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Amazon Kindle Fire first impressions: Solid but limited

Melissa J. Perenson | Sept. 29, 2011
My gut reaction to what I saw today: This is not the Amazon tablet we've all been looking for.

One more nit to pick: Although the interface seemed visually appealing overall, the music player looked surprisingly rough. When playing a track, the interface appeared to pay some attention to detail, but I can't say the same about the album and track listings, for example.

What Amazon Did Right

Amazon succeeds with the Kindle Fire in several respects. First and foremost is the price: At $199, the Kindle Fire falls into territory that won't make a huge dent in consumers' pocketbooks, and it's almost, but not quite, an impulse buy.

Another win: Its on-board storefronts for Kindle books, Android apps, and movies and TV shows are visually appealing. The device's tight ties to the various storefronts, coupled with the company's vast selection of movies, TV episodes, books, and music, set the Kindle Fire apart from the crowded pack of generic Android tablets, which can play content but have no direct hooks to stores (beyond the books and movie rentals in Google's Market). With the Kindle Fire, acquiring content and using it on your tablet looks to be seamless. More critically, seeing what's in the cloud for you to download should be simple, too--as simple as tapping on the content, and tapping Download. Of course, it's difficult to say just how deep and smooth the integration is, given the limited bits on display at the launch.

The Kindle Fire's reasonable price, together with the potential of widespread Android app support, makes the device an enticing option, especially for families who want to give a tablet to the kids without having to blast through five bills. The Kindle Fire is clearly first and foremost an entertainment-consumption companion to Amazon's services. The ability to install apps and do anything more with the tablet--handling email, sharing photos, and the like--really feels like a secondary operation. At that point it makes me wonder whether the Kindle Fire is truly a "tablet" or just a content-playback machine with some extra smarts.

In many ways, the Kindle Fire isn't trying to beat the iPad or the Android-tablet masses at their own game. The Kindle Fire is doing its own thing, and going after a totally different audience.

 

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