Amazon has improved its latest Kindle Fire tablets lineup by making them lighter and revamping the Android-based Fire OS 3.0 so it's much faster and responsive. The big question is whether consumers will tote the Kindle Fire HDX to work and their employers will welcome the tablet.
One of the more interesting items with the Kindle Fire HDX launch was that Amazon went out of its way to highlight the tablets’ enterprise chops. Keep in mind that many tablet makers have touted enterprise features---notably Samsung---on the theory that consumers will take the devices to work. And while those tablets are at work it makes sense to make management as easy as possible for the information technology team.
I played with the 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX for a few days and found the latest version of the tablet greatly improved over its predecessors. The biggest difference---aside from the screen resolution that has been pointed out repeatedly---was the software build. The Kindle Fire HDX is just snappier and menus on the left are a nice addition. The Fire OS no longer feels like an Android overlay. Meanwhile, the hardware is improved with a price that's right.
What was also clear is that my iPad toting 10-year-old also liked the Kindle Fire HDX. The Kindle Fire HD last year didn't garner as much interest. Why is that point notable in a bring your own device overview? In a BYOD world, if tablet makers don't have consumers they won't get the enterprise. Period. Sure, there may be some cases---Microsoft's Office on tablets almost ensures corporate uptake of Windows 8 devices---but the way to corporations these days is through employees.
Indeed, Amazon's Kindle Fire was the No. 2 tablet being used for work in the U.S., according to Forrester Research. The Kindle Fire tied the Samsung Galaxy for work use in the U.S. and was No. 3 globally in work tablets. The catch: Samsung Galaxy is actually targeted at the enterprise. Apple's iPad is No. 1 among workers. While Forrester rates the Kindle Fire's BYOD potential highly it's worth noting that Good Technology hasn't seen similar developments on its network.
Now Amazon's plan is to offer enterprises enough management tools so corporations accept the Kindle HDX in the workplace. Forrester called the Kindle Fire a stealth BYOD play and Amazon is obviously ditching the quiet shtick and courting the enterprise. Samsung has a similar strategy with its Knox software on the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note. Apple also added iOS 7 updates that also help the enterprise.
The biggest different from the approaches with Amazon and Samsung are that they are more vocal about wooing the enterprise. Apple always touts enterprise wins, but has been relatively quiet with its corporate ambitions.
For instance, Amazon noted in a release that it would offer the following via a software update in mid-November:
- Wi-Fi with WPA2 support for secure access to corporate data and SharePoint.
- An updated email app that hooks up to Exchange easier.
- Wireless printer access.
- OfficeSuite built in.
- VPN native access.
- Hardware encryption.
- And device management hooks to mobile device management packages.
Those features line up with the most popular enterprise mobility deployments, according to Citrix.
Meanwhile, Amazon has bolstered its productivity app lineup with staples such as GoToMeeting and Documents To Go. If Amazon can get enterprise traction without doing much of anything, the thinking goes that a little enterprise love could really help out.
What's unclear is whether IT shops will adopt the Kindle in bulk. The jury is out on that one. Certainly, Amazon's hooks to MDM packages will help the Kindle Fire cause. And corporations are already used to Amazon via Amazon Web Services. In other words, there is a lot of familiarity with Amazon in the workplace so no one will cringe if a Kindle Fire shows up at work.
The one monkey wrench to ponder is that the Kindle Fire HDX won't integrate as well with Google Apps. Google's Android partners will offer those hooks for enterprises that use Google Apps a lot. The lack of a smartphone could also hurt Amazon's BYOD aspirations. Rest assured, Samsung will sell Galaxy smartphones and tablets to corporations in bulk. Microsoft will aim for similar deals.
One certainty is that Android is going to get more footing in the enterprise as Amazon, Samsung and Google all aim for corporate accounts with a weakened BlackBerry, a device unknown in Microsoft and Apple's singular iOS efforts. What's comical is that Android's cause in the enterprise may wind up being fueled by three different flavors of the mobile operating system.
Bottom line: It's likely that the Kindle Fire HDX is going to see more traction at an enterprise near you via BYOD.