My co-author, Matt Miller, is a huge ebook reader fan. As a result, when Amazon announced the Kindle Development Kit he was less than excited, since he prefers to read on his ebook reader, and would rather have Amazon spend its time making even more formats work on the Kindle. Other folks at ZDNet have been weighing in, too with opinions both in favor of and against the expansion of the Kindle's functionality.
As an App developer for multiple mobile platforms, though, I welcome the coming of the KDK (Kindle Development Kit). When I first got the Kindle, I struggled with why I would pay an upfront premium to have my content delivered digitally. Secretly I had hoped that Amazon would one day expand the Kindle to something more than just an ebook reader. Then I discovered the Experimental area, which includes a rudimentary web browser, MP3 player and Text-to-Speech. The Experimental area showed that Apps were possible, and actually weren't so terrible on the e-ink screen. The Experimental area hasn't seen many additions since its inception, but now it's poised for some huge growth, thanks to the KDK.
Before you start saying that you have no interest in expanding the functionality of the Kindle, think about the early days of the BlackBerry. The first Blackberries ran on the Mobitex network and initially only did two-way messaging. Granted, they did it well, but what was interesting was that as the screen size of the BlackBerry increased, developers started making games and utilities. The games themselves were not incredible first person shooters, but they were addictive enough to grab your attention and provide a necessary break in the day. As for the utilities, the calculator was one of the first and completely transformed the way people used a device that was originally made for the purpose of sending messages.
The reason I bring up the BlackBerry is because it was a single purpose, black and white device that even in its old form, was expanded to offer a whole lot more than just messaging. Now we have the Kindle as a new platform to play in.
Instead of thinking, "we don't need another device that does Apps", think about it from a developer's perspective. The Kindle offers some great tech, including connectivity to 3G with the device lasting days on a single charge. Currently we don't know what development language will be used, but what's clear is that Amazon will offer a simulator, sample code, documentation and a development environment that will run on Mac, PC, and Linux desktops. In addition, Amazon plans to offer the option of delivering Active content for free, a one-time purchase, or a monthly subscription, with the developer getting 70 percent of the sale price.
It would be easy to say that Amazon is offering the KDK in response to competitors--especially the Android-based nook--but I think they're doing it just to see what developers can come up with. After all, the company has this quote on the sign-up page for the KDK limited beta: "We are excited to see what you invent for Kindle."
Think beyond what you know and imagine the Kindle as a new playground, ripe for developers to play in. The possibilities are endless and I'm expecting that we'll see the Kindle doing things that we never thought possible a few months from now.