Home' LAPTOP Magazine : November 2011 Contents Right after Amazon
introduced its Kindle
Fire, I heard a re-
porter question whether
the device is a true tablet.
Because it’s primarily a ve-
hicle for consuming Amazon
content, she wanted to put
the Fire in the same “other”
category as the Nook Color.
Another journalist lamented
the lack of a camera.
They’re missing the point.
Amazon will sell millions
of Kindle Fires—and make
many shoppers think twice
about the iPad—because
it delivers what consumers
want at a jaw-dropping
But price is only part
of the story. Amazon managed to do something
the iPad competition has not: innovate. And I’m
willing to bet that it won’t be too long before that
innovation extends to smartphones. But let’s talk
tablets first. There are tons of slates in the $200
to $300 range available now or coming soon from
the likes of Acer, Coby, Pandigital, and ViewSonic.
Some of these devices run Android, but they all
merely riff on the same formula. The Kindle Fire
is based on Gingerbread, but it looks nothing like
Google’s software. Amazon deserves a lot of credit
for being willing to start with a
clean (ahem) slate.
The main screen puts
content front and center with
a slick carousel-like interface
that automatically displays the
last thing you read, viewed,
listened to, or played right on top. There’s no
need to push a Recent Apps button or press and
hold the Home button. It’s just there. You can
also store apps and other content on a virtual
bookshelf for easy access.
Of course, Amazon has a lot of incentive to
remake Android in its own image. The company
wants to sell lots of Amazon content, from music
and books to magazines and videos. That’s why the
rest of the main screen is dominated by shortcuts
to things that will cost consumers more money.
Yes, Samsung and HTC offer their own multimedia
storefronts, but only Amazon has millions of accounts
already on file. And just like the original Kindle, the
Fire will ship to customers with their credentials
pre-loaded. There’s nothing to set up.
The most innovative part of the Fire is its Silk web
browser, which accelerates surfing by leveraging
Amazon’s sea of servers. A unique split architecture
balances the workload between the cloud and the
device, which should dramatically improve load
times and hopefully make Flash palatable on a
mobile device. The Silk web browser probably took
a lot of money to create, and I highly doubt Amazon
made that investment just to make a Wi-Fi -only
tablet better. After all, home and office networks
are pretty fast.
Wouldn’t Silk be more valuable on a smart-
Now, it’s certainly possible that Amazon is
working on a 3G version of the Kindle Fire tablet,
one whose data could possibly be subsidized by
Special Offers (ads). But Silk would be even more
welcome on a smartphone; the browser’s efficiency
could even help you save on your data plan.
Lest we forget, Amazon is already one of the
leading online smartphone retailers, offering
handsets from all the major carriers. I envision
Amazon launching a smartphone by the middle of
next year after the company introduces its larger
10-inch tablet. Lets call it the Spark.
To be clear, Amazon’s clout alone won’t be
enough to make the Spark a hit. The company will
need to figure out how to integrate communica-
tions and social networking more
tightly into its new platform. The
ingredients might be there now, but
I haven’t seen them yet. Or maybe
Amazon will buy webOS, as has
been rumored, as a shortcut.
In the tablet arena, Amazon is
sticking to the low end of the market, leaving Apple
to dominate the high end. But there’s every reason
to believe that the company’s simple, stripped-down
product will allow it become the number two tablet
maker quickly, leaving everyone else scrambling
for share. A Kindle Spark would do just as much—if
not even more—damage.
The Kindle made Amazon a force in mobile, but
the Fire and its offspring are the biggest threat
to the established players since the original
amazon on fire
Why the Kindle tablet will burn tablet foes—and why smartphones are next.
by Mark Spoonauer
Editor in Chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content. He has been covering mobile and wireless technology for more than a decade.
Read his weekly SpoonFed column at www.laptopmag.com/spoonfed, and follow @mspoonauer on Twitter.
by Mark Spoonauer
The most innovative part of the
Fire is its Silk web browser, which
accelerates surfing by leveraging
Amazon’s sea of servers.
Laptop | November 2011
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