Me on Fire

I suppose everyone has an opinion regarding the Kindle Fire these days, which is fascinating considering that it’s not actually shipping until a month and a half from now.

I personally like it a lot - not as something I’d get for myself, for I have gadgets aplenty, thank you, and a perfectly good Kindle 3.

No, I like it from a pure product placement perspective. It’s an appealing product with an established content ecosystem1 at a great price point, and that competes with existing tablets not on features or functionality but (and this is the key thing) in mass market appeal.

A Normal Tablet For Normal People

I side squarely with those who say that Amazon isn’t so much competing head-on with Apple but rather creating an entirely new market segment - it’s tackling head on that nebulous (but massive) quantity known as “the normal folk”.

Normal folk don’t care one whit about apps (except perhaps games, which are universal references), or replacing a laptop for work - there are a lot of people out there who don’t actually work at a computer, or who don’t have the faintest interest in replacing a computer with a tablet.

They care about consuming content and browsing the web. Maybe do some e-mail or browse some social network’s timeline - which they’ll probably be happy enough to do via a browser.

On Form Factors

The form factor is perfect for that. As it happens, I brought home a Samsung Galaxy Tab over the weekend to test a couple of apps, and quite naturally spent a while browsing the web, watching some videos with the kids and reading stuff on it. I’d used pre-production samples before, but a year of constant iPad use spoiled me rotten, and regressing to a simpler (and to me, much more limited) device was an insightful experience.

Comparing the Tab to the Fire is unavoidable given the similarity of form factors and overall characteristics (despite the Tab’s near obsolescence in Android timescales, it was pricey for its time and is thus a reasonable match in terms of display and CPU), and I’d say the Fire will be great for normal folk provided it does an adequate job of hiding Android’s guts and idiosyncrasies - it’ll be small enough to carry around instead of a book, but large enough to read comfortably on.

Now, 7” is a good form factor for reading and single-handedly watching a video, but too small a form factor to type comfortably, let alone attempt to replace a laptop - I can attest to that, since thanks to the wonders of Dropbox I used the Tab to write most of the above, and I missed my iPad’s extra screen size and larger on-screen keyboard until I did something only a pure-blooded geek would do and installed Graffitti as an input method2.

But scribbling on the screen with a finger at a somewhat ludicrous speed is something only a geek with muscle memory hailing from the 90s would do anyway (and I have no idea if Amazon will allow such things to run on the Fire).

Global Reach

Anyway, I’m as miffed as anyone else about the Fire only being available in the US before Christmas. I don’t subscribe to the view that Amazon doesn’t “get” selling globally, and I understand their business priorities and the likelyhood of having severely limited production capability available (perhaps even parts, if the rumors about Quanta are true) but I cannot help but wonder if they aren’t tied down by content restrictions.

Amazon, after all, sells content, but the content industry are slow, ponderous dinosaurs that react slowly to change and believe in padding licensing agreements on a per-territory basis, so I think Amazon are likely to have a sizeable amount of licensing ball and chain arrangements that make it unfeasible to even consider doing global launches.

Which is sad, to say the least. I’d love to gift at least one for Christmas, and I’m betting I’m not the only one pondering this, but it would be unfair to hassle Amazon for not lighting our Christmas Fire

  1. And that includes support for Android apps, although geeks are likely to have unreasonable expectations regarding what Amazon will allow them to do. ↩︎

  2. Before you ask, I find Swype much less useful - I have to keep watching where my finger is, whereas the genius of Graffitti is that you have a broad zone to make meaningful scribbles and you don’t need to look at your finger at all↩︎

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