With the launch of the Google Nexus 7 tablet last week, it should come as no surprise that rumors have started appearing about a new version of its chief competition, Amazon's Kindle Fire.
As its sales have already softened, the Kindle Fire needs to be reinvigorated. BGR.com is reporting that Amazon's next version of the device will bring an improved build quality over the first-generation model, which took some hits from critics over its construction. In particular, the plastic casing has been replaced with a metal chassis, including a "ribbed" backing that makes the Kindle easier to hold as well as being easier on the eyes. BGR's source again trots out the 10-inch Kindle Fire rumor, which could be a smart play against the Nexus denting Amazon's 7-inch tablet sales if it's priced lower than the iPad 2.
But without a radical redo of its hardware, the Kindle Fire will need to stand out against the Nexus in other ways. Bloomberg reports that one strategy Amazon is pursuing is to boost the gaming features of the Kindle Fire. Essentially the company is taking a page from Apple's Game Center and adding a social element to games designed for the Fire, "including tracking high scores and monitoring awards won while playing games." Amazon has been hiring developers to roll out tools for game designers that will supposedly be released by the end of the month.
While the Fire is based on Google's Android OS, Amazon has attempted to customize it with one big (and successful) difference -- people are far more likely to spend money downloading content on it than on other Android devices. Bloomberg cites Flurry's findings that for every $1 spent in Apple's app store, only 23 cents is spent in Google's app store, but 89 cents is spent in Amazon's app store. That key distinction is Amazon's big pitch to developers (including game builders): Create a Fire version of your app, and make more money. The Nexus, however, is designed to make it easier for users to consume more media from Google Play, so Amazon needs to court developers with additional incentives to bother creating a Fire-specific app instead of just a general Android version.
Will better build quality and improved social gaming features be enough for the next Kindle Fire to compete against the Nexus 7? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.