasion. I don't think I will make that mistake again.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        @geoh808@... I have the Nook, Color Nook, and Kindle and they are all quite different and the Color Nook is far from cranky. The Kindle Fire will have the advantage of all of Amazon's infrastructure, which B&N does not have. I won't trade my Color Nook in for this just yet, nor will I abandon my iPad. To the story's point, I have watched videos on both the Color Nook and the iPad and I cannot see paying money to watch a movie on the smaller screen. I am very surprised that the device does not have a camera and I think the article is dead wrong on this. With a camera they could have bundled a scanner applet. That scanner applet would have given Amazon TONS of additional revenue, scan a product...see the price on Amazon...get it shipped free. I used to work at Amazon...they never listened to me while there, so I am sure they won't while I am no longer an employee :-).

        They should also have given a free YEAR of Prime... then you upgrade your device every year to get the Prime ...
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        I would agree to the usefulness of that particular application of a camera. However, I don't know how well that technology would work right now at this moment or the next 12 months. So you as amazon would have to consider how practical would it be to have a camera in the KF just for that. For the most part, a cameras in a tablet is pretty useless. I have used mine only once, to test it out. I have no interest in video chat while I'm on the go and seeing how I have never seen anyone do the same on the go I would venture either thats one of those features nobody cares about or they are only doing it at home. I suspect its a feature nobody really cares about. They do it once and its cool that they can but they don't bother afterwards.

        Would be cool if my toaster had internet access as well but realistically, who cares.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        @stanislavF ... camera, scanning bar codes ... that's more useful with 3G, since you'll tend to do it in a store. Wifi only, not such a useful use case. Be interesting to see what they add to, and how they price, the Fire v2.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      @CowLauncher It's more powerful than the iPad 1, about as powerful as iPad 2, sans of course cheap, shitty cameras :P. I agree that it's probably not quite as versatile (no 3G option, likely fewer apps, though #'s of apps is quickly becoming a useless metric), but to say that it's "not an iPad class tablet" is essentially to ignore both the hardware and the ecosystem that Amazon has built to support the thing.

      Make no mistake--at $199, this is the single best tablet deal anywhere on earth.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        MMMm no its not. Its underpowered, sized wrong, no 3 or 4 g connectivity, almost no storage , no hdmi ouitput, not sure on sd storage or usb output, has an old unreliable version of android and looks to be filled with a ton of crapware. For $200 you can get a slightly used Xoom, Galaxy Tab, Toshiba thrive, or asus Transformer.I have all of these most i paid was $285 for my 10.1 galaxy tab as it was new with no contract off ebay. I got 2 of the 7 inch tabs for $295 shipped priority insured new on ebay also.I understand them wanting to keep te price down to attract people but why spend two hundred on a greatly lacking device way way behind all others?You can even get a new 10" Archos for like $275 at tiger direct and the 7 inch verson for I believe $179 and if you use ebates and few online codes you can get them for much less with cash back and free shipping.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        Which tablet has 4g connectivity that everyone is calmouring for. wifi versions of tablets sell better than 3g.
        ipad 1 also had no hdmi output, sd storage, usb and all that but it didn't prevent them from selling.

        I think its important to note like the reviewer said, you are buying cloud services so the hardware is less important. No one does cloud better than amazon. They've been at it longer than anyone else.

        Remember this is not targeted at people who are dying to get a tablet. And truth be told, most people are not bowled over by tablets. But a lot of them want something for reading. They are not going to spend more for a bigger screen, heavier device, with 3g, with hdmi output, with dual cameras the same way you might not pay an extra $5000 for that added feature of heated steering wheels with rear retractible shade for your car.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        @jasongw At $199, it's the single best tablet deal anywhere on your side of the Atlantic. It'll be interesting to see whether it's ever made available in Europe (unlike the Nook Colour), and whether they have a similar pricing strategy when / if they do release it (adding 50% to the price on this side of the pond, presumably to pay for fixing the spelling in the UI...)

        Hey ho. Same old story. I'll observe your reaction to the device with interest and the merest hint of jealousy. ;)
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      The newly discounted Playbook 16G ($249 - $299) is a much better deal for a much more powerful device. The new OS 2.0 will be out in only few weeks with an Android player and will fix the few things it got bad reviews for. I read an incredible amount of bashing, mostly from Apple followers, but the actual users are addicted to their little Playbooks. Good luck to Kindle Fire as well.
      • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

        @guylh I messed around with a Playbook the other day for a few minutes and was not impressed but that was not enough time to make a judgment. You mention that the bashing was primarily from Apple followers but the actual users are addicted. What makes you think the users who are addicted are just fanboys themselves? Not saying they are but the a number of the reviews I read that were not flattering were from people that really hoped the playbook would be great, not Apple fanboys. Just pointing out you can't make they claim the bashing only came from Apple fans and not consider the fact that they praise may mainly be from BB fans.
  • Translation: Amazon contracted with the company

    that builds RIM Playbooks to make them a re-branded model.
  • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

    This is not an iPad killer. It may not even be a killer of iPad killers. This device competes with Nook which is a device similar in price, form factor and features (barebones hardware, limited Android with custom UI and proprietary app store). Amazon's ecosystem is more extensive than BN's and they can afford to subsidize the device so this may end up being a Nook killer. But then maybe not.
    • RE: With Kindle Fire, Amazon looks to burn down Apple's house (first impressions)

      Well, it did not take long for BN to drop the price on the Nook. I don't think we are going to see an iPad price drop.