Unanswered Questions about the Amazon Kindle Fire

on September 30, 2011
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Amazon threw their axe into the tablet sea Wednesday with the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire. On paper, the Kindle Fire seems like a killer value proposition. For $199, you get continuous computing access to 18 million books, movies, TV shows, music, newspapers, unlimited cloud content storage, and fastest web browsing. And all this at less than half the price of the Apple iPad 2. There are a few important, unanswered questions that could determine whether that deal is too good to be true.

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Delivered Responsiveness

Amazon had a great showing at their launch event, but attendees weren’t able to freely touch the tablet themselves. Demos were carefully scripted that showed how good the responsiveness was. I remember how amazingly responsive the TouchPad tablet demos were, only to be disappointed at launch with the lags. The lags were quickly fixed with a patch a few weeks later, but the damage was done. Basic pinch, zoom, page turn, app load and app close must be responsive or it will just feel cheap. Buying a tablet with bad touch is buying a car with a loose steering wheel and a missing tire.

Display Quality on Videos and Photos

At 7”, to effectively see video content at the same size versus a 10” tablet, users must hold it closer to their face. Will we be able to see pixels? Hold the original iPhone close to your face, play a video, and you can see the pixels. That for me could be a deal breaker, but hey, that’s me. At $199, the Kindle Fire is a less considered purchase, but still considered. Heck, consumers return $5 food items because they didn’t like it, so don’t think they wouldn’t return a $199 Kindle Fire if it didn’t do what they expected.

Video Content Quality

I am one of the few people who own a Google TV. While I like the Amazon streaming service, it can get quite pixelated at times. It happens a lot more than it happens on Netflix, too, which leads me to surmise that it’s an Amazon issue. Bandwidth won’t be an issue on the downloaded content, but, again, what about the quality? I have downloaded movies from Amazon Unbox on my laptop and sometimes they are pixelated in spots. My laptop is 1366×768 on a large display and the Kindle Fire has 1024X600 resolutions at 7”, so probability will hopefully be small. The final question is how 16:9 content looks on a 16:10 display. Will there be black blocks on the top or bottom of the display or will the content be zoomed in and possibly blurry?

Software Storage Footprint

With 8GB of storage, users will need to be very choosy with what movies, TV shows, music, games, apps and app content they store on the tablet. So the software storage footprint gets important. For example, if it takes 2GB, that leaves 6GB left for apps and content. The Amazon Cloud storage is great, but who wants to be deleting and re-downloading songs and apps to make room for a downloaded movie or a game that requires a huge, secondary download after install?

Let’s take a look on iTunes at the popular movie “X-Men: First Class”. It packs a 1.79 GB download. While I don’t think the Amazon “portable” version will weigh in at this size, users will still need to think about their storage, and that’s never good.

Silk Web Acceleration

Silk promises many things, and to the user it promises faster web page downloads for a more enjoyable browsing experience. It could, potentially, eliminate any browser compatibility issues with the device and a web page. For example, even if the Silk browser didn’t support  the latest or oldest web standards, by pre-rendering certain elements of the page, the user wouldn’t detect a thing, only that they can interact with the web page.

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This begs about 100 questions, but I’ll leave that for another analysis. I do have a few I will highlight.

  • Privacy: Amazon knows everywhere I’ve been. Is there a way to opt out? How will it protect my personal information ?
  • Standards: Which will it support, which won’t it?
  • Security: Will it capture my passwords?
  • Control: Will user have any kind of control over which sites get “silked” and which ones don’t? I can’t expect Amazon to pre-render every site correctly, particularly the smaller ones.

Conclusion

On paper, the Amazon Kindle Fire appears to provide an exceptional value proposition for the consumer who is on a budget and cannot afford the iPad 2. There are, however, many unknowns that have yet to be determined that could impact the user’s experience. My experience with Amazon is that they under-promise and over-deliver. It’s been that way since their existence. I don’t think they are going to stop that given the importance of Kindle Fire to Amazon. I ordered mine within 5 minutes of the “doors” open up and I’ll hopefully have the answers to these questions above.