To be fair, I've only had a few hours to tinker with the new device, but I can already say that there are a bunch of ways the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad.
Reason 1: Price
This is the Big Kahuna of reasons. The Kindle Fire is $199. The cheapest iPad is $499. There's three hundred big reasons the Kindle Fire is better, already.
Obviously, if the device was terrible, the price savings wouldn't matter. But -- at least on first impression -- the Kindle Fire is solid, fast, and smooth. In fact, it seems to be just as nice, if not nicer than the iPad.
The proof: within about an hour of my using the Kindle Fire, my wife wanted one. And, at $199, it was easy to make her happy and pull the trigger. Hers, though, will arrive in a few weeks since she didn't pre-order.
But, the real fact is, Flash is not dead. It's baked into many web sites, and I'm talking about real web sites, not just silly casual gamer sites.
Take, for example, educational web sites. My wife is continuing her college education, and she's been using a fantastic mathematics simulator site called MathXL. This site runs on Flash, so it won't run on our iPad. It will run on the Fire.
Did I mention the Fire costs $300 less than the iPad?
Reason 3: Native USB drive mode
These next two reasons are related. There's much better access to the Kindle Fire as a storage device than Apple provides with the iPad. For example, you can take a USB cable, plug it into the Kindle Fire and then to your PC, and drag-and-drop documents for later reading.
There are some hacks for this for the iPad, but native USB drive mode is supported, out of the box, for the Kindle Fire.
Reason 4: PC-format document viewer
Once again, out of the box, the Kindle Fire supports PC-format documents, ranging from Word files and PDFs, even to PowerPoints.
Yes, there are add-on apps that will do this for the iPad (the excellent GoodReader is the best example), but the Kindle Fire supports it, out of the box.
Reason 5: Free Prime video
I'm an Amazon Prime customer and use the absolute heck out of that service. As a Prime customer, I also get free Prime movies and video.
I turned on my new Kindle Fire, jumped over to the Video tab, and within seconds was watching a completely free episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. A few moments later, I was watching John Cleese playing Mozart and mocking both Genghis Khan and A. Lincoln (of the U.S.A.) in an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Minutes later, I was watching Top Gear in all its HD glory. You know, come to think of it, I never realized just how much John Cleese and Jeremy Clarkson remind me of each other.
In any case, Apple doesn't have anything like this. With Apple, you have to buy everything and struggle with iTunes and the iTunes store. With Amazon, it's just there.
Update: I also forgot to mention the free Amazon lending library for books. Another free bonus that Apple certainly doesn't provide.
That said, the integration between the Kindle Fire and the Amazon cloud is excellent. There certainly is an iPad-based App store and iTunes store, but their integration isn't nearly as smooth. iCloud is still substantially untested, and -- to be fair -- Apple has very little successful experience providing cloud services while Amazon provides them to the entire planet.
Reason 7: Size
There is something deeply satisfying about the 7" tablet form-factor. It's possible to easily hold it in one hand like a paperback, carry it around without worrying that you're lugging an entire window pane in your backpack, and even use it as a live shop reference when crawling around machinery, doing maintenance.
It's easy to hold in the hand, it's easy to prop up on a pillow for bedtime reading or a last-minute TV show, and it's just, plain comfortable.
Now that I've used the Kindle Fire for a little while, I think Apple is missing the boat seriously if it doesn't come out with a smaller, 7" iPad.
So there you go. I've only just started using this, but I may actually like the device. Stay tuned for further impressions.
What do you think? Is the Fire actually a better device than the iPad?