Talking tech since 2003

What do you get when you combine Amazon’s well-established “Kindle” eBook reader with the power and flexibility of Google’s Android mobile operating system on an elegantly designed seven-inch full-color touch-screen tablet?  As this week has shown us, the answer to this question is Amazon’s new “Kindle Fire”; a much awaited tablet computer that offers a competitive (yet not cutting-edge) set of features for an almost irresistible $199 price-point.  Sure, users who order this device on November 15th aren’t going to be able to lug their entire media library with them using the relatively small 8GB of storage, and users looking for a camera or 3G connectivity are going to be out of luck, but nonetheless Amazon has really pulled together to create what may very well be a killer product.

While the mobile industry is starting to become somewhat occupied with low-end tablets, what really makes the Kindle Fire an interesting device that stands out from the rest is the fact that Amazon has built an entire infrastructure over the last year or so that helps to make the Fire a very well-connected and attractive device for Internet-centric users.  The little things like Amazon’s music store, application store for Android-based devices, video rental services, and of course the legendary eBook service that served as the foundation for the original Kindle line’s success more or less puts Amazon’s new tablet offering up to par with Apple’s concept of having everything built into the device as a native offering.

But as much as I love what Amazon has done with the Kindle Fire, my readings on this device and its specs have brought me to the conclusion that while the device is definitely a remarkable product for a first release, there are definitely areas that need to be improved before large-scale success is really viable for the Kindle Fire.

The first thing to come to my mind is the fact that the device completely lacks the 3G option.  While users like myself who typically hang out in the same places (e.g. work and home, for me) and essentially have constant access to wireless Internet likely won’t mind the missing option, I think that Amazon’s decision not to make it available was simply foolish.  Seeing as how the device has a relatively limited storage offering that amounts to only half of what the baseline iPad includes, Amazon seems to have banked on users utilizing “the cloud” for storage and connectivity to streaming media; something that is apparent with the “unlimited” cloud-based storage for “Amazon content”.  But without the option for constant connectivity via 3G, my feeling is that true mobile users are going to find the Kindle Fire to be nothing more than a pricey paperweight.

I think Amazon really dropped the ball on this, and the fact that the device doesn’t offer a larger storage disk (not even as an upgrade option) to make up for the lack of 3G connectivity really makes me wonder just how many users the device will be able to appeal to.  Of course I like the low price-point, but I’d rather have seen Amazon elect to offer a slightly higher-priced option at $249 or so that offered more power needed for true mobile users.  And I don’t think I’m not being unreasonable, either.  All I’m saying is that Amazon should have offered a larger drive or 3G connectivity, because I think that users would be more than willing to pay for a single feature that would exponentially increase the potential functionality of the device.

All that said, though, the Kindle Fire really is an awesome-looking device for the money.  Last year I gladly paid around $140 to buy a Kindle Keyboard with WiFi connectivity, and for the extra $60 I really think that a year later the Kindle Fire is a much better bang for the buck, especially considering the fact that the original black and white Kindle eBook readers were about double the price of this more powerful device.  That said, I’m already planning on ordering two or three of these to send back to my distant family as gifts in the upcoming and impending holiday season, even though I’ll likely wait on ordering one for myself until the next release when Amazon will (hopefully) add a bit more functionality.

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