A highly popular Kickstarter project that intends to release the first Android-based video game console has revealed some information recently that lends them a bit of credibility. Muffi Ghadiali, known to come people as a Lab126 member and an important part of the Kindle’s development team, has come forward as one of the OUYA project’s main resources.
Admittedly, this is somewhat peripheral to Kindle news. On the other hand, it’s interesting and I feel like talking about it. You’ll have to bear with me here.
The OUYA console is gaining the attention of gamers and Android developers alike at the moment. Their ambitious goal of $950,000 in 30 days has long since been exceeded. At the moment they are expecting over $5,000,000 from backers. The appeal is understandable, when you look at the goals of the designers.
Essentially, they intend to release an Android powered box that plugs into a television. It will be an open platform, unlike other closely managed console projects enjoying popularity today, and cost comparatively little (backers who help fund the project before the end of the Kickstarter period on August 9th can get theirs for $99).
The open console aspect is particularly interesting, if also problematic. Developers have almost total control over their product. This means they can charge whatever they want for any part of their apps. A free to play model is being encouraged, but any app that has a free demo available will be welcome. Compare this to Amazon’s Appstore for Android where developers wanting to release their work for the Kindle Fire will often have to wade through weeks of red tape just to issue a patch and it is easy to understand the appeal.
Of course this is just intention at the moment. While there is some talk of app curation in the associated storefront, no real details are available yet. They have just now begun working on the interface and such wider concerns are a way off. When it comes time to start selling, however, they will have to balance customer satisfaction against developer freedom to avoid ending up with the same sort of malware proliferation that the Google Play store is just beginning to get under control.
What Ghadiali brings to the project is expertise and credibility. The Kindle was an ambitious project that took off in a major way. If somebody who was part of that says that the OUYA console also has a chance despite being in relatively early stages still, then it may be worthwhile to invest in the project. His direction should help to ensure that realistic expectations are adopted and that quality is an important consideration every step of the way.
In some ways the OUYA console will be a direct competitor for the Kindle Fire. It is intended entirely as a means of consuming games, but will also allow developers to sell their other applications. Since a television connection will be mandatory, streaming video and other such visually impressive applications will enjoy a far superior experience in most cases.
It is hard to imagine a video game console having a major impact on the Kindle Fire given that it is a tablet, but they’re both budget devices running Android that offer media consumption as their primary purpose. It could be interesting to see how they interact down the line.
The most recent development in tablet technology seems to be coming from Nvidia this time around. Rob Csonger, a VP from the company, explained that the new line of tablets they are developing will be able to keep costs down in the $199 range, allowing them to compete directly with the Kindle Fire on price.
The Nvideo Kai platform, which incidentally is unlikely to be the final name of the new product when it is released, is meant to take advantage of a lot of the Tegra 3 design. Low power consumption, inexpensive components, and a lot of power for the money are characteristic of the chipset. While this could bring around a fair amount of interest, given that the Kindle Fire has driven prices down on 7″ tablets to a point where other products are having trouble competing, it remains to be seen who will take advantage of the new technology and when.
Many are speculating that the first major offering to make use of Kai will be the Google / Asus project that we have heard a great deal of speculation about. Google’s I/O conference is coming up and would make a perfect occasion to present such a device. They already had to set back its release when they were unable to make a decent tablet around the $200 price range to compete with the Kindle Fire. That would make a Kai tablet ideal for both Google and Nvidia to show off what they can do and perhaps pull some of the Android market away from Amazon’s control.
There isn’t anything to say that Amazon would be unable or unwilling to make use of the same technology, naturally. They are going to be facing stiff competition when introducing a larger Kindle Fire tablet that will undoubtedly draw comparisons with the market-leading iPad and having the extra power that a quad-core design offers might well be important. Toward the end of the year, when the first Windows 8 tablets are released, this will be even more important. Android is nice, but it doesn’t quite measure up in terms of performance right now so every advantage is welcome.
No matter how much some people might want it to be, this will not spell the end of the Kindle Fire. At best, it will help keep all-purpose Android tablets relevant as we move forward into a world of far more intense competition. The option to buy larger, cheaper, more powerful tablets is likely to be appealing to many people. These won’t replace tablets designed for pure consumption like the Kindle Fire unless they can severely undercut on price, which they can’t, but it would be even worse for the Kindle Fire to kill off the rest of the Android tablet market than it would be for the Android tablet market to shut out the Kindle Fire. Competition is good for the consumer.
Google has announced an immediate change of their marketing for the Android Marketplace. It shall henceforth be known as “Google Play”. Now, possibly I’m reading too much into this but it sounds a lot like they saw what Amazon had pulled off with the Kindle Fire and realized that it was possible to break consumption away from production in the area of mobile devices. After all, you are clearly not targeting enterprise users by sending them to Play, right?
Google Play is more than just a rebranding of the Marketplace, of course. It is an effort to bring together Google’s apps, movies, eBooks, and music in a single package for easy consumption. Anybody familiar with the Kindle Fire or the philosophy it embraces will probably be noticing some interesting similarities right away from the description, honestly. All Google Play services will be entirely cloud-based much like what Amazon has been doing, so that all of your content is available at once regardless of storage space available on any particular device.
For those who are already using the Google Marketplace options, there should be a smooth roll-out. Most people are reporting that the apps have already updated, much of the time without users so much as noticing the change at first. All content that you own through Google is immediately available in the new apps, so the transition should be quite smooth. It will encompass all geographic areas, with what Play content is available being determined by the individual market. Canada and the UK have Movies, eBooks, and Apps; Australia has eBooks and Apps; most areas have at least the App store. No real functional change, in many ways.
What makes this significant is what it means going forward. Clearly Google is going to be aiming directly as consumer markets with Play, following the example set by the Kindle Fire (in preparation for their rumored 7” tablet?). This was where most of these integrated services were generally heading toward anyway, though, however much the Android Marketplace offered options for all activities. By making it explicit, Google has the opportunity to specifically target business users with a more direct approach. It is not hard to imagine an expansion of Google’s production based products in the very near future.
Sadly, this new set of apps will not make it any easier for Kindle Fire users to access Google’s services without roundabout methods or rooting of the device. While this likely would have been a good opportunity for the company to slip in a way to let Amazon’s customers choose between the stores, it is probable that Amazon locked that down fairly tightly before things even started to ship. At this point side-loaded apps from the new service will either fail to install in the first place or never load properly once installed. Competition between the two over who gets the most popular closed ecosystem will have to take place as scheduled when Google’s own hardware sees the light of day.
The Sony Reader was the first to get touch screen technology. It set off a big touch screen craze that included all of the major e-readers: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. The Kindle Touch in turn became Amazon’s bestselling e-ink Kindle.
So, Sony has a some good ideas going as far as e-readers go. I happened upon an article about a foldable tablet that the company is currently preparing for release next week.
The new tablet, called the Tablet P, will have dual screens, one on each side of the foldable hinges. My biggest question in regards to the screens is how they will mesh together for the display. Will they show separate content? Do they somehow come together to create a larger display?
The odd thing is that the Tablet P will feature last year’s Android operating system, Honeycomb. That will be a big drawback right there.
By making this table foldable, it is protecting the screen from scratches and dings, so that is a big plus. Although Apple was onto something when it created a smart cover to protect the iPad’s screen . Sony’s new tablet also includes a camera, which is not currently available on the Kindle Fire.
Obviously, there are some real winners in the e-reader and tablet market, most notably, the Kindle and iPad, but is still fun to explore the other ideas are floating around. Despite the Tablet P’s lack of computing power and poor sales outlook, it sparks an idea that can be developed further to grab the attention of consumers.
I would really like to see the major players in the tablet and e-reader world become powerful enough to handle heavier computing. It would be nice to have the benefits of both in one device. The foldable tablet could emerge as a hybrid laptop/tablet device. The tablet would be hinged to a keyboard, but also removable.
So, we’ll see what happens. It is always fun to speculate on the future of technology.
Earlier this month the Kindle for Android app got a bit of an update. While nothing huge, it did finally bring the Real Page Numbers to Android users. In addition to this, they managed to pare down the size of the download required to use the Kindle platform from 10+mb to a more manageable 8mb. This might seem rather minor, but considering the lack of space on many Android devices as well as the fact that some users have reported sizes of up to 25mb (can’t reproduce that, but the claim has circulated), this is a definite improvement.
Much as I like the Kindle app however, and I do, there are some things that I would like to be able to do that it does not provide. Real Page Numbers are nice, but situational at best given that they still only exist in a fraction of the available Kindle Editions. Now, I have posted here before about the ability to download and install the Nook app through non-Amazon sources and this works quite well. Sadly I believe that the specific method I mentioned several months ago has been blocked off, though. This difficulty became a non-issue thanks to Good E-Reader being kind enough to open up their own free app store.
While you can find a fair selection of general purpose apps present that they felt were worth keeping around for people, the folks over at Good E-Reader are concentrating mostly on reading. This covers books, magazines, comics, and all such things along those lines. There are only free apps, but this allows the site to operate without adding in any of the inconvenient restrictions that currently plague locked-in Android device owners wishing to pick up something useful. It is definitely worth checking out.
In terms of reading on your Kindle Fire, for example, some people find it more convenient to have access to the Nook app’s extra level of brightness control than to be able to simply invert the contrast of the page. Others will appreciate the level of social media integration offered by the Kobo app. In either case, at least you will be able to open EPUB formatted eBooks, which the Kindle Fire lacks any form of native support for at the moment. You won’t have luck with everything (Google Books, for example is still not working in my experience) but for the most part they’re doing a good job of making the latest popular selections available without all the hassle.
Overall Amazon has done a good job of giving customers what they want, both in terms of the software they provide and the hardware they sell. I can understand the urge to retain control over what gets installed on Kindle Fire devices, especially since if anything goes wrong it is likely to be Amazon’s Customer Service that gets the call. They have left the door pretty wide open to install most things, though, provided you know how to find them. In some cases, it’s more than worth the effort it takes to get the most out of your experience. Kindle Fire software updates do not remove any apps when they occur, so it shouldn’t be an ongoing hassle.
Android has seized a greater share of the tablet market than ever before in the last year, with fourth quarter usage of Android tablets up to 39% of the total (up from 29% the previous year). A great deal of this improvement comes as a result of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. With the whole tablet market seeing huge growth (including Apple’s sales numbers we saw around 150% growth and a total of over 25 million tablets sold) it is no small feat for something as new as the Kindle Fire to already be edging ahead of more established competition.
These numbers deal specifically with device usage as reported by analytics firm Flurry, based on app sessions. Given the importance of content sales compared to hardware profits, this is probably a significantly better estimate of consumer preference than simple sales or activations. Thanks to this data, we can tell that the Kindle Fire’s approach to content is making a pretty big difference to the user.
The alternative method of analyzing the success of the Kindle Fire would be along the lines of what Google has been doing when describing Android as building up momentum compared to the competition. That would be looking at device activations. While this is not misleading, necessarily, it does focus entirely on numbers that fail to directly equate to post-purchase satisfaction. Even using this method, the Kindle Fire is doing amazingly. Approximately 10.5 million android tablets were sold in Q4 2011. While Amazon is not releasing sales numbers, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that around 5-6 million of those were Kindle Fires. The numbers are favorable, to say the least.
While there is not any indication that this is having a negative effect on iPad sales, there is also little to support the notion that Amazon had any intention of making a direct attack on Apple with this first tablet. It is likely, given how much the two companies overlap in their digital media sales markets that there will be some more direct Kindle vs iPad competition down the road, but a 7″ $200 tablet that clearly lacks the potential to replace even the functionality of a netbook is not something you could take seriously if they were heading for a confrontation with the iPad 2 right away.
The biggest impact of all this is probably going to be on Google. Since Amazon is running such a heavily forked version of Android, and since it lacks easy access to Google’s app marketplace, the success of the Kindle Fire will tend to draw people away from Google services despite technically relying on their original concept. This has the added effect of drawing developers away from the more general marketplace.
While Amazon’s Appstore has not been a favorite destination for many developers thus far due to the heavy oversight and lengthy screening process for even minor updates, the most important thing will always be going where the customers are. Right now, for better or worse, it is looking very much like that is the Kindle Fire if you’re talking Android tablets.
Despite the relative technical differences between the new Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and the Amazon Kindle Fire, I think that it is fair to say that Amazon’s product offers more right out of the box. For the layman user, somebody with no stake in a particular platform and no desire to have to jump through hoops to pull the greatest possible performance out of their electronics, the available content and overall experience of the Fire is immediately superior.
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are not that user. Even more, let’s assume that you are considering buying one of the new $200 Tablet PCs being released by these eReading giants with the sole intention of rooting it and making it into an all purpose generic Android Tablet. It doesn’t take huge amounts of work under most circumstances. Andrei already posted instructions to this Blog on how to root the Kindle Fire and there is a great deal of headway being made on the Nook Tablet. Custom Android ROMs are sure to follow in the near future. In the end, chances are good that the only prerequisite will be a willingness to spend the time and effort to go through a list of instructions.
Under these circumstances, the most important factor is the hardware. Here, the Nook Tablet is the way to go. It has twice the RAM of the Kindle Fire, as well as twice the internal storage space. The expandable memory slot is a big incentive as well, of course. Other than those bits, the processors, screens, size, and weight are all either exactly equivalent or so close that it won’t factor in much. Probably the only other relevant difference is the fact that the Nook has some external volume controls that come in handy from time to time. Before making any real decisions on this matter, however, I recommend taking both devices for a test drive.
While the Nook Tablet‘s initial setup has some major flaws, from locking up the majority of the storage space to simply lacking a halfway decent app store, it is still pretty smooth and comes equipped to take on most third-party video purchases. You also get the added advantage of easily accessible support at every Barnes & Noble location nationwide.
The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, offers deep Amazon integration. At a glance this is troublesome and a blatant attempt to lock customers in, but they have gone out of their way to keep the platform pretty open. Competitor apps are in their Appstore (itself less well populated than the Google Marketplace but far better policed) and it isn’t hard to install things acquired elsewhere. Even the Nook reader app has no trouble. The interface is smooth, looks good, and performs better than most people would expect. Really the only complaint here is the lack of video format compatibility, which is why it was worth mentioning for the Nook.
Either way you’re getting a good device, but keep in mind what is being bought. These are not really intended to be all purpose tablets the way the iPad is and to treat them as such will likely disappoint. If you do decide to break away from the cultivated experiences provided then the minimal hardware might be more apparent than it otherwise would be. Personally, I had intended to ditch the Amazon firmware on the Kindle Fire after testing it out just enough to write about it knowledgeably. It was good enough to change my mind and might do the same for you.
As has been noted a few times in the past, Amazon didn’t really put any effort into securing their tablet against modification. The Kindle Fire was bound to be rooted and they knew that would be the case well before it was even officially announced, I’m sure. Since it started arriving in the mail, there have been quick results along these lines. Andrei, here on our site, has posted instructions on how to root your own Kindle Fire for easy access to things like the Android Marketplace. What many have been waiting for, though, is the announcement that custom ROMs were available to replace the default Kindle Fire OS.
This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with what Amazon has done in their release. It’s a great one and serves to highlight the capabilities of the tablet quite well. For those who prefer to avoid being attached permanently to a company like Amazon for whatever reason, however, it is nice to have the option to make use of their affordable yet powerful hardware without the attached software. That’s where developments from the XDA-Developers forum come in.
One of their users has been able to get a basic installation of Google’s latest Android release, Ice Cream Sandwich, working on the Kindle Fire. So far, “working” is a relative term since at the time of this writing it still lacked the ability to use the audio, WiFi, accelerometer, or light sensor (yes, the Kindle Fire has a light sensor, they have just got it disabled at the moment since it was overly sensitive at the time of launch). This is a big step in the right direction, however, and once some of the bugs and deficiencies are ironed out will likely result in making the Kindle Fire a great option for Android fans who might otherwise be put off by Amazon’s proprietary build.
While this will definitely open up the user options in a few ways, specifically by allowing a greater degree of configurability and better integrating the Android Marketplace (as compared to simply rooting and installing it), there are a couple down sides. Most importantly, you lose access to the Amazon service integration. While most people considering this option are likely looking for exactly that, the Kindle Fire’s limited storage space can make the Cloud Storage a vital part of daily use and the streaming options for music and movies provide an experience that many find superior to their general app equivalencies. The freedom to install anything you want will also lead to the opportunity to pick up apps that are not optimized for the Kindle Fire’s specs in any way. This can lead to poor performance at best and complete waste of a purchase if you aren’t careful.
While I wouldn’t advise anybody to jump up and grab the current working build of ICS for the Kindle Fire, given its incompleteness, you may want to keep an eye on it. Personally I love the interface that Amazon has come up with, but that doesn’t mean somebody else won’t manage to improve on it. The best performing option will always be the preferable one in the end, and there is a great community of Android developers out there that can’t wait to get the Kindle Fire working just the way they like it.
The video demonstrating a working ICS build from the dev who got it working:
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.
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.
As many of you know, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has its own Android based app store that offers a free app every day. The Kindle Fire is set to release on November 15 with a huge selection of popular apps including Pandora, Netflix, Facebook, and games from top gaming companies including Electronic Arts, PopCap and more.
Amazon is set to go with everyone’s favorite apps right out of the gate. That’s pretty impressive considering how long it took the iPad to get a Facebook app. But, in Amazon’s case, a precedent has been set in the android market. Whereas the iPad was the first to enter the tablet market, and is the only tablet using Apple’s app store.
EA and PopCap are known for high quality games. A few favorites include Scrabble, Tetris, and Peggle. Tetris has been a huge hit since the beginning of gaming systems. Rovio is also on board, and they’re the makers of the hit game Angry Birds. What is a tablet without Angry Birds?
Netflix and Pandora are other top apps that are available across tablet and smartphone platforms, so they are a natural addition to the Kindle Fire collection. Amazon also has its own video streaming library for Amazon Prime members set to rival Netflix. Pandora and Rhapsody are the major players in music apps.
As far as apps go, one niche that Apple has a good hold on is Accessibility. There are apps for the iPad that serve as decent and much cheaper alternatives to assistive technology. I just downloaded a magnfying glass and a recorder recently. There are also caption services, and so much more. I haven’t seen as much of this on Android systems, or on the Kindle in general. It would be great to see apps that help people with vision, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities. Just another way to heat up the competition against Apple.
Admittedly I was one of many people who were initially a bit shocked and disappointed by the news that the Kindle Tablet would run on a forked version of Android from a pre-3.0 base. Since Android 3.0 was the first version optimized for tablets, and since I want the Kindle Tablet to be as useful a device as the Kindle, there seemed to be an important connection being missed somewhere along the line. After a bit of further research, though, this could be a great move to establish the new ecosystem.
There were some analyst observations made recently that brought the truth of things out pretty well. Essentially, since this isn’t just an early release of Android it may not matter quite as much that it isn’t based on the most recent release. The best way to think of this may be as an alternative to Android. The Kindle Tablet OS, by all accounts, is built on the Android base code but does not carry over any of the experience. It seems like something of a slight to Google to take their offering and run in another direction with it, but that’s another matter entirely.
What makes this an observation worth making is the way it increases the Kindle Tablet’s potential for creating a real presence for itself. On the developer end of things, Android development is forced to exist in such a fragmented environment at this point that there is no simple way to keep up with everything. Amazon is in a position to immediately take a dominant position among non-iPad tablets. The combination of a huge user base and a stable environment could be enough to persuade many developers to release software exclusively for the Kindle Tablet, even leaving out the ability to make assumptions about the hardware capabilities of the end user. A greater selection of apps than competing tablets is a big draw for customers, if the iPad can be taken as an example.
On the customer end of things, Amazon has already proven to be more effective than Google in moderating the content of its own Android App Store. They’ve also shown a fair degree of insight into meeting user demand, as demonstrated by the Kindle, Kindle Apps, and the Amazon.com websites in general. Combine the expected $249 price with a unique and positive user experience and it is hard to argue with a purchase, especially compared to more expensive and less impressively backed competing tablets.
Yes, it would have been nice to see Amazon having used a more recent release as their starting point. The fact that they didn’t does imply that they’ve been at work for quite a while making the best product possible. The Ars Technica preview that brought so many of these details to our attention in the first place emphasized how fluid and intuitive the tablet was to use, so apparently they have made good use of that time. While I will continue hoping for certain hardware improvements in the form of a high end Kindle Tablet(Hollywood?), there seems to be no reason to find fault with their software decisions at the moment.
There have been a lots of theories, rumors, and “leaked” information floating around for the past couple months about what we all assume will be the new Kindle Tablet (or Tablets) later this year. Lately, even the Wall Street Journal has printed a few bits of information coming from a “reliable source”. It all adds up to a potentially impressive picture that a lot of us are looking forward to. I thought, as a result, that it might be useful to go over what we think we know so far.
Reports from various sources say that at least one Kindle Tablet, almost certainly the first of a series, will be released before the end of the year. Possibly as early as October.
The Kindle Tablet will not compete with the Kindle, or result in its being discontinued.
The new Tablet PC will be running some variation of Google’s Android 3.0 or later, with seamless integration into Amazon’s Android App Store.
The focus will be on media consumption, with streaming video being strongly emphasized
The first Kindle Tablet will likely have a 9″ screen.
Prices on any and all Tablet PC offerings from Amazon are expected to undercut iPad 2 prices.
The initial stock order is sufficiently large that selling out should not be a problem.
There will be no camera.
An improved mobile shopping experience will be a major issue for Amazon’s new device.
Some sources have claimed that two Kindle Tablet models will be available at launch, codenamed ‘Coyote’ and ‘Hollywood’. The former would be a low powered, but affordable option with either a 7″ or 9″ screen. The latter would feature more impressive hardware and a 10+” screen.
In order to fill as many niches as possible, Amazon plans to offer pocket-sized devices similar to the iPod Touch eventually, and maybe even a Kindle Phone.
The Kindle Tablet could be priced at or below cost in order to bolster sales, with any deficiencies made up through advertising space on the Tablets themselves.
Amazon may have some deals in the works with AT&T to provide 3G connections to the Tablets.
It is hoped that the displays for the Kindle Tablet line will take advantage of newer, more power conserving technology, based on Amazon’s criticisms of LCD shortcomings in previous ad campaigns.
A fair amount to go on so far, especially since Amazon has declined to even officially confirm the existence of the new device. The only things we can be completely sure of are that Amazon has a Tablet PC in the works, they are anticipating strong sales based on manufacturer information, and it is unlikely that the Nook Color is the intended competition. Amazon seems to have their sights set a little higher than Barnes & Noble’s almost unintentionally impressive budget Tablet.
Given that some rumors place the announcement and release as early as August, and that almost all of the more well sourced ones mention 3rd quarter 2011, it is certain that we’ll know more definite details soon. In the meantime, it might be a good time to hold off on impulsively buying the next cool looking Tablet on the market. Amazon has done a pretty good job of proving they know what they’re doing via the Kindle. It should be worth the wait to see how they hold up on their next big hardware push.
Today Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that they were releasing an update to their popular Kindle for Android software that would optimize it for use on tablet PCs using Android Honeycomb (Version 3.0). The new software is intended to take all of the fun stuff that users liked about the existing software, add a few perks, and generally improve the way it takes advantage of larger screens than are common on Android based smartphones. It all sounds pretty good.
The new features that users can expect from the update include an integrated storefront for the Kindle Store, an improved layout for newspaper and periodical display, an expanded enhanced dictionary with over 250,000 words, and the ability to control downloads of Kindle media. On top of this, of course, is the usual Kindle experience including single purchase reading from any compatible device and convenient access to pretty much any book you might happen to want to read. The big improvement is naturally just the fact that it is a version specifically for tablet PCs rather than a stretched version of the reading software for Android phones.
This all ties in quite well with Amazon’s increasing presence in the Android marketplace. Their app store is clearly doing well and this will be just one more thing that ties users into the larger Amazon customer experience. If there was yet any doubt as to the efficacy of Amazon’s concentration on the media consumption side of gadgetry rather than on hardware profits, then we yet again have support in their favor.
Overall, the biggest improvements seem to be those for browsing and shopping the Kindle store. It’s gone from a slightly unwieldy experience to that of literally having everything you’re likely to need at your fingertips right there within the app. The Magazine improvements are hardly surprising, but they’re more than a little bit noticeable too. Magazines and newspapers are the place where tablets really shine compared to eReaders, so it’s great to see full advantage being taken of the opportunities the hardware provides.
While I have no complaints about a better dictionary or greater control over downloading, they’re more subtle when it comes to day to day use. I never really found the existing dictionary all that lacking, nor is there much of a problem in terms of books clogging my bandwidth. I would assume the latter feature is geared toward situations where you would rather be able to download your book via WiFi or where audiobooks are simply too large to make sense to download all at once. Neither one is anything to complain about, just not the fun flashy Kindle features that people tend to get excited about.
Existing Android users will not see any loss of functionality, of course, in spite of using the same software. The smartphone friendly display mode is still present, and all the other new features are included anyway. It’s a good time to be an Android user who shops at Amazon, whether your device of choice is a Honeycomb tablet or not.
Kindle for iPhone or iPod touch gives you about all of the features you can get on a regular Kindle or Kindle DX. You can download any of the books from the Kindle Store, sync to pages and adjust the font. Kindle for iPhone or iPod touch uses a backlit screen so you can read your book in the dark if you want to. The home screen allows you to sort your books by recently added, author, or title.
Additional features include the ability to download the book in the background for IOS 4.0 devices, read free and out of copyright books from Project Gutenberg and other similar sources. For a more comprehensive list of features go check out the Kindle for iPhone page on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).
Software requirement: IOS 3.0
To install: Search for Kindle for iPhone in the iTunes App Store on your computer or on your iPhone or iPod touch. Get the latest version: 2.5.1.
The Windows PC Kindle Application allows you to read your Kindle books on your computer. It includes full screen color and brightness adjustments, the ability to sync annotations and last page read, and you can search for all books available in the Kindle Store.
Most PC’s nowadays fill these requirements easily.
To install: Click “Download Now” on the Kindle for PC product page and the installation should begin automatically. If it doesn’t, Amazon provides you with a page that gives you a link to try installing it again.
Kindle for Android users can share reading progress, read in landscape or portrait mode, zoom in with a double tap and read over 100 magazines and newspapers in addition to the 810,000 books in the Kindle Store.
Software Requirements: Android 1.6 or greater
To install: Search for “kindle” in the Android Market or use your phone’s sensor to capture the Kindle for Android Application barcode on the product page.
The Windows Phone 7 Kindle application has 5 different font sizes and 3 background colors to choose from. You can also email a link to a book you are currently reading or one from your library to a friend.
Yep, you are reading this right. It’s actually quite easy now to get Kindle books on Nook color and have both eBook stores available to you on a single device. This is possible because Nook Color is more of an entry level Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. As it comes out of the box it just happens to start the Nook application by default and not let users run anything else.
However that can easily be fixed by rooting the device and enabling the Android Market. With Andoid market you can install all kinds of applications, including Kindle, Kobo reader. You would also be able to play Angry Birds and watch Youtube videos. Installing the Kindle application for Android will let you read Amazon Kindle books on your Nook Color device.
The downside however is that as with all hacks, you risk bricking the device and voiding the warranty. You may also lock yourself out of future updates from Barnes and Noble. So it’s a trade off but in my opinion a profitable one.
It took me less than 5 minutes to execute all rooting instructions from NookDevs.com to root the device, enable Android Market, download Kindle for Android and have WhisperSync open the book I was reading on the same place I left it off on my Kindle device.
On Windows use Win32DiskImager to write the image to microSD card (please note that all data on the card will be lost). For Linux or Mac, check out NookDevs.com for detailed microSD imaging instructions.
Completely power off NOOKcolor by holding the power button until the screen blurs and “Power off NOOKColor” dialog appears. Select “Power Off” and wait for the device to shut down completely.
Turn device face down and open the microSD card container in the lower right corner. Push the card in with metal contacts facing down.
Connect the device to your computer via USB cable. The device will power up and book from the SD card but the screen will not turn on. This is normal.
After about a minute your computer show detect the new device. This means that the rooting is complete. Your Windows computer will complain about missing drivers. This is normal.
Disconnect the USB cable and remove the card from the reader.
Power cycle it by holding the power button for 20 seconds and then releasing it. The press the power button briefly to power the reader on.
As the reader boots you will see a red splash screen.
Once the reader boots, you will be prompted for you Gmail account (as usually with Android) and some initial settings. This will only happen once.
As you open the extras folder you will see that it now contains Android market icon and some extras (Youtube, Gmail, etc)
You can now start the market app and download other apps that you like. You will need to reboot the device for apps to appear on the extras page. The apps themselves can be used right away just as with usual Android apps.
After that the sky is the limit.
First thing that I did was to download Kindle application and verify that it works – it did. See – for yourself.
While this works, it’s not 100%. Initially I had some problems with apps not downloading via the market app. Reboot fixed that. Kobo app for android logs in and displays the list of books but then all books get stuck in “Waiting for download” state. Kindle app didn’t have such problems.
I also tried Youtube, remote desktop, Gmail and Angry Birds and that worked well.
All-in-all, I’m quite happy with this experiment as it shows once again that Kindle books can cross device boundaries and run even on competing devices. Does it add value to Kindle or NOOKcolor? I think both. If you have Barnes&Noble LCD eReader you can now get books from either store. Kindle opponents meanwhile have one less reason to complain about device-restricting DRM system.
I wanted to do Kindle vs. NOOKcolor review first, but this post turned out more about how these two devices cooperate rather than compete. The comparison review will be posted sometime early next year. I promise.
Unrooting and updating
Some people claim that using NOOKcolor can be “unrooted” by “Settings” >> “Device Info” >> “Erase & Deregister Device” but I haven’t tested it yet. I’m quite happy with my rooted NOOKcolor. Another method is to hold power, nook and Volume+ buttons pressed until you are prompted for device reset.
I’ve tried both methods and both reset the nook but apps were still present on the “extras” screen.
The official 1.0.1 update got installed without problems and after rebooting all rooting extras were completely gone.
I then went ahead to re-rooted the device and installed the Kindle reader apps back.
Mashable is a leading social network news blog that was founded in 2005. You can get it on the Kindle and Kindle DX for 99 cents a month. By downloading the site to your Kindle, you can read it anytime with or without the wireless capability. Just keep in mind that the wireless needs to be on in order for the content to be refreshed.
Peter Cashmore founded the site from a small town in Scotland. The site includes up to date news on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Web 2.0 trends. This is a great resources for libraries because libraries are constantly striving to stay on top of the technology curve. In addition to libraries, this site is popular with entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts and pretty much anyone who is interested in Web 2.0 trends.
Some recent news topics include the newest iPhone apps. There is an article about an interesting looking case that makes the iPhone kid friendly. Another article discusses the ease of using the iPhone to swipe a credit card. If you are an Android user, there is news for you too. Of course, you can also find news on the Kindle, Nook and other e-book readers.
Social Media Marketing is a big deal right now, and Mashable is an excellent resource for finding suggestions on how to market yourself on Facebook and Twitter. Marketing your business on these sites helps get your brand out there and is also a good way to network with people in similar fields of expertise.
Looking beyond social media, another good technology blog to consider is TechCrunch. TechCrunch was founded in 2005 and profiles start ups, shares the latest technology news and reviews new internet products. Some of the latest articles include education and e-learning, an interview with the popular movie company, Netflix and thoughts on AT&T’s reaction to the rumored Verizon iPhone. There is also a section on environmentally friendly technology.
Both Mashable and TechCrunch are rated as top technology blogs. The reviews for the Kindle edition are great overall. Reading them on the Kindle makes them much more portable.
For anyone interested in manga, there is a free, open source software available called Mangle. Manga is a series of Japanese cartoons or comics that cover all genres such as action, comedy, romance, sports, science fiction, fantasy and others. Manga has become a huge hit in Japan and worldwide. Usually the comics are printed in black and white, but there are a few color versions floating around.
Mangle was created by Alex Yatskov several years ago for the older generation version of the Kindle. This software works really well with the Kindle 3. Click here for downloading instructions, and for images of software demonstrations.
The Kindle 3’s improved screen makes graphics much easier to read. Graphics have been a common complaint among Kindle users, but that seems to be improving. You can zoom in or out and rotate the images as desired. Manga pages in the physical books are small, but there are a lot of them. More pages take up space, so transferring them to a digital format solves that issue.
The other cool thing about providing manga in a digital format is that it attracts an audience who might not like to read regular books. Some people just enjoy reading a story through graphics rather than words. It would be awesome if this option could be provided on all of the Kindle platforms: PC, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad. When I think about it though, the black and white aspect of manga might just be a better fit for the Kindle device itself.
There is a good selection of manga available in the Kindle Books section on Amazon. A lot of them seem to be either in the romance or horror category. Anyone know of any particularly good novels they would recommend? I have been introduced to the world of manga, but would like to hear about what great titles are out there to check out.
Reports have been swirling around this past week that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is supposedly considering creating other gadgets to sell along with the Kindle and Kindle DX. This would be one tough feat considering that Apple has the monopoly on music players with its iPod, and cell phone carriers make the most revenue from cell phone services. Plus, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have a good head start with the iPhone and Android smartphones.
Amazon might be able to compete more closely with the iPad if it creates a tablet like device with a color screen and better internet access. However, by going to a LCD color display, the company would be abandoning it’s stance on providing a pleasurable reading experience that simulates the experience of reading a regular book.
A recent article from Bloomberg Business Week suggested that Amazon resell items that are already popular in it’s marketplace. That would save the hassle of creating a new product, and they could still make a decent profit from it.
I think Amazon should focus on the Kindle Books by working with the publishers to make the digital quality better and the prices more affordable. The Amazon Kindle app. is available on many different devices, including the iPad, and books can be transferred from one device to another. The recent drop in price and Wi-Fi only model was a smart move on Amazon’s part because the newest Kindle is now sold out. A cheaper Kindle means consumers can make up for the cost in buying more books.
While the Kindle has long since become an international phenomenon with customers found all over the world, many people are surprised to find that there have been significant shortcomings to being a Kindle user outside of the US. Sure, the books are digital property and take a lot less time to ship than if you decided to import a sofa, but delivery time isn’t everything. Up until now, users in the UK have been forced to pay extra for all of their eBook purchases, simply for being outside the United States.
The launch of the Kindle Store UK is currently scheduled for August 27th, coinciding with the release of the new Kindle 3, though I’m told that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) insists that it be called simply Kindle, and in preparation has begun selling the Kindle directly from the Amazon.uk site for the first time. This should mean no more import fees or expensive overseas delivery charges, if all goes well, as well as an end to any obnoxious side effects and hassles from the necessity of converting currency into dollars.
Apps are already being updated to incorporate this new development, with Android already rolling out and iOS being expected in the near future, so there need be no thoughts that this is beneficial to just eReader owners. As the platform localizes, UK readers can surely expect to see a larger selection(especially of native UK authors), better prices, and more attention to the region’s specific demands. If all goes well, it doesn’t seem unreasonable in the slightest to expect to see further nationalization of the Kindle platform across the international community. If anything, the fact that character support in the new Kindle software has been expanded would seem to hint that this is definitely on the books. This is exactly the sort of move that Amazon needed to further ensure that their eBook application becomes the default for the industry in the long term.
Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) has taken a page out of Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) book again recently by rebranding their eReader applications under the nook. This comes at the same time as, and is therefore well illustrated by, the much anticipated release of the nook software for the Android operating system, which is now available in the Apps store as a free download.
By all accounts, this is a solid piece of software. It seems to have most every feature we’ve come to expect in eReader applications for cellular devices, and an intuitive functionality very similar to that of the popular Kindle for Android application. I like having multiple font options a lot, and I can see the use for having additional font sizes even if I’m perfectly happy personally with the usual ones available on either app.
The one place that the nook app falls short, and it is kinda a big deal, is the complete lack of brightness and background controls. While it is obviously likely to be difficult to get something like that to work across a broad range of hardware profiles and other such difficulties, it is almost essential to have these features when reading on most cell phone types of screens. It’s a neat piece of software and I honestly believe that it is superficially better than anything else I’ve seen so far, short of buying a Kindle or nook or something, but when it comes to regular use you’ll be hurting for more control over the screen rather quickly.
Plenty of people out there have been looking forward to the Kindle eReader app for the Android OS for some time now and the waiting has come to an end. Honestly, it looks really good. Users will find all the usual features they’ve come to expect from the kindle platform, including a great selection, displays in portrait or landscape orientation, multiple text sizes, the ability to bookmark your books, and of course the ever-popular WhisperSync feature for those who move from device to device as their situation demands.
The App can be acquired free of charge by searching for “Kindle” in the Android Market or by scanning the QR Code provided for you on the Kindle for Android page, assuming you have Android OS 1.6 or later on your phone. For situations when you can’t carry your Kindle with you, this seems to be about the best you can get as far as portability goes. Not going to compare this application to the iPhone/iPad parallel, since I don’t have that handy to make any direct comparison, but it seems to be pretty much the same features and experience spread over the less hardware-restrictive landscape of Android. Give it a try and see for yourself!
A day after Amazon’s May 10 announcement regarding plans to offer Kindle for Android, Amazon announced updates for its Kindle for PC application. The article from eWeek suggests that Amazon’s recent actions might be in response to increased competition from the iPad, Nook, Sony E-reader and others.
Kindle for PC’s new features include the ability to edit notes and marks, change background color, adjust screen brightness control and includes a full screen reading mode. Amazon’s Whispersync technology transfers notes, bookmarks and “last pages read” between a PC, smartphone and the Kindle. By adding these adjustments to the application, Amazon has made it much more user friendly.
Jay Marine, Director of Amazon Kindle wrote: “Kindle for PC lets customers enjoy more than 540,000 books in the Kindle Store even if they don’t yet have a Kindle, and it’s the perfect companion application for the millions of Kindle and Kindle DX owners.” Amazon seems to be heading into the predicted direction of gearing their market towards software, despite solid Kindle device sales.
Amazon also recently announced plans for a new update to the Kindle and Kindle DX called Version 2.5. In this version, users will be allowed to share passages with friends on Facebook and Twitter. It will also include Collections, which categorizes books and documents on the Kindle into different sections based on the subject, and Popular Highlights, a passage from a book or document that the Kindle community finds the most interesting. Content sharing is “the big thing” right now. It will be an interesting trend to watch in terms how how the Kindle will work with it.
It appears that we have a major addition to the Kindle platform’s family coming up this summer. Kindle for Android has been announced and issued its preview page, where interested users can look into the details first-hand and sign up to be notified the moment the application is openly available. The features listed are basically those that one would expect: Availability of purchased books across all Kindle platforms, Whispersync across your entire account keeping track of last page read and annotations, five font sizes to choose from, and a generally intuitive touch-screen page turning interface in either portrait or landscape mode. All of the features we’ve come to expect from the Kindle Storeshould translate as well.
While it’s no secret at this point that LCDs aren’t quite as pleasant as eInk displays to read off of, the overwhelming sense of convenience and availability for most people in a day when cell phones go everywhere with us makes this a truly exciting announcement. It also raises the question of what effect will a Kindle Android app have on the openness of development for the nook. There was some excitement after the highly successful competing device’s last patch brought the first instance of Android app use and a great deal of speculation about what this could mean. Perhaps this announcement is related?
It looks like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is looking to become the most cross-platform eBook reader on the market.
SpringDesign wasn’t ready for a public show and tell when the Nook was announced. But due to the similarity between the two devices (and according to the Spring Design it is not coincidence), SpringDesign had to stick their neck out with an unfinished prototype. Now they finally have a finished version that can be played with and Pocket-lint got in some hands on time with it at this year’s CES. Of course, we all know that the CES 2010 almost had an entire section for eBook readers, there were just so many of them. Looks like everyone wants a piece of the Kindle pie! Apple included, if the rumors are anything to go by.
Coming back to the Alex, the first impression of the device is definitely its sleek looks. Looking at it in the profile really makes you appreciate how slim it is. Then you notice the LCD touchscreen. On the Nook, the secondary LCD touchscreen is barely a strip and is strictly meant for navigation. So to me it is more like a gimmick — watch your book covers in full color before beaming them up to the e-paper display. But on the Alex it is more like an iPhone sized screen. And with Android running in the background, it does have some exciting possibilities.
One thing that the Nook obviously has over the Alex is the massive support of the Barnes & Noble catalogue. With devices like this, at least at this moment, content can really make or break devices. The Nook would not have sold half as many units had it not been for the content that comes tied in with it. With that in mind, Alex’s $399 price tag sure sounds pricey compared to the Kindle and others. But given the extra functionality (almost everything Android does minus the GSM/CDMA bits) on a larger screen and a possible cut in prices when it goes into production, might see it catch on.