Tablets are Everywhere
Right now it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing either an advertisement for an iPad, a store that is actively selling iPads, or someone physically holding an iPad. Sure, once in a while you might come across an Android tablet; the Nexus 7 is gaining popularity and getting rave reviews. It has even signaled an industry trend in transitioning from the iconic ten inch displays to something a little smaller. Since Windows 8 will shake things up in late October, iPad Mini chatter abounds and the holidays are right around the corner, now is the time for the other players to start making some noise. With Thursday’s press conference, Amazon and its revamped Kindle Fire HD have certainly heated up the tablet market.
History of the Kindle
The first generation of Kindles hit the market in 2007 and sold out almost immediately. The novel idea of carrying a backpack full of books inside of something smaller than a book itself caught everyone’s attention. Through several iterations, the Kindle expanded and diversified. In 2011, the original, full touch screen, color display Kindle Fire debuted and pulled Amazon into the tablet war (even though they continued to sell simple e-readers that remain wildly successful).
The Cost Factor
For most of us, $500 is a substantial amount of money. That’s especially true if we’re shelling it out for something that people usually just watch videos, read books and play “Draw Something” on. Android tablets and e-readers have offered a cost effective option to consumers for a few years now. Over the summer, Google teamed up with ASUS to set the bar at $199 and gave the world a spectacular handheld companion that wouldn’t break the bank. Jeff Bezos successfully limbo-ed that bar and is also offering up a $199 seven inch tablet as well as a host other options.
The entire announcement encompassed several additions to the Kindle family, and did not just focus on price tags. Bezos explained that “People don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services that improve over time.” Instead of selling individual gadgets as commodities, Amazon wants to offer people pieces of technology that enrich their daily lives and evolve alongside them. He said, “We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.”
The Kindle lineup now includes a re-done basic Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite (formerly the Kindle Touch), the seven inch Kindle Fire HD, and the brand new Kindle Fire HD 8.9”. Screen resolution, features and all specifications can be found here. Pricing looks like this:
Wifi – $119
3g – $179
Kindle Fire HD:
7” 16 GB – $199, 32 GB – $249
8.9” 16 GB – $299, 32 GB – $369
4G LTE 32 GB – $499, 64 GB – $599
Cornering the Market
The Kindle Fire HD is, without a doubt, a game-changing force. With an established name, the latest in features and reasonable price points Amazon is a force to be reckoned with. The 8.9” could end up stealing the show with users. Constant debate and varying opinions have formed two major camps in tablet size. Steve Jobs believed that 10” was the magic number, while many are partial to the less cumbersome 7 inchers. 8.9 could surprise everyone and end up filling the highly sought after “Goldilocks” role in the tablet world.
Specifications other than size for the HD are also looking impressive. The pixel density of its screen is on par with Apple’s retina displays and it has a “laminated” touch sensor that makes it streamlined and more responsive. A more powerful OMAP chip and an updated Graphic Processing Unit also lend themselves to a more enjoyable, snappier experience. Stereo speakers are something seldom found on tablets and new advancements in MIMO antennae have made Wi-Fi reception faster. Initial demos have shown just a few problems including buggy navigation and slow transitions. These issues can be sorted out and do not reflect the quality of the hardware itself.
Overall, the Kindle Fire HD appears to be the perfect sidekick for the media-centric. Amazon’s suite of software and wealth of content are convenient and useful, but not necessarily for everyone. Personally, I would love to have a Kindle, but I’m discouraged that it really runs on a closed system that just supports what Amazon wants it to. For the same price, I’d be more inclined to pick up a Nexus to have access to the latest version of Android, more sensors, and the freedom to customize.