“Spartan and clean.” That’s how Information Week describes Amazon’s new Kindle Fire. Better yet, it could probably be called the “no frills” tablet. At $199, it certainly offers a tempting price tag, but reduced cost means reduced features, and the growing number of iPad features are what keep people coming back for more.
Take the size, because yes, size does matter. The Kindle Fire weights about one-third less than the iPad, but the difference is really minimal. The iPad weighs 1.3 pounds, while the Kindle Fire weighs just under a pound. Does that extra third of a pound really make difference? Will it make it too heavy to carry around? Hardly.
One the other hand, the difference comes at a cost. The Fire is mildly thicker—about 2.5 millimeters, which is nothing—but its screen is just 7 inches, or 2.7 inches less than an iPad screen. That may be okay for people raised on smart phone screens, but for watching a movie or browsing the web, that extra two inches can make a difference. The Fire also comes without a camera, which means that users will still have to carry that extra weight around with them if they want to record their experiences for posterity.
Then there is storage. The Kindle Fire only comes with 8GB, while the iPad starts at 16GB and can—for a price—go all the way up to 64GB. And of course, external memory drives are even cheaper.
Finally, the Fire isn’t even out yet, and won’t be until November 15. That may be right in time for Christmas, but many people are suggesting that a much enhanced, next generation Fire will be ready sometime during the first quarter of 2012. If Amazon is able to keep the price down while improving on the current model, that may be what people are waiting for.
And keeping the price down is certainly possible. Amazon could be looking at the Kindle Fire as a platform rather than a product, and an easy way to get its real products—books, movies, music—into the hands of its customers, for a price. There’s even historical precedent for that. During the Depression, manufacturers practically handed out radios for free, recognizing that they were a great way to push advertising.
It’s also very possible that Amazon’s content could increase considerably, if Internet chatter is any indication. Many analysts are now suggesting that Amazon could corner the video streaming market by purchasing a beleaguered Netflix. “Amazon has always wanted to be in the streaming business, and has been constrained from buying Netflix due to tax considerations … Netflix streaming has current content deals that provide it with access to movie content during the premium cable TV window, and Amazon has the financial resources to secure additional streaming rights, including Starz content,” says analyst Michael Pachter.
That new monster—Netazon or Amaflix—would have the perfect platform with a revamped Kindle Fire. But for that, people will have to wait a few more months, if it even happens at all. And it will definitely need a bigger screen…