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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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State of the Kindle Wrap-Up Before Anticipated Sep 6th Hardware Upgrade Announcement

Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination.  The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.”  It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.  That’s really not much to go on.  Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.

About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles.  The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch.  The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there.  It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.

The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success.  The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark.  That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however.  The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.

The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand.  Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.

FCC Filings

Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader.  This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.

On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire.  It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered.  Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders.  It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.

The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st.  A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”.  While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.

This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle.  The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements.  All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting.  Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.

State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?

There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences.  We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).

The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases.  The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays.  Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime.  Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.

Firedock Trademark

In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock.  That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.

The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories.  An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that.  The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it.  Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.

Nexus 7 and Nook Competition

With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition.  Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.

Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity.  Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.

On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well.  While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard.  Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.

Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two.  Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue.  At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device.  It just didn’t impress by comparison.  Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree.  Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.

iPad Mini Competition

The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon.  While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market.  The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.

At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable.  Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply.  The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch.  They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve.  This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.

Wrap-up

Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by.  The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock.  You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access.  The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.

Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire.  Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.

We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available.  This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations.  It’s going to be an interesting announcement.

Kindle Fire 2 Expected This Week

At long last, it seems we might get to see what Amazon has really accomplished in their efforts to update the Kindle Fire to be competitive with other big name tablets like the Nexus 7.  Signs point to a hardware upgrade coming in the next few days, which would be good news given that the previously speculated initial release date was two weeks ago now.  This week may just give us a good idea of exactly how much of a chance the Kindle Fire has of retaining its now-dominant position in the Android tablet market.

It seems safe to say that Amazon intends to at least announce their new products in a batch.  This would include a new Kindle Fire, possibly a larger scale variation on the Kindle Fire, and at least one new Kindle eReader.  This is based on a combination of intersecting timetables and the previous Kindle eReader release that brought us the Kindle Touch.  Since Amazon is basically required to put out a front-lit Kindle at this point if they want to stay competitive in terms of hardware, it would make little sense to miss an opportunity to join that side of the business with the more versatile tablet side.

To make room for the expected new release, Amazon has quietly discontinued a large part of their eReader selection.  The Kindle Keyboard WiFi is simply gone.  The Kindle Touch 3G appears to be gone as well.  Even the WiFi version of the Kindle Touch is currently listed as having delays from 3-5 days for the Special Offers option and no stock at all for the ad-free model.  We also noticed that earlier this week Amazon used the Kindle DX as one of their Daily Deals selections, discounting it by $110 for a day.  The basic $79 Kindle is still available, but it would be surprising if anything else is shipping out right now at all, regardless of rough delivery estimates made by the Amazon.com site.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is still listed as in stock and shipping immediately.  Whether this is true or not is open to speculation, but it would fit with some of the rumors we have reported here previously.  Amazon may be planning to continue offering the existing Kindle Fire at a discounted rate for a while in order to increase the rate at which users attach themselves to the Amazon digital services ecosystem.

A lot has been done lately to prepare for this release.  Amazon has updated their music, video, and Android gaming capabilities significantly since a year ago when the first Kindle Fire was announced.  While nobody really expects that the Kindle Fire 2, or whatever Amazon decides it will be called in the end, will be able to claim superiority over the Nexus 7 on paper, that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily have trouble competing.  A decent facelift, improved software, and more integrated services than ever before are a guarantee.  Somehow it doesn’t seem like they’re likely to stop at that, though.

New Kindle Fire Models Any Time Now, But Not Six of Them

A recent report based on information coming from a Staples executive has had the internet abuzz with rumors about there being as many as six Kindle Fire tablets on the way any time now.  Demos Parneros, president of US Retail for Staples Inc, indicated that they have six SKUs ready for the upcoming release.  Naturally Amazon has declined to comment on any of these rumors, but the chances of there actually being six new tablets on the way are incredibly low.

This is not to say there will be nothing new.  Chances are very good that both a 7” Kindle Fire and a larger 10” Kindle Fire will be released at the same time.  We also have information from previous such stories that tells us the existing Kindle Fire will be re-released at a lower price with a slightly improved screen to help Amazon once again corner the Android tablet market.  It’s reasonable to expect that will be as far as the expansion of the line goes, however.

New SKUs do not mean entirely distinct new products.  If we assume that at least one of the tablets will have 4G connectivity available as an option, that option would be its own distinct SKU.  The same would be true for each variation in storage space.  An 8GB Kindle Fire and a 16GB Kindle Fire would be separated even if they were otherwise identical.

Six SKUs could be as simple as Amazon offering either extra storage space or optional 4G connectivity for each of the three models we are expecting.  Alternatively, we may still see only 7” releases at this time and find a “Kindle Fire Original” along with Kindle Fire 2 models featuring varying combinations of storage space and such.  It isn’t hard to come up with minor variations that account for the Staples information.

All of the speculation about there being completely unexpected products, such as a Kindle Phone, is jumping the gun.  That sort of thing may happen, and some people consider it to be almost inevitable, but it will not be coming in the next could weeks.  After all, what sense would it make for Amazon to release so many options that no particular Kindle Fire successor was able to capture public interest?  This is clearly a company that knows better than to do something that reckless, however sure they may be of their position in the market right this minute.

Kindle Fire Release Rumors, and What is More Likely to Happen

There is a major rumor going around that six different Kindle Fire models will be released next week.  The six models may include different screen sizes, resolutions, and who knows what else. These rumors are coming from reputable sources, but no one will truly know what is going to happen until the tablet is actually released.

If that does happen, it will most likely be a 7″ updated Kindle Fire, and a 10″ tablet to compete with the iPad.  These two will possibly have 3G and wi-fi options.  The current model only has wi-fi.  Then a refurbished first generation Kindle Fire will be available at a discounted price until supplies run out.

So the focus will more likely be just two different kinds of tablets that have different connectivity offerings.  That is similar to the set up Amazon currently has with their e-ink Kindle models.

Both 7″ and 10″ models have some heavy competition from the Nexus 7, and of course, the iPad.  Amazon’s advantage will be the books and apps because there are so many of them.  I’m sure they’ll also come out ahead with the price.  In addition to these features, the Kindle Fire will need to include a camera and an updated display to remain competitive.  It makes my head spin to think about the cutthroat competition going on out in the tablet market.

One thing I’d like to see for the 10″ Kindle Fire, if released, is a keyboard. The biggest frustration I’ve had with my iPad is the inability to do more heavy duty computing.  A lot of this comes from the lack of a fully integrated keyboard.  An example of one is the soon to be released Microsoft Surface tablet.  It comes with a smart cover that houses the keyboard.  If Amazon can pull this off plus debut at a price to beat, they can pull some potential iPad consumers towards the Kindle Fire.

So, we’ll see what happens.  This holiday season’s going to be jam packed with tablet options.  That’s for sure.

 

Could a Kindle Phone Really Redefine the Smartphone Market?

Interest in a potential Kindle Phone has been rising ever since Bloomberg reported that Amazon was in the middle of testing said phone.  The logic behind the move is arguably sound for Amazon, which leaves people fairly certain that it will happen.  After all, if there are customers to be gained and the sort of 24/7 connection that many people have with their smartphones can be tied into Amazon services then the hardware line is worth it even if it doesn’t generate a dollar in sales on its own.  What is especially interesting about all of this speculation, however, is the idea that Amazon is on the verge of upsetting the smartphone market in a major way.

To really understand the potential impact of a Kindle Phone, we have to look at what they have already done with the Kindle Fire.  Users get access to an affordable, functional consumption device that is tied into Amazon.com.  There are no major optional features, none of Google’s default Android services, and no efforts are being made to pretend that it is anything more than what it is able to be.  All the designers cared about was how to get people the best access to Amazon’s media at the lowest price.

Let’s carry that through to a phone.  Obviously we would be talking about something highly affordable.  That is how the company defines their products.  It would have to be exclusively connected to Amazon’s own services, which means no Google interaction.  In a market increasingly pushing for universal access to turn-by-turn directions, calendar alarm notifications, and constant digital communications access, this could be slightly problematic.  Even the Email app that shipped with the Kindle Fire didn’t quite work right at first, so it is hard to imagine them solving every possible problem with a new, more complex Android implementation so soon.

This doesn’t rule out an Amazon phone, but it does place it in a certain bracket.  Just as the Kindle Fire doesn’t try to directly compete with the iPad, perhaps a Kindle Phone would avoid trying to compete with the iPhone.

There is a great deal of exposure to be gained if they choose to go with a “pay as you go” device.  A Kindle Phone with the ability to connect to WiFi networks could be sold cheaply to millions of budget-conscious consumers.  Even if they didn’t need it as a phone, the iPod Touch has demonstrated in the past that there is a level of consumer demand for such hardware.  The ability to add prepaid minutes to a calling plan would just add a level of functionality to make it marketable while avoiding many of the hassles inherent in dealing with a normal carrier.

There is too little information to go on so far, and it is still definitely possible that Amazon will come out with a whole array of new services to make up for the lack of Google integration by the time a Kindle Phone sees the light of day.  It might even turn out to be a high end device that puts every Android smartphone on the market to shame.  The Kindle Fire set the tone for Amazon’s Android hardware, however, and the theme there has been one of simplicity and affordability.  I think it is unlikely to see that change just yet.

Kindle Fire 4G Anticipated For July 31st Reveal

Supposed upstream supply sources have released information that may pertain to the upcoming announcement of the Kindle Fire 2.  This info, coming through NPD DisplaySearch Analyst Richard Shim, indicates slightly different production emphases than the recent BGR article talked about, but is otherwise mostly consistent.  While this must be taken with a great deal of caution, upstream supply chain sources being notoriously unreliable and often interpreted poorly, the implications are worth exploring.

The report in question talks about four upcoming Kindle Fire models:

  • 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1024 x 600 Display
  • 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display and Camera
  • 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display, Camera, and 4G Internet Access
  • 8.9” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1920 x 1200 Display

Of these, according to Shim, the two basic 7” models are scheduled to begin production in August while the 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 4G Internet Access will have to wait until September.  The larger model will not be available until it’s time for holiday sales.

Along with this information, we get notice of an upgrade to the pixel density of the Kindle Fire 2’s screen.  Like the Nexus 7 from Google, it will now be a 216 PPI display.  For context, the existing Kindle Fire has a 1024 x 600 display with 170 pixels per inch.

There are two vital pieces of information to take from this, as well as one fairly interesting point that may be useful later this year.

First, while there will still be a lower resolution Kindle Fire model made available for under $199, this information would indicate that there have been hardware changes.  The most inexpensive Kindle Fire model available after the new hardware is announced will not simply be backstocked units of Amazon’s current tablet.

Second, the Kindle Fire 2 will likely be able to beat Google’s Nexus 7 to 4G connectivity.  If Amazon can pull that off, it will be a huge boost to their reputation in the tablet market and would lead to increased sales.  We are certainly not looking at the potential for unlimited free cellular transfer as in the Kindle eReader line, due to the volume of data involved in media streaming and app downloads, but just having the option available will open doors.

This report also points to the larger Kindle Fire 2 being an 8.9” device rather than the 10.1” device that many have been hoping for.  Since we are looking at slightly more distant production there will be more room for variation and this is in direct conflict with other equally “reliable” sources.  Nonetheless, going with a slightly smaller size might be a productive choice if Amazon is looking to both keep the costs down on their own device and avoid too many direct comparisons with the industry-leading 9.7” iPad.  Clearer size differences mean fewer side by side comparisons.

Either way, keep an eye out for highly discounted Kindle Fire offers.  If we’re moving into a new generation of devices, Amazon’s likely to have “refurbished” units on sale.

Amazon Kindle Smartphone Rumor Spreads

According to people with knowledge of the situation, Amazon is planning to bring out their own smartphone to compete with Apple’s iPhone line.  A Bloomberg revelation provided that information recently.  The idea of a Kindle phone is something that has been touched on here before, particularly during the days leading up to the formal announcement of the Kindle Fire when anything seemed possible.  It is increasingly likely that this is going to be the next stage of Kindle growth now that a tablet presence has been established.

The Kindle Fire gives the retail giant a foothold in portable electronics in a way that even the Kindle eReader couldn’t accomplish.  The Kindle built its own market and basically kicked off the previously minimal eBook industry.  The Kindle Fire proved that Amazon was both willing and able to enter into an existing device market and hold their own.  In addition to building up consumer trust, it helps get things ready to enter into an even more competitive market.

Selling a smartphone is not likely to be a simple task, even for Amazon.  This is not a company known for passing any large amount of control to their partners.  While it is standard practice for carriers to demand custom devices, it is hard to imagine a Kindle phone going that way.  The whole point of Amazon’s hardware development is to lock people into a fairly closed loop of media services provided by Amazon and nobody else.  Allowing carrier customization would seem likely to dilute their own branding somewhat.

This move would also open the company up to any number of patent disputes.  It doesn’t matter whether they manage to acquire a large patent portfolio to defend against infringements, though sources indicate that this is exactly what is happening already, lawsuits over mobile devices are the norm rather than the exception right now.

On the plus side, the fact that Amazon already has a well-received fork of the popular Android OS will help them get off the ground.  Despite running on Google’s software, the experience provided by the Kindle Fire is sufficiently unique to make it stand out.  A similar effort released in a smartphone would provide an attractive alternative to the competition.

It would also greatly expand the potential user base for Amazon’s Appstore for Android, which many users find preferable to Google Play’s less carefully policed app store already.  More users would naturally add additional pressure for app developers who might be on the fence about signing up with Amazon so far.

Since we have no more solid information aside from comments by “people who should know”, this can’t be taken too seriously.  It would definitely be a smart move in some ways, but the added expenses from carriers, legal defenses, and assorted other problems particular to the mobile communications industry would make it difficult for Amazon to continue maintaining their policy of providing ridiculously low prices on all their hardware.

Would a Kindle phone sell well?  Probably.  Would it sell well enough for it to be worth the investment?  It’s too early to tell, though Amazon seems to be considering the possibility.

10″ Kindle Fire 2 Specs and Release Date

Some of the likely details regarding Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire successor have been available for a bit now.  As we get closer to what most sources consider a highly probably launch event in July, these are naturally becoming more detailed.  Most recently, tech news site BGR has expanded on a few of the more interesting details that make the upcoming Kindle Fire an improvement on the original.

The biggest news here is that, assuming BGR has once again found a reliable source, the highly sought 10 inch Kindle Fire will be released in July at the same time as the improved 7 inch model.  While the plan when Amazon’s first tablet was still in its earlier stages there were plans for the release of both 10 inch and 7 inch options.  In the interest of releasing in time to take advantage of holiday sales, they chose to concentrate on the less expensive of the two devices.  Now that some time has passed and interest has remained relatively high we will finally get to see the line filled out a bit.

The new 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will be running a quad-core processor to offer a bit more power.  Obviously the larger screen is an improvement, but it will also be higher resolution.  Whether this means 1280 x 800 as with the 7 inch model is unknown, but it is likely that the emphasis here will be on true HD content delivery and that will influence things.

The overall build quality of the new Kindle Fire models has also apparently been improved.  While they will be thinner than the existing Kindle Fire, and slightly thinner than the original iPad, they will feature a metal case rather than the soft plastic that the older model makes use of.  A new chrome finish will be used to add highlights against the black matte we are used to, and a ribbed texture on the back will make it more comfortable to hold.  Having a more distinct appearance will definitely help with sales regardless of any other reasons for switching to a metal case.

The positioning of the speakers has been altered to some degree in order to improve the sound quality.  The 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will also finally offer users a front-facing camera.  While not exactly the most useful of features for most people, it is one that has frequently been requested.  Both models will include a microUSB port and what is suspected to be an HDMI port.

Amazon has been aware of impending competition from Google and Microsoft on the tablet front throughout their development.  While the Kindle Fire took off immediately and conquered the Android tablet market, everybody else is catching up quickly.  That includes some like Google who can actually offer comparable media integration.  The new Kindle Fire 2 will have to be impressive to compete with not just the new competition but also the thoroughly entrenched iPad.  They can’t avoid the comparison to any degree once a larger model is available for sale and it should be interesting to find out exactly how much of an improvement has been made in order to meet these challenges.

The current expected release date is July 31st.  There is no word yet on 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 pricing.  The 7 inch Kindle Fire 2 is expected to sell for $199.

The Tablet Divide

When I got my iPad, I also got an external keyboard.  It worked okay, but since it wasn’t directly integrated with the tablet, it did have some lag time.  My biggest hope is for the tablet to merge with the laptop.

I was unsure of how long it would take for this to happen until the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet.  It has a keyboard built into its cover.  This is the catalyst that will nudge tablets towards a hybrid laptop/tablet deal.  I’m really excited about this new development because it eliminates the need for both a computer and tablet, adds portability, and increases accessibility.

Now, to my point.  Rumors are indicating that Amazon is set to release a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire.  How much of this is just wishful thinking, it is hard to tell.  I have no doubt that the online retail giant can create a competitive larger tablet, but will they lose their original focus?

The competition gap and functionality of large and small tablets is widening.  Larger tablets more computer like in terms of power, whereas smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are more for gaming, reading, and internet browsing.

I would love to see Amazon create a Kindle Fire that would provide both an optimal reading experience and serve as a multi purpose device.  There really aren’t that many major adjustments for e-ink Kindles left, at least not any that we know of at this point.  We’ll get a glowlight version this year, and maybe color next year.

Maybe a few years from now, the technology will be there to do a hybrid e-reader and tablet.  But, considering how quickly technology changes, there may be something completely different hitting the big market by then.

So, basically, I think Amazon definitely has the resources to build a larger tablet that will sell well.  But, I would like to see them hang on to their core mission: a better reading experience. Better to excel at one or a couple of products than to make a slew of mediocre ones.

 

10.1 Inch Kindle Fire, is it a good idea?

I have watched so many people who otherwise wouldn’t consider a tablet purchase a Kindle Fire this year because of the great price and good company brand.  In addition to the $199 regular price, you can find deals for refurbished Fires for $139.  The Kindle has certainly come a long way in 5 years.

The Kindle Fire took the tablet out of the niche market and into the hands of your average consumers.

The 7″ Kindle Fire is a good compromise for those who want the advantages of a smartphone and tablet in one device.  You don’t have to worry about a data plan, and the app store boasts a robust collection of Android based apps for the tablet.  It is portable and less than half the price of the low end model iPad.

With all of that said, I question the need for a larger Kindle Fire at least for the time being.  I don’t doubt that Amazon has the means to produce a good quality, competitively priced one.  There is a rumor going around that a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire will be released later this year, and plans for a smaller, second generation one will be put on hold.  That is the part I’m skeptical about.  If Amazon wants to reach out to a full audience, it needs to appeal to both markets.

Larger tablets lose portability.  The iPad is not easy to hold for long periods of time.  The computing power would need to be stronger.

So, to sum it up, I think that the first generation Kindle Fire fared quite well with room for improvement.  Those improvements such as a built in camera, faster browsing, screen quality, etc, can all be addressed in the next generation.  Working from that, a larger version is a good goal to work towards.

But, that’s just my opinion on it.  The tablet market as a whole is exploding.  The competition is fierce and we are most likely headed for tablet centered computing.

Rumors will fly and lots of times you can take them with a grain of salt, but it will be interesting to see what really happens in the next few months.

 

Front-lit Kindle Coming Soon; Amazon Not Waiting On Color

Well, only hours after my speculation that Amazon might intend to make a huge impact by being the first company to make the next obvious step in eReader innovation by jumping in with a Color Kindle they have leaked some information to the contrary.  Instead, according to a recent Reuters report citing an inside source who has direct experience with the prototype, there will be new Kindle models coming this July that include the first front-lit monochrome Kindle eReader.

Naturally the comparison will be made with the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight.  We have to expect that Amazon will be making a more significant overhaul of their eReader than Barnes & Noble did, given how well the Kindle Touch has held up in direct Kindle vs Nook comparisons of late.  Adding a lighting layer to the existing model would hardly be enough to get people interested.

That said, it will meet demands.  Customers have been wishing for a light on their Kindles since the first version was released.  While the complaint has not been enough to derail the Kindle, as many initially thought would be the case with so many LCD-based eReaders on the market, the demand has not gone away at any point.

The type of lighting we believe will be used in the new Kindle will allow for adjustable intensity for reading in any situation while not being a major source of eye strain or power depletion.  Essentially we get to keep all the benefits of E Ink without making the sort of sacrifices that are usually involved in switching to lit devices.

Chances are good that Amazon will attempt to draw attention to the new Kindle by pricing it below the comparable Nook model.  Reuters speculates on a $10 price increase related to the added light and that does seem reasonably in line with previous Kindle pricing, as Amazon loves to demonstrate how affordable they can manage to be.  The normal, un-lit Kindle model or models will be priced the same as ever, most likely, with further cuts possible should they have managed to source cheaper parts.  Clearly the strategy of selling at or near cost is working to their advantage and will continue.

While it is disappointing to not have a color Kindle on the horizon just yet, it makes sense that this upgrade had to come as soon as possible.  The Kindle has not always been the best eReader available, especially in early comparisons with what Sony was offering, but there has rarely been a feature that could be pointed to as overwhelmingly important and only available through the competition.

Look for the newest Kindle eReader to be released before the end of July 2012 and the newest developments in Kindle Fire and color Kindle hardware in the months that follow.  It is unlikely that Amazon will fail to pursue color E Ink in the year to come and we know that the Kindle Fire is due for an upgrade before the holiday season.  This should be the first of many big Kindle developments.

Will the Next Kindle Have Lighting AND Color?

The demand for a color Kindle has been relatively constant since the eReader was first introduced.  It was the major point of contention in early Kindle vs iPad comparisons and likely resulted in the sale of no small number of iPads in the first generation.  The Kindle Fire was a step in the right direction, but like the Nook Color it relies on an LCD display that is far from ideal for reading.  The back-lighting necessary for such a display is both hard on the eyes and a huge drain on batteries compared to E Ink alternatives.

Now, E Ink eReaders have a new standard to live up to since the launch of the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight.  We can be relatively certain that Amazon is aware of this fact and interested in stepping up the game a bit with their next Kindle release.  This means that there will obviously be a similar lighting feature that doesn’t intrude too much on the battery life users have come to expect from a Kindle eReader, but there will have to be more if they want to really stand out.  The new Nook has been around for long enough that light alone will probably fail to impress even if Amazon could launch immediately.

There may be a case to be made for expecting a front-lit color E Ink Kindle in the second half of this year that will make besting the Nook’s GlowLight model possible.  Consider the shortcomings of E Ink’s Triton displays.  They do have color, yes, but it is dull and lifeless except in ideal lighting situations.  Even in some specially selected showrooms there are times when Triton’s color fails to impress.  Adding in a front-lighting solution along the lines of what Barnes & Noble has achieved with GlowLight may eliminate that problem.  If the lighting is built right into the device and still doesn’t significantly reduce the battery power then there is no reason to avoid color E Ink anymore.

This is not new speculation, but it does carry slightly more weight than it used to.  We have already had information leaked about Amazon’s possession of lighting technology for the new Kindle.  It was reported on shortly before the new Nook was made public.  Now DigiTimes, that highly unreliable but occasionally informative Taiwanese publication, has made the claim that parts suppliers are getting orders for color eReader components on a schedule that would set release in the second half of 2012.  I would never rely wholly on DigiTimes for information and so would advise against considering that confirmation, but they have been right even more often than they’ve been wrong.

If we do get a color Kindle eReader before the holidays, expect a fresh boom in eReading in general.  Not only would it be impressive new technology that addresses a major customer demand, it would benefit from the first major change in eBook pricing since the introduction of the Agency Model.  We can’t be sure how soon Amazon will jump on the pricing issue given that there are still unsettled defendants in the DOJ case, but the end result will definitely benefit Kindle owners immensely.  This could be a very big year.

Apple Still Not Threatened Enough by Kindle Fire to Invest in iPad Mini

The latest in an unending series of rumors about Apple’s supposedly devious plans to take everybody else out of the tablet market no matter the cost has recently popped up via iMore.  Apparently the Kindle Fire is doing far too well and it will be necessary for Apple to step in and eliminate the competition before the holiday sales numbers have a chance to solidify into a real presence in the tablet market.  This report indicates that the new iPad Mini will be available in October of 2012 if all goes well, along with yet another iteration of the iPhone.

Naturally, the speculation makes a number of rather impressive claims.  The iPad Mini will sport a 7.85” Retina Display, for example.  It will also be priced between $200 and $250.  Basically it is a scaled down version of the iPad 3 that just happens to be half the price of the cheapest version of that tablet.  The price drop can apparently be accounted for at least in part by the reduction of on-board storage space to 8GB.

Once again, despite how seriously this rumor is being taken at the moment by various sources, there is a major flaw in it.  None of the details make sense.

The most obvious point is the pricing.  In previous iPad offerings, Apple has never once accepted less than a 50% profit margin on every sale.  The newest version, the iPad 3, is estimated to cost about $310 to manufacture (16GB, 4G Model).  This makes it the least profitable iPad for Apple so far at an estimated 51%.  Even if we assume there to be a relatively large decrease in production costs as they move from a 10” display to a 7”, there is no real way that the company could hope to get even a 25% margin out of a $200 iPad Mini.  The Kindle Fire is only viable at that price because of Amazon’s heavy emphasis on media sales after the purchase.

There is also the issue of OS fragmentation.  Regardless of whether the proposed device would be able to maintain the iPad’s 2048 x 1536 resolution, the decreased size would change the way that users interact with their device and therefore the way designers create their interfaces.  It would introduce a new tier of apps that would have to be directly targeting the Mini.  Coming into what will likely be a major competition with Microsoft’s Windows 8, Apple will not want to be dealing with a complete refresh of their store this fall.

There are plenty of other reasons that we can expect no iPad Mini.  It would cannibalize iPod Touch sales.  It would indicate that Apple was far more concerned about the Kindle Fire than the numbers come close to justifying.  The list goes on.  Basically, the chances of such a product hitting shelves is slim at best.  Even if it happens, the final specs are certain to look nothing like what sites like iMore indicate unless the price is totally different from what they are expecting.  The Kindle Fire will continue to be the dominant $200 tablet for a while longer and Apple will continue to be disinterested.

Will the iPad Mini Kill the Kindle Fire? Also, Will iPad Mini Rumors Ever End?

It seems the rumor mills just won’t give up on the idea of a 7-8” iPad.  We’ve been hearing rumors about the development of such a device for well over a year now that have yet to manifest.  At this point having one announced would almost make me wonder whether it wasn’t a response to the popularity of the rumors rather than the rumors being a reflection of actual development.  Either way, iPad fans are convinced that if and when such a tablet is released it will spell the end of the Kindle Fire.

Of course it is also being touted as Apple’s answer to the anticipated Windows 8 Tablet boom later this year.  There is a very real impression that some people think all Apple needs to do is get this one last product to market to prevent anybody else from having the opportunity to break in.  Unfortunately, the rumors don’t really explain why they would want to.

Depending on the source, we are talking about a 7”, 7.85”, or 8.1” iPad running at 1024 x 768.  Essentially a scaled down version of the first two generations of the line.  There is no explanation of how this will reduce prices enough to really make such an offering attractive.  An iPad Mini would have to be scaled down in other ways as well.  This would probably need to be more than just reduced battery life.  We’re talking about a comparatively underpowered processor, reduced storage space, etc.

I won’t make the claim that this product will never appear.  It feels that way a bit now though.  Even if we assume, as many of these rumors do, that Apple made no effort to directly match price with the Kindle Fire and sold this smaller iPad for $299, it would mean the lowest profit margin they have taken to date.  Every iPad being sold right now makes the company at least $200 profit, according to analysts.  Apple is not a company who sells their hardware at a loss, as a rule.

Even if we do take the leap of faith and assume this happens, will it change things?  The Kindle Fire is marketed to a completely different audience than the iPad.  This might not, and probably will not, always be the case.  For now we have to assume that Amazon is dedicated to developing the product as a means of ever-improving media consumption, though, and as such there is little need for the kind of versatility that the iPad manages.

Amazon would lose those customers who just want an iPad anyway but who are unwilling to spend enough money to pay for the larger, more expensive models.  They are still going to be in a position to undercut Apple on the hardware prices due to the lack of reliance on device sale profit margins.  This means that the customers who just want a smaller, cheaper tablet with access to a lot of features will still have a good chance of buying a Kindle Fire, or whatever the current model is called by the end of the year.  An iPad Mini would upset the balance and be a big blow to the general Android Tablet market, but chances are good that the Kindle Fire could weather it.  Somehow I still doubt we will have a chance to find out for sure.

Coming Soon: An E-Ink Kindle You Can Read In The Dark

When it comes to reading devices like the Kindle, E Ink displays are both the primary draw and the biggest marketing problem.  On the one hand they allow for insanely long battery life and a reading experience as easy on the eyes as any paperback.  On the other, they offer little advantage besides that ease of reading since the opaque nature of E Ink means that even optional lighting has not been possible before now.

Recent reports coming out of Seattle indicate that the next generation of Kindles will finally have built in lighting.  While we have not had a chance to actually play with any, the technology reportedly being employed will involve front-lighting of some sort that can be controlled through the system’s menus.  This both gets around the problematic opaqueness of the E Ink material and avoids doing so in such a way as to produce eye strain like that found when reading on an LCD.

This will be the first big step forward for either the Kindle or eReaders in general in quite some time.  For the most part, the only think that differentiates the Kindle from its competition at this point is the integration with Amazon’s Kindle Store.  Other than that the Nook Simple Touch is the slightly superior device and even the less well known competition is close enough to be comparable.  E Ink Pearl has just been around for long enough that everybody who is interested has managed to adopt it.

Now it is definitely cool that we will be able to do our Kindle reading in dark or poorly lit rooms after all this time.  It is even cooler to discover that it won’t have tradeoffs that negate the point of owning a Kindle instead of or in addition to a tablet.  Most exciting for me, though, is what this means for the generation beyond what we’ll see this year.

The major shortcoming of color eReaders using displays like E Ink Triton are that, unless the lighting is close to ideal, the colors are washed out and dull.  Once Amazon has some experience with including front lighting and has the implementation of a lighting layer down, there is no reason to think that they would have trouble adjusting to meet the needs of color displays.  This would probably result in having a color/monochrome toggle that insisted on turning the lighting on any time you wanted your Kindle to pull up a magazine, but it would still completely change the color eReading marketplace and eliminate the need for LCD reading tablets.

All reports indicate that the newest Kindle generation is still in development phases while the company works on things like weight, battery life, and light quality.  Even so, it is safe to assume that the Kindle 5 will show up before the end of the year.  Should the Agency Model be eliminated as soon as as we now suspect it might be, Amazon will almost certainly celebrate that fact with a huge push in the product line.  The coinciding release of a glow-in-the-dark Kindle would round that out nicely.

Kindle Color E Ink Rumor Completely False

I would be the first to admit that the Kindle line is amazing.  I love my Kindle Keyboard and use it daily.  I also know that I’m not the only one.  It is therefore unsurprising that when a Digitimes rumor indicated that Amazon was buying up truckloads of color E Ink screens in a size that would work in the standard eReader form, many people took it seriously.  It turns out that this is pretty much confirmed to be a fabrication already, and that is not at all the bad thing that it seems at face value.

As those who have followed any of the rumor storms surrounding Kindle releases are probably aware by now, Digitimes is something of a questionable source.  While they get just enough right that people keep checking back, this time other more reliable resources with far better track records have checked into the situation and confirmed that there is no chance at all that Amazon will be launching a color Kindle.  Not only are the E Ink Triton displays currently being produced primarily in 9.7” rather than the 6” that Amazon would certainly require after the failure of the Kindle DX to take off in any major way, they would apparently need at least a year to gear up for fresh production of this magnitude.

Before you get upset, though, take a look at the Triton display a little more closely.  Under ideal conditions, it is amazing.  Everything we would ever ask for from a color eReader and perfect for a new Kindle to breathe innovation into the eReader market with.  What we saw at CES 2011 was not that.  It looked nice, but that’s about all.  The colors were definitely on the screen and they were distinct and easy to make out, but they were dull.  Uninteresting.  Not quite ready.

As much as I would love to have a brand new color eReader that could bring everything in the print world together again without the need for the flaws of LCD displays, this is not the way to pull it off.  When Amazon releases their first color Kindle eReader, let’s hope that they take it seriously and make it a serious product rather than just jumping to get something on the market to prove to customers that they haven’t completely given up on reading in favor of tablet sales.

Make no mistake, in time there will be a Kindle Color and it will not have an LCD display.  Jeff Bezos said a long while back now that he was unwilling to release a color eReader before the technology was ready to do it right.  This is not that time and I am happy to say that there is no reliable indication that either Bezos or Amazon in general have changed tune.  Give it a year or two, then we can see what the future of eReading looks like.  In the meantime, there is always the Kindle we know.

Color E-Ink Kindle on the Horizon?

Don’t give up on e-ink Kindles yet.  After the success of the Kindle Fire and the tablet boom, I was beginning to think that e-ink was on its way out.  However, there are new speculations floating around in the tech world about Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) supposed order of color e-ink  screens.

If that is so, we might be seeing a color e-ink version of the Kindle sometime next summer or early fall.  The timing is based on the past yearly refresh of the Kindle lineup.

I think this would give e-ink a much needed jump start to reclaim its place in the electronic sales market.  Tablets are showing unprecedented success, and are threatening to leave the e-ink devices behind to become a niche market unless they don’t do something about it.

The biggest advantages of a color e-ink Kindle over an LCD tablet are that it doesn’t cause eye strain and suck up battery life.  I love my iPad, but I can’t sit and read it for longer periods of time.  My Kindle’s battery lasts for a couple of months, whereas my iPad’s battery lasts about 10 hours or less depending on use.

Looking at it from an accessibility standpoint, there are certain vision conditions that cause the user to be sensitive to bright lights.  E-ink is obviously a lot friendlier to that type of condition.

The e-ink Kindle began as a single service device designed for reading.  The electronic paper style that the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other e-ink readers use is designed to simulate the experience of reading a real book.  Adding color would provide better graphics for comics, newspapers and magazines.  To me, comics are a better fit for paper rather than LCD.

I am excited about this new development.  I think in the long run there will be hybrid e-ink and LCD tablets out there on the market.  I don’t know about you, but it can get cumbersome toting around several different gadgets that each fulfill a different purpose.   By adding color, e-ink is a step closer towards making a device like that a reality.

 

Kindle Store Coming To Seattle?

Sources have recently reported that Amazon may be about to open up a whole new direction for their Kindle marketing.  Before the end of this year we can expect to be seeing the first small store or stores arriving in Seattle.  This seems to be intended as a preliminary effort directed at determining the viability of such outlets as a real money maker, but there is some reason to think that this could be a big factor in the future of both the Kindle and Amazon’s new publishing imprints.

With Barnes & Noble’s recent decision to effectively ban all of Amazon’s new efforts in the field of publishing, the company is going to be needing new ways to showcase their products.  These boutique style stores would offer them the chance to make up for the lack, especially as it seems likely that their intention is to increase their involvement in publication rather than let it fall away under external pressures.

While it seems less likely, given that focus will probably be at least somewhat important, there is even the chance that this will be Amazon’s biggest move so far to show off their product lines in various other areas aside from books and eReaders.  Their AmazonBasics consumer electronics line has at least some connection to things like the Kindle Fire, even if their Strathwood furniture wouldn’t fit so well.  Hard to imagine that even a small store could be properly stocked using nothing but three Kindle eReaders, the Kindle Fire, some accessories, and whatever books they are able to get published before the end of the year.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Amazon has been rumored to be working on building themselves a physical presence.  Unlike previous instances, though, the details do seem to add up here.  In addition to the fact that the proposed pilot store would be in Seattle, home of Amazon and a state where sales taxes are already being collected by the company, the initial report indicates that they have already contracted store design through a shell company.  It will be small rather than something intended to compete head to head in every area at once with other retail giants like Walmart, which also makes a good deal of sense for a company that derives a great deal of benefit from being highly distinct from such stores while still offering amazing savings.  Most importantly, unlike the 2009 rumors Amazon has not jumped in to quash this one before it takes hold.

While there are downsides to building a Brick & Mortar presence for the Kindle line, especially given the numerous partnerships that Amazon maintains with the likes of Best Buy and Target to keep their hardware available on the local level, being able to highlight something with as much investment behind it as the Kindle Fire and its anticipated successor might well be worth the risks.  Hopefully over the next few months we will learn more about how Amazon intends to show off the Kindle to their advantage.

New Kindle Fire 7” & 9” Models Reportedly On The Way

Remember when we were predicting a Kindle Fire launch with multiple tablet sizes to choose from?  Well, better late than never.  Chad Bartley, a Senior Research Analyst over at Pacific Crest, has predicted that we will be seeing a 9” Kindle Fire before the end of 2012, possibly as early as this summer.  Along with this, an update to the already incredibly popular 7” model is expected.  While previous estimates for upcoming Kindle tablet sales had been falling in light of a rumored iPad 3 launch that may include a 7” iPad meant to compete directly with Amazon, the same analyst has upgraded his estimates to account for anticipated demand.

We first heard rumors of an 8.9” Kindle tablet on the way in 2012 via a Digitimes report back in November that indicated a May launch was planned.  While Digitimes is often less than perfectly reliable, they have managed to come up with some good information before on many occasions.  In this case, they also reported that the choice of screen size was meant to simultaneously take advantage of pushes by LG and Samsung to promote the smaller screen size and to avoid competing directly with more established tablets like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

What this will mean to Kindle fans is hard to say at this stage.  The immediate concern for owners of the original Kindle Fire will be continuing support.  As many owners of the 1st Generation Kindle can attest, Amazon has a tendency to quickly move forward without worrying about ongoing backward compatibility for their newest efforts.  At the same time, however, there has obviously been an increased awareness of the importance of consistent branding.  While the second generation of Kindle eReader was a fairly noticeable break from the original, subsequent offerings have all remained fairly obviously related.  Add to that the fact that the Kindle Fire is already capable of running more recent versions of Android (as demonstrated by recent videos involving ICS installs) which would be the most obvious thing for the company to change on the software side of things, and there is reason to believe that there will be at least a few years of supported life for the current Kindle Fire.

More interesting will be seeing how they handle the upgrade.  Will the new model or models bow to customer demand for a camera, for example?  There have also been indications for some time that NVidea is interested in getting involved with Amazon’s tablet efforts, which could mean a jump into the Tegra 2 or even Tegra 3 for the larger new Kindle Fire.  Either of these would make sense given the emphasis on video and app use that Amazon has made apparent.

Unlike previous rumors, this one is adding up from a number of different sources and seems to be confirmed by the most recent Kindle ad uploaded to Youtube.  In this, the iPad’s flaws as a reading device are still emphasized in a familiar message, but they also make a dig at the high price tag relative to the $200 Kindle Fire and imply that there is little the iPad can do that the Kindle line can’t accomplish collectively for less money.  To many, this seems to be setting the stage for more direct Kindle vs iPad conflict.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=sulfQHdvyEs

No, The Kindle Fire Line Will Not Get Its Own Siri

Several weeks back, speculation rose about the possibility for Amazon’s following in the footsteps of Apple with a Siri-like product of their own for the Kindle Fire.  Siri, for those who aren’t aware, is a virtual digital assistant for the iPhone.  It allows users to conversationally ask questions and make requests that the software will try to accommodate.  For the most part it does an impressive job and when Siri can’t cope it will come up with a variety of witty or whimsical responses tailored to the user input.

The cause for speculation with regard to Amazon stems from their acquisition of Yap, a voice to text company whose specialty is transcribing voicemail.  While Amazon wasn’t mentioned by name in the acquisition, the company that Yap merged with lists its headquarters at an Amazon building.  There are a few reasons to make a move like this, of course, but it is fairly clear that the idea of copying Apple’s efforts was not one of them.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that Yap is absolutely nothing like Siri.  Yes they both involve accurately pulling information out of the spoken word, but that is as far as it goes.  Siri is an attempt at artificial intelligence that will try to understand user intent by pulling key words and phrases out of what it hears.  Yap’s specialty is simply putting words on “paper”, so to speak, in a cheap and fast manner.  Cloud computing is Amazon’s new big thing, of course, so the fact that Yap does its work mechanically on the cloud servers also fits in well with their philosophy.

What this could be a precursor to is an Kindle Fire type of smartphone.  While Amazon has not yet announced any official plans to add such a device to their growing selection of hardware, it’s a possibility.  The Yap software would be helpful for both its original voicemail applications as well as for voice commands, in this case.  The voice command idea in general would likely go over well on future Kindle Tablets, but since the only mic we’ve seen in a Kindle has been the disabled one inside every Kindle 3 it might actually be a bit surprising.   There is also the chance that this was simply a matter of acquiring Intellectual Property to guard against lawsuits and license to other companies.

Quite possibly my favorite potential use for this would be on demand transcription of audio files.  This would come in handy for practically anybody who regularly needs to deal with presentations or meetings, especially in business environments that require fast turnaround on their reference material.  That might be a long shot, though.

Regardless of how Amazon decides to actually make use of the Yap acquisition, there’s just no chance it will be as a Siri clone.  The Kindle Fire is great at what it does, but it lacks the hardware to make a Siri possible.  Even if that hardware were present, the speech to text component of such a feature would be only a small part of a huge endeavor.  It would be great to have that kind of capability, but it’s overoptimistic for the foreseeable future.

Are Airport Scanners Making Kindle Carrying Risky?

This time of year travel is anything but rare and chances are good that at some point a delay will have you sitting in an airport with nothing to do.  The obvious solution is to bring your Kindle along for the ride.  Reading is always a pleasant way to kill time, of course.  The problem comes in deciding whether or not this is safe to do.

There have been numerous reports of airport security causing Kindle screen failure in the past and it continues to be an issue.  Amazon denies that the usual sort of security scanners employed in airports have any chance of harming their eReaders.  Even leaving aside my own personal anecdotes involving extensive holiday travel having failed to do anything to a Kindle, they’re obviously correct.  The radiation being used in these scanners is simply far too weak to manage to do any real harm to E INK displays, even over the course of repeated scane.

Where it gets tricky is in the associated mechanisms.  Naturally, to speed up the processing, belts are employed to feed baggage through scanners.  We’ve all seen or used them from time to time.  These long rubber belts, constantly in motion, have the potential to build up a significant charge.  Some estimates have indicated it could easily reach or exceed 100 volts.  In instances where this discharges through a Kindle, of course it is going to freeze the E INK permanently in place.  Of course, that sort of thing isn’t particularly good for just about any piece of electronics.

While it seems unlikely that this phenomenon alone is sufficient to account for all of the reports of travel damage, keep in mind that it is travel damage.  Tight bags, rough handling, and not infrequent jostling in crowds and tightly packed planes inevitably takes its toll.  Given that the Kindle line makes use of display technology that is notoriously brittle, it is to be expected to some extent.

In order to ensure safety for your favorite Kindle, especially the eReader models since the Kindle Fire has proven extremely resilient, there are a few things you can do.  The simplest is packing carefully.  Make sure that your Kindle is in a good protective case or at least not in a position to be supporting any weight or accepting any major pressure.  This won’t be particularly helpful if you are one of the rare cases of airport scanner damage, but for general hits it makes all the difference.

If you are particularly concerned about the scanner, keep in mind that the damage likely to be the result of static discharge.  They make cheap protective products for help with that.  Many people employ antistatic bags to protect data storage devices in transit and they should work just as well for the Kindle.

The overwhelming majority of the time, you have nothing to be worried about.  What people remember are the rare exceptions and that tends to make for some rumors being blown out of proportion.  Fortunately, even if you should end up with problems all reports indicate that Amazon has an unofficial policy of replacing airport-damaged eReaders.  Enjoy your travel, bring your Kindle, and good luck with your travel this holiday season.

Kindle Fire Popularity Seems To Spur Interest In Kindle Phone

It’s safe to say that the Kindle Fire has made an impression.  Tablet prices are dropping across the board, some major hardware developers seem to be reconsidering their desire to enter the fray, and Amazon has increased their expected sales numbers on the order of millions of units beyond what was originally planned for the 2011 holiday season.  Not only does this spell good news for Amazon’s first non-eReader (or maybe post-eReader?  Hard to say precisely where to draw the line since it technically can show you books), it means that the hardware line is sure to continue and expand as time goes on.

There is some contention at the moment about exactly which Kindle Fire followup we can expect to see next.  Some are certain that it will end up being a 10.1″ direct competitor for the iPad while a newer contingent citing supposedly inside information from the production chain has started indicating somewhere around 9″ as the next step.  Regardless of where you would place your bet, one frequent point of speculation is the potential for a Kindle Phone.

There has been speculation before that Amazon was interested in entering into cellular devices, but until recently that seemed doomed to be nothing but a rumor.  This past week, though, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahoney noted that certain checks they have done indicate that development for an Amazon Phone is already underway with delivery expected in 4th quarter 2012.

To be honest, it is hard to know what to expect moving forward.  While this seems to be fairly detailed information, it feels like there is little in it for Amazon in the end.  The tablet makes sense since Amazon is able to completely control the data end of things and sell at near cost, undercutting the competition.  In a cellular market closely controlled by carriers, there might well be less room for such tactics.  When consumers are already used to getting hardware for less than half of its suggested retail cost, budget options aren’t as shocking.

What I could definitely envision, however, is a Kindle Fire-like device with a smaller screen and optional 3G coverage along the lines of what is available for the iPad.  It would work marketed as an iPod Touch competitor but still have the hardware necessary to function as a communication device should the desire arise.  Even without the 3G, relying on WiFi availability, such a thing would make a big splash at the right price.

As much as it might be a difficult thing to enter into the smartphone marketplace at this time, would Amazon be willing to pass up a chance to grab hold of what is only going to continue to be an expanding market?  The Kindle Fire has demonstrated for them the potential of Android devices and the fact that they already have an Android fork fully developed and customized to fully integrate into their sales systems means that much of the work is already done.  Maybe it’s just optimism, but I think the Kindle Phone is definitely on its way.

Chinese Kindle On The Way?

I’ve mentioned before that Amazon is expanding their international presence significantly lately, especially with regard to the Kindle line.  No longer must an avid reader live in an anglophone country to take advantage of the best selling eReader to date.  The biggest untapped market for anybody looking to sell digital content, however, is probably China.  So far Amazon has been slowly seeping into the country in general and now there are indications that the addition of a Kindle Store may be on the way.

There are a few things that stand in the way of making this work.  The most important of these is government intervention.  Marc Onetto, Senior VP of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations, is said to have been in active negotiations with Chinese officials over how this would work.  While no word has been released by Amazon about where they stand at the moment, the Chinese Government has a tendency to take an active part in censoring information that could make things complicated. It is already often problematic to obtain rights to sell digital content globally even without this sort of oversight, but Amazon clearly has plans.

China has proven to be one of the, if not the, fastest growing market for Amazon in the past year, with revenue up over 80 percent.  They have already got ten distribution hubs set up and warehouse space adding up to about a third of what their Unites States enterprises boast.  All that despite only recently rebranding the site from “Joyo Amazon”, inherited from the company Amazon bought to gain traction in the first place, to Amazon.cn.

Chances are good that these numbers will continue going up for some time, especially if Kindles do start shipping.  There is no word just yet on whether Amazon will be creating relationships with local retailers or just selling the devices online, but either way enthusiasm for the product is likely to be high.

If they get this up and running along when seems to be the intended schedule, this would be the first Asian country to have their own localized Kindle and Kindle Content. It seems inevitable that it would be a somewhat crippled version of the Kindle Store, though.  If nothing else, China’s censorship policies would make it difficult to truly enable the Kindle Direct Publishing platform that gives Amazon a unique edge over the competition in other markets.  On top of this, Onetto did say that they had no intention of forming any sort of connection to existing content providers in this market, indicating that there is going to be some problem with stocking the electronic shelves, so to speak.  How they will get around these difficulties is anybody’s guess.

If the Kindle gets government approval, it is likely to make a big splash.  There is a lot of demand out there for such a product. Don’t expect to be seeing something like the Kindle Fire any time soon, but now that the Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch have opened the door to localized interfaces this will be a big step moving forward.

Next Generation of Kindle Fire Now Expected To Be 8.9″ Tablet

Originally, the plan for the Kindle Fire‘s release was supposed to have involved two Tablet PCs.  That was the story being told during the speculation period, at least, and it seemed pretty believable.  Supposedly, as Amazon grew concerned about the time it was taking to get both products ready, they became afraid of missing out on the 2011 holiday season and put all resources into the 7″ Kindle Fire instead.  There is yet every reason to believe that further Kindle Tablet devices are planned for the future, though.

Up until now we have been assuming that the next one to come would be the previously rumored device known by the code name “Hollywood”.  This was to be the 10.1″ version of the Kindle Fire that would run a quad core processor and have an increase in both storage and memory.  Many analysts have been expecting to see this device released as early as the first quarter of next year, but new information from DigiTimes seems to point to a slightly different course for the immediate future.

They have heard from sources associated with Amazon’s current 7″ display suppliers that Amazon has set things in motion for the production of 8.9″ screens.  While it is always important to remain somewhat skeptical of supposed inside sources for a variety of reasons, if true this could mean that entirely new things are in the works for Amazon’s next Tablet PC.

While it would not necessarily be true that an 8.9″ display would have to be less powerful than the Kindle Hollywood rumors were indicating, there has to be a reason for such a shift.  The obvious answer would be cost management.  While the Kindle Fire is currently selling ridiculously well in pre-orders, it is only able to do that by virtue of its low price and comparatively high level of content.  Should Amazon have jumped into the tablet market with something trying to take on Apple’s iPad on equal terms, it is likely that things would be going somewhat less well.

By using a screen that is somewhere between the iPad and the Kindle Fire, Amazon not only keeps costs down below what Apple has been able to manage, but also continues to remain distinct in customers’ minds.  Yes they are both tablets, but by virtue of form alone they will fill different needs and desires just as the Kindle eReader line was able to do.

This doesn’t rule out the possibility of a 10″ Kindle somewhere down the line, but should the rumor prove true then it would be far less likely.  The Kindle DX‘s lack of success should be enough to steer Amazon clear of the “bigger is better” mindset, if nothing else.  In addition, while there are currently a wide number of Kindle eReaders to choose from, there is every reason to believe that Amazon will be eliminating the Kindle Keyboard as a major part of the product line within the next few months.  Just as it makes little sense to try to keep providing five or more different eReader options at a time, trying to market 3-4 different sizes of tablet seems unlikely to significantly increase sales.

Amazon Kindle May Invade Japan By Year’s End

Continuing a trend of building their international presence, both in eBooks and beyond, Amazon appears to be making arrangements to bring their Kindle line to Japan as early as then end of this year.  While the company has been operating their Amazon.jp site for some time now, there have been complications in offering customers the Kindle until this point.  Hopefully that is soon to be a thing of the past.

Japanese publishers have shown themselves to be very hesitant to allow Amazon to acquire content, citing concerns about the online retail giant’s increasing level of control and influence in anglophile markets.  This, in addition to Amazon’s habitual price cuts led to them to question whether there was money to be made in Kindle Store content.

After Sony’s recent successful entry with the Reader PRS-650 at the beginning of this year, though, there has been reason to hope these companies are coming around. If nothing else, there is definite pressure from consumers who are quickly growing increasingly familiar with the potential of eBooks and eReaders and want to be able to take advantage of them.The solution to the publisher impasse seems to have taken the form of building a predefined framework for the timing and rate of discounts.  Publishers will, according to reports, be consulted before any such discounts were put in place.

Should Amazon manage to carve out a place for the Kindle in the Japanese eBook market, it could be a huge move.  Right now this space has been comparatively underexploited for a variety of reasons.  To make it work, however, they’ll need to do more than just set up a Kindle Store.

The first step will be getting the entire newest generation of Kindle eReaders out there.  The Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch, due to their virtual keyboards, both provide the ability to display Japanese characters in every part of the eReader’s function.  Just one advantage of doing away with the physical keyboard, I suppose.  Without the Kindle Touch, however, competing with even the Sony PRS-T1 would be difficult no matter the price of the Kindle 4.  Right now Amazon.uk is offering the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard without the touchscreen model, but that won’t do much good in an area where the English keyboard is less useful. These need to be available not just online but in retailers as well.  Exposure will be vital, and partnerships will need to be formed.

While the Kindle Fire is currently only available for pre-order in the US, it would make a great deal of sense for Amazon to push Japan as the first other market to get access to it.  Unfortunately, given that this would require a lot of effort to grab distribution rights in a wide variety of media forms it seems like a long shot.  An effort by Amazon to acquire these rights and expand its influence seems to be inevitable, but it won’t come quickly or easily and a half-hearted attempt would do more harm than good.