Beginning immediately, Kindle Fire owners are able to take advantage of the new HBO GO app. This app, downloadable from the Amazon Appstore for Android, lets HBO subscribers watch their favorite content on demand right from their Kindle. This means immediate access to, among other things, over 1,400 episodes of HBO’s original content.
You’ll find a lot of that content already available through Amazon’s Instant Video store, but how likely is anybody to pay the $2.99 per episode they’re asking for Game of Thrones at the moment even if DVDs aren’t available? Chances are good that if you’re really excited about these shows then you already have an HBO subscription and as such will incur no extra charges when bringing your Kindle Fire out as a viewing option.
Amazon has invested a lot of time into making their video selection competitive. The Instant Video service has gone from somewhat helpful at best to being a genuinely persuasive reason to consider Amazon Prime. The fact that the Kindle Fire offers convenient direct access to these videos is a large part of why the device was so important to Amazon’s efforts. After the Kindle eReader took off so strongly they were naturally after a way to turn that model around for other forms of media.
Some people were genuinely worried that Amazon’s emphasis on selling video content and Amazon Prime subscriptions would lead them to exclude other providers to varying degrees. This is even more of a concern now that they keep expanding. One of these days there might even be real competition with services like Netflix. It’s good to see that Amazon’s interest in being a part of the digital video business isn’t so important to them that they would make it difficult for apps like this one to get to customers.
Subscribers will be able to create their own Watchlists to keep track of things. You also get to mark your favorite shows so that your Watchlist is immediately updated with new episodes as they become available. From what I can tell, this content is out for streaming almost immediately upon airing, so it makes a lot of sense for those of us unlikely to schedule around weekly TV viewing rituals.
There will also be access to bonus content. Viewers will be able to pull up behind the scenes extras, interviews with cast and crew, recaps of prior episodes to keep you up to date, and the usual DVR-style interface that we have come to expect. As in most cases like this, if you are viewing a video on one device and have to stop for whatever reason you can pick up where you left off later regardless of whether you are still on that same device.
HBO still carries a subscription outside of anything related to the Kindle Fire. This is a great deal if you already have that subscription. If not, chances are good that this will not be quite enough to push you over the edge into buying. It’s a neat app and HBO shows are some of the best in production right now by any measure. That should be your deciding factor. The Kindle Fire access is just a hugely convenient bonus.
Amazon is getting a bit more bold with every passing day, it seems, as they step ever-further into Netflix’s domain. The most recent such intrusion is their creation of an app for the XBox 360 that allows Amazon Prime subscribers to access the Amazon Prime Instant Video selection and stream directly to their television. Naturally there is also access for those who prefer to rent or buy in addition to or instead of working with the subscription plan. It is hard to say whether this works out well for the Kindle Fire.
The major appeal of the Kindle Fire, for a fairly large portion of the customer group, is its ability to stream video from Amazon with no trouble at a moment’s notice. Lacking as it does any form of cellular connectivity, the Fire is basically something you are going to be watching video on at home if video is being watched. It is hard to picture large numbers of people gathering at public WiFi hotspots to watch their favorite films on portable devices. When Amazon makes a move like this that offers a potentially superior in-home viewing experience, we have to wonder what the overall effect will be.
The major flaw in turning the Kindle Fire into a video streaming device has always been its lack of video output. Naturally this is not an issue when we’re talking about the XBox. These game systems are already in several times the number of homes as the Kindle Fire, especially when you factor in the Playstation 3 which got its own Instant Video app back in April. There is always the chance that Amazon’s expanding media availability will render their hardware somewhat obsolete.
There are some downsides to this new offering that will probably keep it from becoming a prime means of consumption for the majority of users any time soon, however. For one, users are required to maintain an XBox Gold subscription. This is a relatively minor expense, but it does in many cases increase the monthly cost of access to Amazon Prime Instant Video in a significant way if users do not already maintain this subscription for other reasons.
There is also no integrated purchasing mechanism. One of the biggest advantages, and sometimes dangers, of using a Kindle Fire is its quick and easy store integration. If you want to pick up a copy of the latest big name action flick, you can do it and be watching within seconds. The XBox app will require users to head to a PC for all of their purchasing before anything goes up on the TV.
If you have a chance, I do recommend giving this one a try. The interface is reminiscent of the new Netflix application for the XBox and while I can’t say the video selection is as simple to navigate, I have definitely found some surprising and enjoyable titles floating around in the past few days. I love my Kindle Fire, but the jump from a 7” screen to a 47” screen makes an amazing difference when you’re watching just about anything.
Since just before the official announcement of the Kindle Fire, and clearly in preparation for the anticipated release, Amazon has been making efforts to beef up their Amazon Instant Video selection. Many of these new acquisitions have even been made part of the Prime Instant Videos library, which allows customers subscribing annually to the Amazon Prime service to stream available content to any compatible device whenever they want with no additional purchase necessary. More than anything, this is the reason that new Kindle Fire owners find themselves enjoying a month of free Amazon Prime membership. It works well to get potential subscribers hooked. More and more, however, people have been viewing the ever-expanding collection of titles as a direct assault on Netflix.
As the most popular video streaming service on the internet today, Netflix caters to over 24 million subscribers and accounted for about a third of all internet bandwidth being used as of last fall. They have had some issues recently after mishandling the publicizing of rate hikes necessitated by expiring streaming rights deals as well as a poorly thought out attempt to split the company into two separate entities specializing in only one aspect of the physical media and digital video combination that customers have come to expect, but subscriptions have since rebounded and there is little sign that they are in immediate danger.
When Netflix CEO Reed Hastings mentioned in a letter to shareholders that he is expecting Amazon to start breaking the Instant Video service away from Amazon Prime in favor of a monthly model more analogous to what Netflix is known for, it was finally enough to elicit comment from Amazon. Brad Beale, the Head of Video Acquisition for Amazon, made clear in a recent interview that it is not the intent of the company to change the way they’re handling things in the near future. He seems to have avoided implying that this was something that would never happen, but at least for the moment Netflix is safe.
The logic behind the decision is sound. Amazon Prime is already less expensive than even the cheapest Netflix subscription. The video content you get with it is not nearly as extensive at this point as what Netflix offers, but nobody claims that it is. By subscribing to Amazon’s service though, even if your goal is just to take advantage of the Kindle Fire’s integration with Amazon services, customers also get free 2-day shipping on anything Amazon sells. The video streaming might not be the biggest money maker in the world, but the associated shipping benefit has a tendency to make impulse purchasing far more appealing. This translates into more regular profits as well as customer loyalty.
Compared to that, it is hard to imagine a huge desire on Amazon’s part to start attacking Netflix on their own terms. For the moment, at least, video distribution appears to remain a relatively small part of the company. The Kindle Fire is obviously meant to change that and it does a good job of showing off the content, but the day when physical goods are less important to the company than digital sales has yet to arrive.
It was known well ahead of the official announcement for the device ever took place that the Kindle Fire would be intended for video more than anything else. Perhaps due to that pressure and perhaps just as part of an overall trend in the market, the Nook Tablet was designed along similar lines. While this doesn’t necessarily mean much on its own, it spurred along at least one other development that might mean a great deal more attention for the Android community as a whole.
Amazon’s intent to promote their own streaming video service is clear. Their library has been growing quickly over time, including many titles being given away “free” with Amazon Prime. This is naturally something of a concern for a company like Netflix that is suddenly faced with competition from somebody as big as Amazon. Although Netflix has not commented on it, something definitely spurred them along to push forward their new tablet app upgrade for Android weeks or months ahead of iOS.
The Nook Tablet practically relies on Netflix and other streaming services to function, all the more so because Barnes & Noble currently offers nothing analogous to Amazon’s video services. They also began advertising a uniquely deep connection with Netflix immediately following the reveal. As Kindle Fire owners have likely noticed by now, the Netflix app in the Amazon App Store isn’t exactly lacking either. They went for the maximum possible audience with this update and it seems likely to take.
The implications here go beyond benefits for owners of these new 7″ tablets, however nice those are to have. This is one of the first times that the Android platform has received special attention ahead of the iOS equivalent. That sort of thing does not happen without a fair degree of confidence in the potential profitability. If the Kindle Fire alone, or even the collection group of it and all of the competing $200 tablets springing up from companies like B&N and Kobo, is considered important enough to be prioritized ahead of the market dominating iPad then it could easily be a sign that tides are changing.
Part of the bar to Android’s widespread adoption in tablets has been the fact that quality development tends to get prioritized for the competition. Whether you blame it on the fragmentation of the ecosystem due to frequent non-mandatory upgrades, lack of faith in Google’s offering as a whole, or the lack of a truly major name product to line up behind, the situation has now changed. With luck, this will build up some momentum.
While I have nothing against Apple or the iPad, some heated competition would go a long way toward not only improving their product but creating some genuinely functional alternatives. The strength of iOS that everybody else lacks isn’t the iPad’s hardware or aesthetic. Its main virtue is the functionality that primarily comes from the Apple App Store. Neither the Kindle Fire nor the Amazon App Store is a match for Apple. It isn’t likely that a single company or product will be any time soon. What it does do is get the ball rolling, so to speak.
The screen is real but the housing is non-functional right now
Qualcomm is funding the development of a new type of display technology called Mirasol and it is being touted as the future of eBook readers. That means it will replace the e-Ink technology that our beloved Kindle uses. So how does it work and why is it (reportedly) so much better?
Mirasol has been developed by mimicking a feature that makes the butterfly’s wings shimmer. It uses no back lighting, just like e-Ink and uses incidental light to reflect it back through a special layer. This layer is made up of multiple microscopic membranes that can be change through electric current. Once they change, they remain static in that state until another electric charge causes them to change again. This means they do not use electricity during a period of no change.
Their main advantage is that these membranes can produce the three main colors used in modern color displays – Red, Green And Blue (RGB) – and hence can produce a vibrant colored image. They also produce very impressive blacks (at least in theory) because in their closed state they reflect no light at all and have no other source of light.
Due to their design, they are able to run higher frame rates, thus making smooth videos a possibility on the display. Currently, pushing the frame rate up on the e-Ink would cause it to consume more battery.
That is because e-Ink uses tiny microcapsules that have three states – Black, white amd mixed. Changing them through negative and positive charges creates the same effect as LCD pixels. But since they contain physical particles, they do not need any backlighting. But making them support RGB would require highly specialized particles and higher frame rates would require much more current.
How this will affect eBook readers is still debatable but if it does become viable, then Amazon might consider switching. We just have to wait a bit more to see how it pans out. Qualcomm intends to have it in the market by the end of 2010.
In case you were wondering how durable Kindle DX is… Click on the image and watch. I’ve done some measurements on screenshots and it looks like it’s being dropped from 30″ height on some kind of hard surface. This simulates a common real-life scenario of Kindle being dropped from waist height as happy owner dashes to that bus or just gets careless in some university hallway.
It looks like it passed the test. Not that I would like to conduct one myself…
Device is geared towards business users rather than eBook readers.
Documents are organized into folders called binders.
Documents can be scribbled on, annotated and highlighted using touch screen. Nice feature is partial screen refresh.
Verdict: at the moment prospects of this device seem mediocre at best. There are no strong indicators that would show it will be successful as eBook reader. Mainly because nothing is yet known about book store which was crucial to Kindle’s success. As for business documents while this device is good for reading and annotating, I doubt that it will provide good experience for editing and creating new documents. This would be important for business users. While battery life that is “days, not hours” is important for business people on the go, there are notebooks available today that can go 6-8 hours on a single charge and run full-featured version of Microsoft Office. 6-8 hours is more than enough for most users. By the time Plastic Logic will release their product battery technology would have improved and this advantage would diminish even more.
Plastic Logic eReader
Overall it seems that many companies were inspired by success of Kindle and Sony eReader and decided to jump into what seems to be a promising market. But you can’t expect to succeed just because market is great and growing fast and you offer something that’s different from competitors.
Onyx International presented Onyx Boox e-reader at CeBIT 2009. Endgadget has video and some photos of the device. Current plans are for it to start shipping to US customers around June 2009 with a price tag lower than Sony PRS-700 which is $400. Here are some features I was able to deduce from the video and other sources:
Stylus sensitive 6″, 8″ or 9.7″ 16 shades of gray touchscreen so you can scribble your notes right on top of the text.
Native support for many data formats including PDF, HTML, TXT, CHM, ePub, PDB, MOBI, PRC, JPG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF, MP3, WAV.
512MB internal storage. Additional storage can be added in a form of either Memory stick or USB drives. 128MB RAM. 400Mhz processor or above
Integrated WiFi. Optional EVDO or 3G wireless module.
1600mAh integrated Li-Ion battery.
Either by accelerometer similar to the one in iPhone or by explicit user input it’s possible to use it both landscape and portrait modes. Cool feature but in my opinion it’s not too relevant to book reading.
It is claimed that it has handwriting recognition. This makes me assume that touchscreen wouldn’t respond to fingers because that requires magnetic sensors similar to ones found in Tablet PCs that capture stylus movements precisely including tilt angle. This allows recognition to be much more accurate at the cost of these sensors ignoring anything but the stylus.
Web Browser that is based on WebKit (same library that powers Apple Safari and Google Chrome). This would probably yield browsing experience that is superior to Kindle.
There is on-screen keyboard available. I wouldn’t mind having something like that on Kindle with extra space allocated for bigger screen that can be used for reading when keyboard isn’t required.
It will be possible to install additional applications but it’s unclear whether SDK will be released.
Text-to-speech capability. Though because of the noise in the video it was impossible to tell how good is it.
Below is the official promotional video.
My personal opintion is that it will not be very successful if successful at all and here’s why:
While it has many cool features like larger screen, touchscreen, large selection of formats that it supports, few of these features are actually useful in day-to-day operations. Overall it looks more like e-Ink PDA rather than eBook reader. WebKit based browser is nice but slow e-Ink screen will negate most of the benefits. iPhone with 3.5″ display would provide much better overall web-browsing experience. Running additional application can’t be good for battery life. And while touch screen is cool, how often would you really need to scribble and use handwriting recognition? Most of these tasks can be much better performed by other devices like PDAs, iPhone, etc.
But most importantly, what about books? Without having access to Amazon’s Kindle Store with 240,000+ titles it would be limited to much smaller selections of the stores that would decide to partner with Onyx and free books. Which is not a whole lot compared to what Amazon has to offer. Most likely book buying experience will not be as easy and streamlined as one with Kindle.
There’s one great feature that really made Onyx Boox stand out – larger screens. Although I’m pretty sure that “cheaper than $400″ price tag that was announced on CeBIT applies to 6″ model and ones with larger screens will cost more. Nonetheless there would be people for whom larger screen would outweigh all cons and they would buy Onyx Boox rather than Amazon Kindle should it have access to the same selection of books. And this is why I believe Amazon would not partner with Onyx to protect it’s Kindle sales.
Poor state of US and worldwide economy wouldn’t help sales either.
So although this post is under “Kindle Killer” category, really it’s Kindle Killer… Not.
I know that this post may sound too Kindle biased, but that’s my opinion. Anyway, we’ll be able to find out if I was right soon enough. I’ll keep you posted.
Thin and flexible e-ink displays is one the advances that has been a long time coming. Plastic Logic hopes to bring us this amazing technology by 2009, a cross between the Kindle and actual paper.
Spun off from Cambridge University in 2000, Plastic Logic is now based in Mountain View, California, since 2000 they have been working hard to produce a semi-transparent sheet of tough plastic which can create and erase static images. Plastic Logic haven’t mastered animation yet, but they don’t think it will be too long before they do.
Whilst its headquarters are in Mountain View, California, it also has a manufacturing centre in Dresden, Germany, which is scheduled to open in September 2008. Plastic Logic says its product will be on the market in early 2009.
The company has taken over $200 million in funding to date, and other $50 million funding earlier this year, so all those investors will want to see what products Plastic Logic can come up with.
The obvious application is newspapers and magazines, whether it will be economically feasible for newspapers to ‘print’ on this new generation of e-ink displays is another matter. One possible way of turning a profit for the newspapers could be to sell monthly subscription, with a built in wireless receiver, the flexible display could receive updates for a month before asking the user to renew their subscription. But, I think the most likely–and most profitable–application will be displaying ads on posters and billboards.
You can watch a demonstration of the new e-ink displays provide by Plastic Logic;
You may of heard that over the weekend Apple unveiled it’s new iPhone 3G device, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the device, mostly because of the software, the actual hardware is not that impressive and mostly includes improvements that the original iPhone should have shipped with in the first place. The iPhone 3G comes in at a impressive $199 to buy, however you will be paying more in the long term compared to the classic iPhone with higher network subscription charges.
Now how does the new iPhone effect us Kindlers? well… Apple has done something remarkable with the software – they have opened it up! which is impressive considering we are talking about Apple here. All this has allowed third party developers to create e-book apps for the iPhone 3G and has turned the iPhone into a e-book reader.
There are already a couple of iPhone e-book reading apps out already, the iPhone Bookshelf is one which supports multiple formats.
Another promising e-book app is Stanza. Stanza is an app which lets you read e-book which are stored on your iPhone and e-books online, make sure you check out the demo at the bottom of the page. Stanza can also read files in the ePub format, which many other apps are able to work with, perhaps the Kindle will eventually support ePub aswell one day.
The only annoying thing about reading an e-book on the iPhone is that each e-book comes as its own individual app, with its own icon on the iPhone home screen, Apple could have done a better job of categorising e-books or even better creating their own e-book reading App.
There is still some speculation on whether Apple will create a dedicated e-book reading device, but for now we know e-books are on a Apple device through third party apps, if you couple this with rumours that Apple is in touch with major publishers this would support the theory that Apple is working on its own e-book reader, or at least a e-book store.
Will the touch screen make it easier to read an e-book? I don’t know since I don’t own a iPhone or iPod Touch, but I suspect that it might be a bit easier to read with the iPhone, swiping the screen to turn the page seems a more natural gesture than pressing a button, however you will be using both hands, whereas with the Kindle you need only use one. With the Kindle accidentally turning the page can be quite frustrating, I cant see it happening on the iPhone.
You can watch our buddy Walt Mossberg review of the Apple iPhone 3G in the video below, he mentions the e-book reading capability of the device.
Can Apple with its new iPhone 2.0 software challenge Amazon?
Portfolio contributing editor Kevin Maney interviewed Jeff Bezos in a packed auditorium at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Bazos and Maney discussed many topics during the lengthy 1 hour 30 minute interview – everything from Bazos personal life, how he makes business/personal decisions, the founding and growth of Amazon, Amazons Infrastructure Services, Amazon Prime, Amazon A9 and of course the Kindle. It is a very in depth interview, Bazos goes into great detail about what the vision is for Kindle and how Kindle came to be – it is a fascinating interview and if you have the spare time its well worth watching.
We don’t all have a couple of spare hours every day, so if your just interested in what Bazos has says about the Kindle then you can skip most of the interview – Bazos starts talking about the Kindle in part 3 at 3min 25sec into the interview.
Portfolio: Let’s talk about the Kindle. What do you want it to be?
Bezos: Any book, in any language, ever in print should be available in less than 60 seconds. We worked on it for three years. It’s been selling out since being released.
Portfolio: You sold how many?
Bezos: You asked that so innocently, but you know I’m not going to answer. We have a long-standing practice of being very shy about disclosure, and I’ll stick to that practice. The Kindle has substantially exceeded our expectations.
Portfolio: Every effort at e-books has failed. Why should this one work?
Bezos: We decided we were going to improve upon the book. And the first thing we did was try to determine the essential features of a physical book that we needed to replicate. The No. 1 feature is that it disappears. When you’re in the middle of reading, you don’t notice the ink or the glue or the stitching or the paper — all of that disappears, and you’re in the author’s world. Most electronic devices today do not disappear. Some of them are extraordinarily rude. Books get out of the way, and they leave you in that state of mental flow.
Our old friend Walt Mossberg sat down with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos this morning at the “D: All Things Digital Conference”.
Walt Mossberg gave the Kindle a luke-warm reception back in November calling it “mediocre” and “marred by annoying flaws”. He liked the idea and the shopping experience behind the Kindle, but thought that the device itself was where Kindle’s flaw lied.
Jeff Bezos does his normal sales pitch about the Kindle, but this time he throws in a bit of new information about Kindle sales. Walt asks point blank “How many Kindles have you sold?” Jeff politely refused to answer the question instead he gave us a new stat: “Title-by-title basis…Kindle unit sales more than 6% of total book sales”. So of the 125,000 titles available for Kindle, of all those 125,000 titles that were sold — digital and print — Kindle accounted for 6% of sales. Jeff also said he envisioned a time when e-book sales formed a substantial portion of book sales at Amazon.
Jeff Bezos also commented on a Kindle v2:
“There will be a second version, a third version, a tenth version. … but a second version is not that near.”
It may take a decade to get the product to where Amazon wants it, he said. So this has confirmed what many thought, that Amazon is committed to the Kindle and there will be a Kindle v2 release sometime in the future.
The interview wasn’t just limited to talk about the Kindle, Bezos also talks about the streaming video-on-demand service for Amazon, which will be released in the next couple of weeks amongst other things.
Every Sunday night we will bring you our selection of Kindle and Amazon related links from around the web. Compiled from blogs, magazines, main stream media and other sources, we hope these links will give you a definitive overview of what’s happening regarding the Kindle and what the Kindle community is talking about.
Every Sunday night we will bring you Kindle links from around the web. Compiled form blogs, magazines, main stream media and other sources, we hope this link list will give you a definitive overview of what’s new regarding Kindle and what the ever growing Kindle community is talking about.
In a scathing (yet hilarious) review of the Kindle, Robert Scoble – a former technical evangelist at Microsoft – states the following:
1. I want to meet the guy who designed the thing, and I want to beat the crap out of him.
2. It’s obvious they did not think about how the device was going to be used.
3. Amazon is a “cheap-ass company”.
4. In conclusion, “It really sucks.”
I take it he doesn’t like the Kindle device, fundamentally I think he is wrong, Kindle can be a success and whilst the Kindle does have its flaws, it certainly is not going to be a failure. Here are the 6 major criticisms of the Kindle Scoble cites;
1. No ability to buy paper goods from Amazon through Kindle.
2. Usability sucks. They didn’t think about how people would hold this device.
3. UI sucks. Menus? Did they hire some out-of-work Microsoft employees?
4. No ability to send electronic goods to anyone else. I know Mike Arrington has one. I wanted to send him a gift through this of Alan Greenspan’s new book. I couldn’t. That’s lame.
5. No social network. Why don’t I have a list of all my friends who also have Kindles and let them see what I’m reading?
6. No touch screen. The iPhone has taught everyone that I’ve shown this to that screens are meant to be touched. Yet we’re stuck with a silly navigation system because the screen isn’t touchable.
Now as far as I can tell, Scoble has 3 problems with the Kindle – Social Networking, eCommerce, and Usability. The usability seems fine to me on the Kindle, it takes about 30 seconds to figure out how to use the device and then it becomes second nature and most reviews have had a similar experience. In my opinion social networking has no place in a eBook device so that’s a moot point, however the ability to share your profile for thing like a book club might be something worth looking into. And finally eCommerce, the Kindle is a eBooks reader, not a supermarket! who wants to buy a toaster or mountain bike through a Kindle? I certainly don’t want to, I want to buy books and read on my Kindle. If I want to buy anything else, I will log into Amazon.com and purchase my goods that way. However, Scoble does have some valid points so the review is watching even if it it just to watch Scoble lose it.
Whilst browsing around the net looking for Kindle related news to bring to you guys I stumbled upon Pocketnow.com. The guys over there have uploaded a very good, in-depth video review of the Kindle, I thought I would share it with you guys on this blog. Now the videos are quite in-depth, and they are spread out over 4 video each one covering a different aspect of the Kindle device. The videos go into a lot of detail on how the device works and what it is like to use every day. So if you are interested in buying a Kindle in the near future I would highly recommend these videos as they will give you a flavour of what you can expect when you own a Kindle device.
Talks about the carrying case of the Kindle, then give a tour of the hardware features of the device.
Talks about the reading experience of the Kindle, and show off the electrophoretic display (aka E-Ink).
Go over using the Kindle store and viewing Wikipedia.
Covers viewing a newspaper with the Kindle, and go over a few experimental features that you can use on the device.
Welcome to the first instalment of Sunday Night Links! As the week draws to a close, every Sunday night we will bring you Kindle links from around the web. Compiled form blogs, magazines, main stream media and other sources, we hope this link list will give you a definitive overview of what’s new regarding Kindle and what the community is talking about.