Kindle Touch and New Kindle

No one announces just one product at an event these days, and Amazon is no different. Along with the Kindle Fire, Amazon saw fit to refresh their line of e-readers. E-reader enthusiasts, you know who you are, will recognize the technology behind the new Kindle Touch from the likes of the new Nook and the Kobo. The IR sensor laden e-ink display allows touch inputs to be received and elicit page turns and other UI interactions. Now devoid of many of its buttons, including the full QWERTY keyboard of its predecessors, the Kindle Touch is smaller than the Kindle 3 and comes at a new price point, $99. For that you get the WiFi model which promises faster page refreshes and so on. Free global wireless internet for life is the promise of the 3G variant, which at just a $50 premium makes it a terribly good bargain. 


Also joining the keyboardless clan is the new Kindle. This device shares the new e-ink panel with the Touch, but makes do with a hand full of navigation buttons in lieu of the touch screen. The device is significantly lighter and smaller than its predecessor, no doubt owing much to the loss of the keyboard, and brings the e-reader market to a new price target at just $79. The new Kindle will be offered in WiFi only guise, so bibiliphilic globetrotters will have to make do with the Kindle Touch 3G. Amazon also saw fit to unite its AmazonLocal deals service with the Special Offers that graced the last generation of Kindles. The new ads will be displayed as screensavers on the entire e-ink line and are promised to maintain a certain aesthetic so that a buyer would hardly notice that it's not just a pretty screensaver. 


Leading up to the announcement, I expected that Amazon would leverage its media offerings to make a tablet that could compete with Apple on content. Beyond that I had no idea what would be in store. It comes as little suprise though that Amazon saw fit to completely obfuscate the Android platform beneath a UI that steers the argument decidedly in favor of the tablet as media consumptive device. Based on these first looks, the UI is elegant and friendly, and the hardware is sufficient enough to provide a good media experience. And at $199, no other tablet offers as compelling a combination of services, content and value. We can't wait to get our hands on the Kindle Fire and discover whether Amazon has set the tablet market ablaze, or simply joined the other kindling. 

The New Kindle Family
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  • JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    If it is the OMAP 4430 then it'll be as well performing at gaming as any other tablet out there, bar the iPad.
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    So instead of web browsing using up only the user's bandwidth, it also uses up Amazon's bandwidth.... twice (once inbound, once outbound, although they will probably implement caching to reduce some of the inbound). As mentioned in the article, download speed does not really seem to be the bottleneck when it comes to Web browsing on tablets (although CPU+GPU time will be less eaten up by smaller graphics that don't need resizing to display). The biggest problem is that this system will require a long-term dedication of resources on Amazon's part. Same with the free lifetime 3G service on some Kindles.... Amazon sells you the Kindle once but is required to maintain services for it indefinitely. This is not a good business model from Amazon (and of course, at $200 they can hardly be making anything from the hardware, if they're not actually losing money on it). Amazon has awesome sales numbers but barely eeks out a profit from its operations. It is amazingly well-run, but retailing is always a race to the bottom on pricing. This tablet doesn't seem like it will help much; most everybody who wants an e-reader already has a normal Kindle, so the Kindle Fire won't add many incremental e-book sales. Android apps could turn into a profit center, but they have a long way to go before their sales catch up with Apple.

    All that said, as a long-term Apple fan, user and shareholder, this tablet does concern me to a certain degree. 7" is half the screen area of 10", and there are other apparent flaws, but selling at a 60% discount to the cheapest iPad can make up for a whole lot of flaws. I think that Apple will have to drop pricing to compete, maybe by keeping the iPad 2 in the lineup at a reduced price when they introduce the iPad 3. Other Android tablets have failed because of price and marketing reach. The Nook Color has been limited mostly by B&N's flawed marketing (if they sold it as a full-fledged Android tablet instead of a colorful e-reader, I think it would do better). Amazon has both problems fixed, and also has the value-add of their own curated App Store. I think that the Kindle Fire will easily take the 2nd place position in tablet sales.

    This creates an interesting dynamic between Amazon and Google. Amazon is basically forking Android with this tablet. Google can't be happy if Amazon takes over the #1 Android Tablet position with a non-official Android tablet. I would personally be pleased if Amazon purchased WebOS from HP and put it into the Kindle Fire.... with whatever tweaks Amazon sees fit to add. I don't want to see WebOS die, and nobody has yet seen the Amazon version of Android, so it's unclear what we're going to be getting. I guess that will be the biggest question mark heading into November.... Amazon has no experience with non-web-based UI design. I'm sure they've got a ton of smart OS hackers making their cloud work, but that doesn't always translate into being able to create a nice UI. The "bookshelf" UI looks very attractive, but it might get clunky when you try to scale it. I'm not such a big fan of Apple's "Rows of Icons" UI, but it always runs smoothly and it's fairly easy to keep things organized and find what you want. I'm looking forward to AnandTech's review of the Kindle Fire.
  • JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Remember that when Amazon caches a tablet optimized version of, say, Anandtech, it only updates the deltas throughout the day and can now offer that single cached copy to anyone that asks for it. So when millions of readers visit the site the cached copy is the perfect size to minimize bandwidth usage. And while you're right that this is a big commitment, Amazon has positions themselves to be a powerhouse in cloud services for some time. Their rates on storage and bandwidth alone are enough to draw clients as varied as Apple and Lilly.
    I will be curious if Silk shows up on other devices, phones for instance could take fuller advantage of the potential, especially when you consider that a decade after mobile versions of sites started to appear, most are anemic versions of their desktop counterparts.
    Thanks for the comment!
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Your example of Anandtech actually makes it worse for Amazon. I am logged in to AT and I am shown a personalized view of every page ("Welcome slashbinslashbash!"). There are a lot of sites that work like this, and for any of them the caching option just won't work -- Amazon will have no choice but to pull down a full version of each page the user loads. They can still cache graphics (which presumably don't change from user to user) but they are still going to require tons of storage and bandwidth to handle this. I know they're Amazon and their cloud is the biggest, but still, if they're going to ever make a profit off the Kindle Fire then they may want to reconsider whether Silk is a good solution. It is a small plus at best for the end-user, and a loss for Amazon.
  • batmanuel - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    That personalization is only a small element of the page. The graphics and article text are all going to be the same for various users, so those parts can be reused.
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    The graphics are the same and won't be re-downloaded by Amazon, but the article text is part of the same HTML file that the personalized element is part of. Amazon can't send a request for just the top part of the HTML file from Anandtech's web servers, and Anandtech's servers can't send it; it's all or nothing (barring, of course, any AJAX components).

    In any case, it's still using bandwidth from Amazon to the end-user, which Amazon wouldn't have to pay for if they used a traditional browser on the Kindle. I know Amazon has bandwidth to spare, but it still costs them money in the end.
  • batmanuel - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    HTML is often the smallest part of most web pages. The HTML for this particular webpage is 123 kb. It's all of the other elements of the page: Flash elements, graphics, advertisements, stylesheets, etc. that can be reused, and those can be reused easily since they are always the same. Tiny HTML files are nothing for a company like Amazon that gives away online storage and music streaming.
  • batmanuel - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    That should read: ."..stylesheets, etc. that use up all the bandwidth."
  • empedocles - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Actually, Silk is how Amazon will make money, a huge pile of money over time. Because of the way Silk works, Amazon will be able to capture complete web usage data for all the Kindle Fire users. They will then be able to correlate this with each person's content buying habits, content usage patterns, Amazon purchase info, Fire app usage info, etc. And Amazon will sell this highly personal data, similar to how Facebook sells highly detailed personal information on each user. Silk provides a high value revenue stream for Amazon and helps make it possible to offer the Kindle Fire at $199. Hence one can see that Silk is a critical component of the Fire's business model and that Fire might have been priced significantly higher if Amazon hadn't included Silk. Like it or not, selling user data seems to be par for the course for most tech companies. Silk is the technology that enables the capture of highly profitable web usage information for Amazon. To present it as anything else is at least in part disingenuous.
  • slashbinslashbash - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Hmm, that has a depressing ring of truth to it. I wonder if it will be possible to disable that part of Silk. I for one am already tired enough of our Google overlords; I don't think I want to welcome Amazon as a secondary one. I wonder if they are going to make Silk available on other platforms too? You're right, that could end up being a significant revenue stream.

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