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Fire on Friday

November 18, 2011

Kindle FireFor the last 24 hours I’ve been playing around with the new Kindle Fire. I have just two words — awe some.

First the good stuff.

The Fire is fast. It runs Android so there was essentially no learning curve. It runs much like my Droid Bionic. Web surfing is very fast on the Amazon Silk© cloud based servers.

With the “Last Used” Carousel sitting atop the home screen it’s very easy to get back to your recent apps. From there you can quickly add a favorite app to the bookshelves below.

The Fire will be a great little personal video viewer using either Amazon Instant Videos or Netflix. The screen resolution is marvelous and video plays with absolutely no skip or chatter. The on-board speakers are adequate but sound is much better with ear-buds.

Amazon made it very easy to get to their content, which explains the low price. They want you buying books, music, videos, and TV shows from them. With the One-Click-Buy feature it will be almost too easy to drop coin into Amazon’s purse. In many ways the Kindle Fire is simply an Amazon Point-of-Sale device. Amazon should see a big jump in content purchase when the first wave of these things hit the network. The increased content sales will be needed to offset the hit brought on by the high manufacturing cost of the Kindle Fire. Knowledgeable insiders believe the unit production cost to be around $250 each. It’s like Amazon is slipping a fifty into every box they sell for $199.

One of the Kindle’s strong points is its Magazine delivery service. The word magazine doesn’t even do justice to the kind of publication you can receive. I took a look at a free trial of Wired. The content is amazing with added content enhancements, video, and music. Online subscriptions bring a new magic and power to the common periodical.

So what about the bad?

Well, there are a couple of glaring deficiencies. The device is short on memory and connection. Unlike the iPad which can connect to a 3G network, if you are willing to pay that premium, the Fire is only connectable on WiFi. That means that you would not be able to access the Kindle Store or the internet unless you are connected to a WiFi source. For many people this won’t be an issue. They’ll only be using the Fire where WiFi is available. If you want full connectivity wherever you go then this device may not be for you.

One connectivity option (that comes with a price tag) is the ability to tether the Fire to a Smartphone. For example, if I wanted to pay the monthly access fee to Verizon (on top of the data plan already in place) I can turn my smartphone into a hot-spot. Effectively the phone would become the WiFi source for the Kindle. That’s not worth the $20 a month it would cost me to do so but for some it would be a good option.

The other issue is the minuscule amout of on-board memory. Eight gig isn’t much for a device that plays videos considering movies by themselves take up about two gig each. Right out of the box you don’t even have the full eight gig. The Android operating system takes up about a gig. Load a few apps and available memory reduces quite quickly. I loaded about 200 songs into the library and those took up a half gig. Again, if you are always connected to WiFi it’s not an issue. You can easily stream from your cloud storage.

The absence of an SD card slot to add additional memory is curious but understandable. It was a price matter where each added feature added more cost. Amazon’s target price was always below $200. To meet that sacrifices had to be made. Bluetooth would’ve been a nice option but again, it was something they chose to do without to achieve the price point.

The one thing that really stands out is the weight. Compared to its precursor, the Kindle eReader, this thing is like a boat anchor. It’s heavy and well built. I expect it has a durability to last many seasons of hard use.

In spite of the perceived shortcomings this a great entry level tablet. For what I want it to be it will be ideal. If I do use it away from the WiFi it will only be as a reader and music player.

Oh, and this things breaths new life into Angry Birds. The game is actually sized up enough to where my weary eyes can see it easily.

So far I’ve just scratched the surface of what this thing can do. As time goes on and I get more comfortable with the device, the Kindle Fire will become my go-to personal content appliance.

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One Comment
  1. November 18, 2011 2:18 pm

    Ditto all you said……(I think).

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