The Kindle Keyboard has been the overall recommendation of this site, and myself in particular, since it was first introduced. It stands out from the current generation for a couple reasons, but mostly due to its unrestricted internet access. The Kindle Touch 3G has its cellular connectivity restricted. Apparently that sort of freedom was costing Amazon a bit more than they liked. Users will now find their internet usage capped to a mere 50mb each month.
For the most part this will prove little problem. The Kindle’s screen, while amazing for reading, is not well suited for most of the bandwidth-intensive tasks that people generally put their portable devices to. You’re not going to have the option of watching a movie on your Kindle eReader, which is part of the reason the Kindle Fire was made. Even music downloads, which make sense knowing that the Kindle has the ability to play MP3s, are largely difficult to manage except through storefronts and social media pages that the Kindle’s Experimental Browser is less than suited for.
The most likely explanation for this change to the service agreement is that too many people have caught on to the possibility of using the Kindle’s 3G access on another mobile device. This hack was widely publicized when a reliable method developed and seemed likely to end up little more than a bit of trivia in the days that followed. Yes it is possible to enable wireless tethering of a sort, but it is obviously against the terms of service and the practice is far from anonymous.
Apparently people have been doing it anyway. Amazon has been cracking down on these Kindle abusers individually, limiting their device’s access to the Kindle Store and Amazon.com, but that takes manpower and there is almost certainly a waiting list as each abuser is warned. Adding the 50mb per month cap prevents outright abuse in the meantime.
Given what we know about software changes from model to model, this may be the start of something more significant for the Kindle line in general. By limiting the usefulness of the Kindle Keyboard, Amazon is setting things up to remove the device entirely. This allows them to save on everything from firmware updates to 3G charges as customers move into the hardware we’re expecting to see in the next few months. They clearly want to make some of the new features like X-Ray into Kindle brand selling points, but that’s not going to happen while so many users are still happy with their older model.
If you like to have your laptop hooked to a Kindle Keyboard for free 3G access, you’re probably going to be very unhappy in the days and weeks to come. Amazon hasn’t commented, but this crackdown is likely to get bigger and stick around. If you’re a normal user who just grabs the occasional eBook or website then you’ll likely never run into this new limitation. Either way, keep an eye out for the hardware upgrade that’s around the corner. Amazon is likely to be pushing upgrader incentives to build interest.