Sunday, October 23, 2011

Igniting the fire: Amazon unveils Kindle Fire


Amazon is set to launch its new tablet, Kindle Fire, by the end of this year

When Apple announced the impending launch of its tablet computer early last year, the naysayers were out in force, rushing to judgement on how the device would never catch on. Less than two years later, it is plain to see that not only is the iPad a massive success, but it has also generated more interest in tablet computers, rejuvenating the portable computing genre and incentivizing other companies to venture into the tablet market.

Now entering this hugely competitive arena is Amazon, the “world’s largest online retailer” and the developer of the immensely popular Kindle e-book reader. Built around the company’s core competencies, their new device, the Kindle Fire, will hope to leverage the success of the Kindle brand while further benefiting from their content providing abilities.

Launching soon
A step up from the black and white e-readers the company is known for, the new 7-inch colour tablet has a dual-core processor, and 8GB internal storage (“enough,” Amazon claims, “for 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books”); the Kindle Fire has up to eight hours of battery life, makes use of Wi-Fi connectivity, and runs on a customized Android-based platform.

The device will let users connect to the Amazon Appstore as well as allowing them access to the company’s treasure-trove of digital content (at least if they reside in the States; it remains to be seen whether Amazon will pay attention to the market outside the U.S. when it comes to their services) including ebooks, movies, television shows, and music, and facilitate free cloud storage for all Amazon digital content. But perhaps the most talked about feature of the Kindle Fire is the “cloud-accelerated browser” called Amazon Silk, that “uses a "split browser" architecture to leverage the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services cloud”; the browser aims to optimize traffic flows, using techniques like prefetching pages and caching content.

Facing the competition
When the Kindle Fire goes on sale on the 15th of November in the US (global release dates are currently not available), a lot of interest will go into how well it fares in the fiercely competitive tablet market, especially keeping in mind that it is not only going up against other Android-based tablets and various other devices (like the Nook Color and Blackberry PlayBook, for instance), but it will also be competing against the dominating force that is the iPad. A closer look at the specs, however, suggests that Amazon is playing a slightly different game than Apple.

The Kindle Fire is smaller and has fewer features than the iPad, but it does have one substantial selling point: it is considerably cheaper. The pricing could make Kindle Fire attractive to some customers – its price tag (US$199) is significantly less than that of the entry-point iPad (US$499). The lower price predictably has a value trade-off, and the tablet clearly has its limitations; unlike the iPad, Fire lacks camera, microphone and 3G capabilities, and has a smaller screen compared to the current market leader (9.7-inches).

Overall, Kindle Fire’s focus seems to be on offering fewer features at a lower cost, and the gadget is perhaps best suited for simple content consumption, especially if the content comes from Amazon’s own services. The company will be hoping that their strong brand name will make the Kindle Fire a contender in the race for tablet market share, while also using the tablet craze to help them further capitalize on their content-rich ecosphere.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune - 22nd October, 2011

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