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Kindle Gets Fire

October 16, 2011

Kindle, the ebook platform, has been bulking up to go after Apple for the tablet market:

On Wednesday, Jeff Bezos, the company’s charismatic founder, unveiled the Kindle Fire, its first venture into the tablet market.

At this point, non-technical readers, clutching their beloved Kindles, may object that Amazon has been in the tablet market ever since the Kindle launched in 2007. But the Kindle is not really a tablet computer in any meaningful sense – it’s an information appliance that fulfils one function well: fetching and displaying ebooks.

The Fire is different. It has a colour touch screen and can play video, for example. More significantly, it can run apps, has a proper operating system (a customised version of Google’s Android) and does wireless networking. And it comes with its own, custom-designed web browser, called Silk (of which more in a moment). Oh, and at $199 it’s less than half the price of a basic iPad2, which may, in the end, turn out to be the most important thing about it.

A few things struck me about this venture. I agree with the above writer, that Amazon want to lock people in to their system; it’s not enough to make the platform, you also want to make the distribution system. Imagine if all Windows software had to come via Microsoft (and they took a cut)? That’s what Apple and Amazon are trying to do (though arguably would Windows have been as big had they locked it down like this? It is a point of debate…)

But I was also struck by the fact that Kindle Fire will run a modified version of Android and that the web-browser on it caches links in their servers to speed the page load times from 100 milliseconds to 5 milliseconds. This is, overall, much more of a cloud-based device than the iPhone or iPad currently is and it shows in the design of the system and software, with all the benefits and issues that brings.

Here’s the polished ad for Kindle Fire:

And if you’re concerned about being locked in, see here.

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