Kindroid: Two great tastes that would taste great together

Kindroid: Two great tastes that would taste great together

Summary: Yesterday Google released the source code to their Linux-based Android operating system for mobile devices, which currently powers the T-Mobile G1 Dream smart phone. To date, no other consumer Android-based device has been released, and no new Android-based device has been pre-announced, but there is currently a lot of activity going on at handset manufacturers to bring new devices to the market.



Yesterday Google released the source code to their Linux-based Android operating system for mobile devices, which currently powers the T-Mobile G1 Dream smart phone. To date, no other consumer Android-based device has been released, and no new Android-based device has been pre-announced, but there is currently a lot of activity going on at handset manufacturers to bring new devices to the market. Motorola, for example, is out on the hunt for a lot of Android programmers and has stated their intent to release products which run on that platform, which would seem to indicate that Android-based Razrs and Rockrs are in the offing in the near future.

But Android is not just an OS for mobile phones, it's a system that could be applied to non-phone devices as well, such as set-top boxes, DVRs and even netbooks. It also occurred to me yesterday while writing my review of the device that Android would be perfect running as the OS for Amazon's Kindle.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Amazon's Kindle runs on Linux already, so its not like moving to Android would be a major transition. Indeed, the current hardware specs in terms of CPU and memory would probably have to be increased without significantly "stripping down" Android's base functionality, but moving to Google's platform rather than maintaining their own hardware and software stack makes an awful lot of sense, for a whole bunch of reasons.

For starters, Amazon could concentrate specifically on the e-book "store" end of the business and selling the content itself rather than selling hardware and maintaining a software platform. With an Android-based "OpenKindle" hardware and software reference platform, the Kindle reader application and store browser could be ported to the G1 and other Android-based mobile phones, and other hardware manufacturers could produce Kindle clones that could plug into Amazon's online Kindle store.

This would significantly bring down the cost of the Kindle hardware because more players with compatible readers could enter the mix, and Amazon could lower content prices by not having to maintain the EVDO Whispernet network and pass on that overhead to the consumer as they do now. "Kindroids" would also have access to Google's Android application store and would be able to run e-ink optimized versions of 3rd-party applications, many of which would be Open Source.

Much like mobile carriers make arrangements with RIM to route Blackberry network trafffic to the central RIM NOC, OpenKindles or "Kindroids" could be configured to use Wi-Fi or 3G networks from your existing mobile network. If I own an AT&T Blackberry or an iPhone, or a T-Mobile Android cell phone, I should be able to use a Bluetooth connection on a Kindroid/OpenKindle to use my existing mobile data network. Built-in Wi-Fi in the OpenKindle reference standard should allow users with a Kindle e-Ink optimized version of the Chrome browser to connect to Wi-Fi access points in Starbucks, Dunkin Dounuts, McDonalds, hotels and airport lounges, and Amazon and Google could leverage their partnership to provide free Wi-Fi to OpenKindle users by negotiating with Wi-Fi ISP's like T-Mobile Hotspot.

Should Amazon abandon their own hardware and software stack and join forces with Google to create the "Kindroid"? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Amazon, Android, Google, Mobility, Networking, Software, Wi-Fi


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Get a netbook

    You now try to present your absurd arguments in another post!

    I'm watching you Barney! ;)
  • RE: Kindroid: Two Great Tastes that would taste great together

    Ah, yes. The subject how electronic books would become popular (and even, possibly, replace paper-based books) is a perennial topic of science-fiction conventions and clubs. Not that the subject is anything fanciful, more a question of how such a product could take the place of the comfort factor of old-style books. Outside of the "tactile" matters, the opinion is the issue of file formats, etc.

    Personally, in terms of tactile sensations, I think an actual paper substrate with ePaper capability, with 500 or so pieces of the re-formattable display paper is probably what you would need to make electronic books really popular. The Star Trek PADD-like format probably won't catch on for casual reading.
    • Who cares what a book "feels" like?

      I'm not certain how many share your fetish, but I certainly don't. When I buy I book I don't want to feel pages, I want to see text clearly, mark where I left, be able to carry the text with me, and I want to be able to get the publication that I am looking for. I also don't want to pay through the nose to do this.

      I choose books over the Kindle because they are cheap and I can get exactly what I want.
    • Well - I Love Print Books...and I Love My Kindle Too

      Honestly, I think a multipage ePaper device like jelabarre describes would be similar to watching the big-budget FINAL FANTASY CGI movie - just close enough to the real thing to make most people [b][i]very[/b][/i] uncomfortable. To say nothing of hideously expensive....

      I'm all for a (physically improved and much more durable) Kindle design (complete w/some form of keyboard, possibly virtual, and wireless connectivity), and cheap enough that most people can afford to lose one a year.
  • RE: Kindroid: Two Great Tastes that would taste great together

    Should Amazon abandon their own hardware and software stack and join forces with Google to create the Kindroid?

    In general, I like the idea of opening up the Kindle, and also allowing other devices to have access to the Kindle stack, etc. However, I definitely do NOT like the idea of giving up the Sprint EVDO connection in favor of WiFi (except possibly on a low-end model). Rather, I'd like to see WiFi (and Bluetooth while we're at it) as an additional capability. One of my cell phones has both cellular and WiFi access, with automatic switching between them, so this would not even represent an advance in the state of the art.

    I have a high level of WiFi access (even my vehicle is its own hotspot), but I absolutely would NOT want to give up the Sprint EVDO for WiFi. I've been able to download books in places where there was no WiFi to be found (I've never been allowed to bring my vehicle on an airliner), but Sprint was there (sometimes to my own disbelief).

    The Kindle currently has a separate switch for enabling/disabling the Sprint connection, which is helpful if I'm on an airplane, or don't need to download, or just want to extend the battery's operating time from days to weeks.

    My first preference would be to have a similar (additional) switch for enabling/disabling WiFi access (i.e., WiFi ON/OFF). Thus, if both WiFi and Sprint were enabled (ON), the switching between them could occur automatically. Alternatively (and less desirable from a reliability point of view), Amazon could replace the current Sprint ON/OFF toggle switch with a 3-way Sprint/OFF/WiFi switch, forcing a user to choose between them.

    It has also been extremely helpful that people can email MS-Word documents to my Kindle's email address (e.g., <myaddress>, and they magically appear on my Kindle. Because of the Kindle's nice screen and adjustable font sizes, such documents are actually quite easy to read. However, as it turns out, my need for a large storage capacity for both books and documents leads me to have some serious concerns about the next-generation Kindle:

    1) I heard a rumor that it will have more internal storage, but will no longer have an SD card, which means I will suddenly have worries about adequate storage (I have hundreds of books I like to keep on my Kindle, and a number of large documents). I like the fact that I can always upgrade to a bigger SD card, and I *really* don't want to give that up. If anything, I'd like to have a second SD slot.

    2) Right now the Kindle has no security features of any kind. Anyone who picks up my Kindle can see not only what books I read, but also any documents that are on it. I absolutely believe that the Kindle needs a swipe-style fingerprint sensor (like Authentec's, which is used on some executive-class notebook PC's and cell phones). Authentec's sensor is particularly good, being both low-power and also accurate (due to it's array of tiny antennas that read through the top layer of dead skin to the *real* fingerprint). Although I'd really like to see a fingerprint sensor on EVERY Kindle, with the ability to choose the level of protection, it might behoove Amazon to have both a standard, lower-cost Kindle with no sensor, and a premium-priced excecutive-class Kindle with the fingerprint sensor and other security enhancements.

    3) I would dearly love to have an email client that is specially designed to take advantage of the Kindle's "electronic ink" display without being penalized for its inherently static properties (the display "wants" to hold its current image, and requires no power to do so, but is incompatible with animation, so animated images need to be interpreted as "stills").

    Well, I've said more than I actually had time to say...


    Seattle, WA
    • Thank you

      At last somebody else with common sense. I hope Barney Perlow does not insist anymore on this aberration of giving up EVDO for Wi-Fi.
    • I second everything you said!

      @DDD: Excellent comments!

      I love my Kindle, and I agree with each of the things you mentioned.

      Amazon: absolutely, positively do NOT take away the EVDO connection! The Kindle's connections are close to perfect right now, and removing EVDO would be a major mistake. As DDD said, adding WiFi is fine, but not if you take away EVDO.

      Last week I found and bought a book right as they were closing the door on the plane, and it downloaded within a few seconds so I was able to read it on the flight. What an amazing technology!

      Not only would that scenario be impossible without the EVDO, but even connecting in the airport at all would be a non-starter for me, because I'm unwilling to pay the $10.00 daily access charges just to use their Internet connection.

      I suppose adding Android may help in some ways, but then again we don't need to turn the Kindle into an iPhone wanna-be. It would not be very good for that.

      One of the best things about the Kindle is that it does certain things very well, but seems to recognize its limitations. I always fear the bloat that comes with making something more general-purpose.
  • Love the idea of a Kindroid

    As a software developer, I would love to have such a small handy device to connect to my local server and access any media I needed. I could even program while away from my main workstation. Even if Amazon doesn't take up this idea and run with it, somebody should. What a great idea.
  • RE: Kindroid: Two Great Tastes that would taste great together

    I agree but I am 100% certain that Google is way ahead of you already... They are the most agressive smart wise company I have ever seen..and they still give away so much for free...
    Verne Frazer
  • Amazon will never make a single reader do it all

    Going open source would definitely help them I think. There needs to be a great deal more innovation in this area than currently exists. One size - one device - just won't cut it for this market. I was waiting for Kindle 2.0 and now I've seen previews of it and it seems more a step sideways than a step forwards.

    Let me give some examples of just a few of the market segments:

    The pure readers: They don't need to be able to hilight or markup text. Some will be travelers and want EVDO or a similar tech to access new content fast. Others like me would be fine with a cheap stripped down version. Just give me a USB 2.0 connector to my notebook or smartphone -let those devices handle internet access, extra content storage and/or backup, etc. So if more storage is needed I add a bigger memory card to my smartphone. These devices could be smaller, portable, and easy to hold.

    Amazon really needs to focus more on content. A 180k of downloadable content is a thimble-full in a vast data ocean. Really, it's laughable. I've gone looking for all the books I'd like to put on an eBook device - and I never found most of them. Maybe a program to toss in an electronic copy of a book for an extra $1 when buying the regular book would help. I'd pay it just to have a version I could e-search against or have it read to me in the car. And then I always have the paper version to temporarily loan out

    The student: Definitely needs hilite and markup capabilities. Open Document textbooks subsidized by sponsors/adverts to get the cost down. The ability to download hilighted text and notes to a notebook to share with study groups or to print out. Wi-fi might be a good choice for such a device on campus. Cheap and lockable so there's less chance it gets stolen.

    The researcher: Much like the market the iLiad seems to be positioning for. Researchers often need to wade thru vast amounts of pdf technical journals. They often want a larger A4 page-sized reader and Wi-fi access. Certainly the ability to offload hilighted citations and likely direct markup capabilities as well. Access to online article databases from which to purchase. And these documents need fully working links to all citations that in turn can be easily chased down.

    And if Amazon still thinks they can do all that with just the Kindle and Kindle 2, then I forsee them eventually being overtaken by someone (maybe various Google Android readers?) who will pull the market out from under them.
  • Time for convergence

    My kids at school are burdened with heavy schoolbags full of heavy p-books (paper books, that is). I imagine a day when a widely adopted e-book standard would allow kids to carry but one folio-sized e-book reader in their bag.

    This market, for example, needs a different device than the Kindle - it needs a more sturdy device since it is going to be used by kids.

    Right on Jason!