As I write this, Jeff Bezos is on stage in Santa Monica, California presenting the newest developments in the Kindle product line. It’s been greatly anticipated the last several weeks and this is the time to learn what all the fuss has been about.
The first reveal of the day was the update to the Kindle eReader. The newest version of this Kindle is known as the “Kindle Paperwhite”.
The biggest appeal of this product is, as might be expected, improved screen technology. The Paperwhite has sharply improved contrast that everything crisper. Text will stand out more sharply than has been the case in other models as a result.
It also boasts a greater pixel density than previous models. The Kindle Paperwhite’s screen has 212 pixels per inch, up from the last generation’s 167ppi.
Rather than the three font options that we’ve had access to before, the new model will have six. New additions include Palatino, Helvetica, and Futura.
Battery life is still the same, offering up to 8 weeks of uninterrupted use.
Most importantly, the Kindle Paperwhite will have a lit screen, despite rumors about supply line issues. The light source is placed on the bottom edge of the screen itself and appears to do a great job of spreading illumination evenly across the display area.
As always, this new eReader will be thinner and lighter than previous models. As Bezos put it, “It’s thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paper”.
The new Kindle Paperwhite will be just $119 ($179 for the unlimited 3G model) and will be available in October, though preorders will begin immediately. The basic Kindle will also be getting a screen upgrade and a price drop to just $69.
In other Kindle hardware news we get the new updated Kindle Fire.
The replacement for the existing Kindle Fire will be 40% faster than its predecessor. Battery life has been extended a vague but apparently significant amount. The price has also dropped to just $159. It will be available on September 14th, explaining the sudden lack of Kindle Fires in the Amazon store this week.
More importantly, we now know about the Kindle Fire HD. This will come in two sizes, as many had hoped. The newer, larger Kindle Fire will be 8.9” and have a 1920 x 1200 resolution. Not quite as large as the iPad, but definitely moving in on Apple’s territory.
Both versions of the Kindle Fire HD will have stereo speakers to replace the mediocre sound quality of the first device.
They will also have greatly improved wireless connectivity. Anybody who was following the first Kindle Fire launch will remember that the device ran into trouble on many networks. This time around it will have two antennas, work on the 5GHz band, and have over 40% faster speed than the iPad’s wireless.
The 7” Kindle Fire HD will be shipping on September 14th for just $199. The 8.9” Kindle Fire HD will be $299 and ship sometime in November. Both models will have 16GB of storage space at these prices.
There will also be a $499 Kindle Fire HD that has 4G LTE cellular connectivity. This model will have 32GB of storage space and the data plan associated with it will run $50 per year. That meets one of the community’s big demands for the new model, so we will see how widespread adoption is.
Depending on how performance holds up in actual testing, and it seems to be impressive based on presentation alone, the Kindle Fire HD might just have what it takes to build Amazon up well beyond even the 20%+ tablet market share they claim to currently enjoy.
Stay tuned and we will keep you up to date on all the latest news related to this launch.
Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination. The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.” It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. That’s really not much to go on. Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.
About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles. The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there. It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.
The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success. The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark. That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however. The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.
The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand. Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.
Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader. This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.
On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire. It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered. Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders. It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.
The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st. A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”. While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.
This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle. The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements. All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting. Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.
State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?
There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences. We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).
The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases. The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays. Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime. Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.
In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock. That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.
The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories. An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that. The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it. Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.
Nexus 7 and Nook Competition
With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition. Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.
Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity. Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.
On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well. While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard. Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.
Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two. Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue. At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device. It just didn’t impress by comparison. Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree. Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.
iPad Mini Competition
The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon. While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market. The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.
At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable. Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply. The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch. They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve. This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.
Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by. The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock. You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access. The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.
Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire. Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.
We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available. This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations. It’s going to be an interesting announcement.
At long last, it seems we might get to see what Amazon has really accomplished in their efforts to update the Kindle Fire to be competitive with other big name tablets like the Nexus 7. Signs point to a hardware upgrade coming in the next few days, which would be good news given that the previously speculated initial release date was two weeks ago now. This week may just give us a good idea of exactly how much of a chance the Kindle Fire has of retaining its now-dominant position in the Android tablet market.
It seems safe to say that Amazon intends to at least announce their new products in a batch. This would include a new Kindle Fire, possibly a larger scale variation on the Kindle Fire, and at least one new Kindle eReader. This is based on a combination of intersecting timetables and the previous Kindle eReader release that brought us the Kindle Touch. Since Amazon is basically required to put out a front-lit Kindle at this point if they want to stay competitive in terms of hardware, it would make little sense to miss an opportunity to join that side of the business with the more versatile tablet side.
To make room for the expected new release, Amazon has quietly discontinued a large part of their eReader selection. The Kindle Keyboard WiFi is simply gone. The Kindle Touch 3G appears to be gone as well. Even the WiFi version of the Kindle Touch is currently listed as having delays from 3-5 days for the Special Offers option and no stock at all for the ad-free model. We also noticed that earlier this week Amazon used the Kindle DX as one of their Daily Deals selections, discounting it by $110 for a day. The basic $79 Kindle is still available, but it would be surprising if anything else is shipping out right now at all, regardless of rough delivery estimates made by the Amazon.com site.
The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is still listed as in stock and shipping immediately. Whether this is true or not is open to speculation, but it would fit with some of the rumors we have reported here previously. Amazon may be planning to continue offering the existing Kindle Fire at a discounted rate for a while in order to increase the rate at which users attach themselves to the Amazon digital services ecosystem.
A lot has been done lately to prepare for this release. Amazon has updated their music, video, and Android gaming capabilities significantly since a year ago when the first Kindle Fire was announced. While nobody really expects that the Kindle Fire 2, or whatever Amazon decides it will be called in the end, will be able to claim superiority over the Nexus 7 on paper, that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily have trouble competing. A decent facelift, improved software, and more integrated services than ever before are a guarantee. Somehow it doesn’t seem like they’re likely to stop at that, though.
All of the rumors seemed to indicate that July 31st would be the day we finally heard solid details about the new Kindle Fire release. Obviously that didn’t happen. That’s not necessarily a bad sign though. While things might be taking slightly longer than fans, speculators, and analysts had expected, there are plenty of signs that Amazon has something big planned right around the corner.
The update to Amazon’s music management is a strong indication that something is going on. Amazon’s emphasis on media service integration with their devices is well known. They might not have the most powerful hardware on the market but Kindle Fires are the easiest way to get at any of the digital content the company sells that can be reasonably run on a small, modestly powered tablet. The existing model isn’t exactly at its best with music playback thanks to the speaker configuration, but the interface makes use simple enough.
Now that you can import existing music selections rather than uploading them individually, including files downloaded through other services, the appeal of that option should be increased for any interested user. As far as Kindle Fire specifics, though, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out that Amazon has been working on docking stations for their next tablet, which reports indicate will have a very distinct form compared to its predecessor.
The recent release of the Amazon Instant Video app for iPads is also, paradoxically, a fair indication that the Kindle Fire 2 is nearly ready. Even if a larger model of Amazon’s tablet is ready right away, there is no way that they want to be entering into head to head competition with Apple at this stage. Plenty of rumors say that Apple ‘s already taking things in that direction with an impending iPad Mini, but that rumor has been cropping up repeatedly for two years now and the reasoning doesn’t seem to have improved much in the meantime.
By creating a convenient way for Apple’s customers to access their Amazon video purchases, the need for confrontation is somewhat negated. It’s important to remember that Amazon gains very little by way of income for selling the Kindle Fire. They’d be just as happy to have an iPad user locked into using Amazon services thanks to the closed ecosystem being developed, since content is where the money is anyway. The app release here might look like a lack of confidence in the Kindle Fire, but it’s really just paving the way for a deliberately niche product.
Most importantly, and most obviously, Amazon has started selling off refurbished Kindles at ridiculously low prices. This has happened before. People who use an Amazon.com Rewards Visa can pick up a basic Kindle eReader for just $47 now through August 15th using the coupon code KINDLE40. It’s pretty obvious that something is on the way to replace that Kindle.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re looking at an August 15th release date. In fact, people have largely stopped trying to guess at when Amazon will be ready. It will be here when it’s ready, but it’s safe to say that time is not far off.
While the Kindle Fire’s interface is one of its biggest selling points, there are a number of things that might be done to improve the user experience further. It would be silly to make things more like the stock Android environment given the extent of Amazon’s breaking away from Google’s ecosystem, but there are still other directions that things could easily go.
The things that would be nice to see in Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet are plentiful, but here are a few that would be especially nice on the software side of things:
Better Appstore Integration
Overall the experience of shopping for and downloading apps is quite nice. What would be nicer is the ability to install an app you own without being redirected to the Store Page. In the Apps tab’s Cloud display, installable apps have the option to “Install” right in their context menu. Unfortunately, selecting this does nothing more than selecting the icon does. There is no need for the extra step.
Expanded Codec Selection
The Kindle Fire is a video consumption device, at its core. While there is little local storage compared to some tablets, there is more than enough available to carry around several movies at a time. Finding video that will play on the tablet is more problematic, thanks to the currently limited selection of video codecs. This was likely an attempt by Amazon to get customers used to using the Instant Video service, but if somebody is going to the effort of side-loading their own videos then it’s not really worth the inconvenience caused by preventing the viewing.
Menu Bar Controls
It’s often a gamble as to whether the thin black options menu at the bottom of the Kindle Fire’s screen will disappear when I want something to be full screen. While it is understandable that Amazon feels the need to keep this available on a device that lacks physical controls of any sort, the option to completely hide it rather than simply minimizing it would be more than welcome.
Expanded Parental Controls
The more recent firmware updates have added in a fair number of parental control options. It’s a good start. There are still cases, however, where more could be done. It would be great to see Amazon put some more effort into this and release a set of more intricate settings. This is especially important now that we’re finally seeing in-app purchasing, social gaming, and other such features that will appeal to younger users.
The Kindle Fire 2 is going to be a strong product. We know that Amazon has put some real work into the redesign and can hope that the software side received similar attention. With the competition breathing down their neck, now is the time to really impress potential customers.
Are there any features that you would like to see added or improved for the upcoming release?
A recent report based on information coming from a Staples executive has had the internet abuzz with rumors about there being as many as six Kindle Fire tablets on the way any time now. Demos Parneros, president of US Retail for Staples Inc, indicated that they have six SKUs ready for the upcoming release. Naturally Amazon has declined to comment on any of these rumors, but the chances of there actually being six new tablets on the way are incredibly low.
This is not to say there will be nothing new. Chances are very good that both a 7” Kindle Fire and a larger 10” Kindle Fire will be released at the same time. We also have information from previous such stories that tells us the existing Kindle Fire will be re-released at a lower price with a slightly improved screen to help Amazon once again corner the Android tablet market. It’s reasonable to expect that will be as far as the expansion of the line goes, however.
New SKUs do not mean entirely distinct new products. If we assume that at least one of the tablets will have 4G connectivity available as an option, that option would be its own distinct SKU. The same would be true for each variation in storage space. An 8GB Kindle Fire and a 16GB Kindle Fire would be separated even if they were otherwise identical.
Six SKUs could be as simple as Amazon offering either extra storage space or optional 4G connectivity for each of the three models we are expecting. Alternatively, we may still see only 7” releases at this time and find a “Kindle Fire Original” along with Kindle Fire 2 models featuring varying combinations of storage space and such. It isn’t hard to come up with minor variations that account for the Staples information.
All of the speculation about there being completely unexpected products, such as a Kindle Phone, is jumping the gun. That sort of thing may happen, and some people consider it to be almost inevitable, but it will not be coming in the next could weeks. After all, what sense would it make for Amazon to release so many options that no particular Kindle Fire successor was able to capture public interest? This is clearly a company that knows better than to do something that reckless, however sure they may be of their position in the market right this minute.
Supposed upstream supply sources have released information that may pertain to the upcoming announcement of the Kindle Fire 2. This info, coming through NPD DisplaySearch Analyst Richard Shim, indicates slightly different production emphases than the recent BGR article talked about, but is otherwise mostly consistent. While this must be taken with a great deal of caution, upstream supply chain sources being notoriously unreliable and often interpreted poorly, the implications are worth exploring.
The report in question talks about four upcoming Kindle Fire models:
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1024 x 600 Display
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display and Camera
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display, Camera, and 4G Internet Access
- 8.9” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1920 x 1200 Display
Of these, according to Shim, the two basic 7” models are scheduled to begin production in August while the 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 4G Internet Access will have to wait until September. The larger model will not be available until it’s time for holiday sales.
Along with this information, we get notice of an upgrade to the pixel density of the Kindle Fire 2’s screen. Like the Nexus 7 from Google, it will now be a 216 PPI display. For context, the existing Kindle Fire has a 1024 x 600 display with 170 pixels per inch.
There are two vital pieces of information to take from this, as well as one fairly interesting point that may be useful later this year.
First, while there will still be a lower resolution Kindle Fire model made available for under $199, this information would indicate that there have been hardware changes. The most inexpensive Kindle Fire model available after the new hardware is announced will not simply be backstocked units of Amazon’s current tablet.
Second, the Kindle Fire 2 will likely be able to beat Google’s Nexus 7 to 4G connectivity. If Amazon can pull that off, it will be a huge boost to their reputation in the tablet market and would lead to increased sales. We are certainly not looking at the potential for unlimited free cellular transfer as in the Kindle eReader line, due to the volume of data involved in media streaming and app downloads, but just having the option available will open doors.
This report also points to the larger Kindle Fire 2 being an 8.9” device rather than the 10.1” device that many have been hoping for. Since we are looking at slightly more distant production there will be more room for variation and this is in direct conflict with other equally “reliable” sources. Nonetheless, going with a slightly smaller size might be a productive choice if Amazon is looking to both keep the costs down on their own device and avoid too many direct comparisons with the industry-leading 9.7” iPad. Clearer size differences mean fewer side by side comparisons.
Either way, keep an eye out for highly discounted Kindle Fire offers. If we’re moving into a new generation of devices, Amazon’s likely to have “refurbished” units on sale.
Some of the likely details regarding Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire successor have been available for a bit now. As we get closer to what most sources consider a highly probably launch event in July, these are naturally becoming more detailed. Most recently, tech news site BGR has expanded on a few of the more interesting details that make the upcoming Kindle Fire an improvement on the original.
The biggest news here is that, assuming BGR has once again found a reliable source, the highly sought 10 inch Kindle Fire will be released in July at the same time as the improved 7 inch model. While the plan when Amazon’s first tablet was still in its earlier stages there were plans for the release of both 10 inch and 7 inch options. In the interest of releasing in time to take advantage of holiday sales, they chose to concentrate on the less expensive of the two devices. Now that some time has passed and interest has remained relatively high we will finally get to see the line filled out a bit.
The new 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will be running a quad-core processor to offer a bit more power. Obviously the larger screen is an improvement, but it will also be higher resolution. Whether this means 1280 x 800 as with the 7 inch model is unknown, but it is likely that the emphasis here will be on true HD content delivery and that will influence things.
The overall build quality of the new Kindle Fire models has also apparently been improved. While they will be thinner than the existing Kindle Fire, and slightly thinner than the original iPad, they will feature a metal case rather than the soft plastic that the older model makes use of. A new chrome finish will be used to add highlights against the black matte we are used to, and a ribbed texture on the back will make it more comfortable to hold. Having a more distinct appearance will definitely help with sales regardless of any other reasons for switching to a metal case.
The positioning of the speakers has been altered to some degree in order to improve the sound quality. The 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will also finally offer users a front-facing camera. While not exactly the most useful of features for most people, it is one that has frequently been requested. Both models will include a microUSB port and what is suspected to be an HDMI port.
Amazon has been aware of impending competition from Google and Microsoft on the tablet front throughout their development. While the Kindle Fire took off immediately and conquered the Android tablet market, everybody else is catching up quickly. That includes some like Google who can actually offer comparable media integration. The new Kindle Fire 2 will have to be impressive to compete with not just the new competition but also the thoroughly entrenched iPad. They can’t avoid the comparison to any degree once a larger model is available for sale and it should be interesting to find out exactly how much of an improvement has been made in order to meet these challenges.
The current expected release date is July 31st. There is no word yet on 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 pricing. The 7 inch Kindle Fire 2 is expected to sell for $199.
Naturally, there is a new Kindle Fire on the way. We are also expecting there to be a new E Ink Kindle eReader released alongside it. The Kindle Fire 2, or whatever Amazon decides to label their new device, has aroused a lot of interest over the past few weeks and the release of a Kindle that matches or exceeds the capabilities of the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight will be a big thing for the company. Now, citing reliable sources rather than simply the less than reliable DigiTimes reports, CNET has come up with a July 31st launch event to introduce both of these products to potential customers.
Rumors have indicated that the Kindle Fire 2 will be improved in a number of ways. It will have a higher resolution 1280 x 800 screen while maintaining the same 7” size, according to most of the rumors today. This latest report indicates that it will also have a camera and physical volume control buttons. Both of these features will be welcome additions for many Kindle Fire users. One can only assume that with the addition of a camera Amazon will also have seen fit to include a mic to make their tablet into a viable communication tool.
The new Kindle eReader will also have minor improvements across the board. The most important of these will obviously be the ability to light up the screen. We saw several months ago that Amazon had bought a patent that would allow them to add a refraction layer for front-lighting their eReaders, but Barnes & Noble beat them to the punch. Given how well B&N has done in making a great lit eReader, we have to hope that Amazon has used the intervening time to improve more than just the lighting. Expect to at least see physical page turn buttons return to the Kindle Touch version of the next generation.
Amazon is expected to be selling these new devices for the same price as current models. The new Kindle Fire 2 will be going for $199 while the basic model of the new Kindle eReader will be just $79. While it is too early to say for sure, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to find out that Amazon was including lighting in all their eReaders at no extra charge, thereby undercutting Barnes & Noble’s prices yet again. The Kindle Fire that we know today will continue to be available in its present form for the indefinite future, but it is believed that the price will drop to just $149 as the new version hits shelves.
None of this tells us anything about a new larger Kindle Fire model. While reports still indicate that such a tablet is on the way, the rumor mills are surprisingly quiet about the details. Presumably it will be more powerful and have features comparable to other large tablets, but things like price and release date are completely unknown and barely speculated on. We’ll try to bring you more on this when the information becomes available.
Unless literally none of the information we have about upcoming developments in Kindle products turns out to be accurate, there are a couple things we can safely assume. There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle eReader along the lines of the Nook Simple Touch w/ GlowLight, for example. That was inevitable, of course, but thanks to the details of Amazon’s recent contract with the US State Dept we know that it will be sooner rather than later. We also know that there will be a new Kindle Fire tablet of some sort this year.
Amazon is said to have originally intended a larger model Kindle Fire to b ready on release day, giving customers some choice. Due to time constraints, and the need to be ready for last year’s holiday season, that didn’t pan out. This year the talk has been about Amazon making good on that potential. We have heard rumors indicating an 8.9” Kindle Fire, a 10.1” Kindle Fire, both at once, and more. The predicted timeline puts whatever happens in the next 4-6 months.
The latest update we have on this comes via DigiTimes. As always, they must be taken with some caution. Still, the information seems realistic and they have come up with some early information in the past that turned out accurate.
This report indicates that Amazon will be releasing an update to their 7” Kindle Fire in the third quarter of 2012. It will include a higher resolution 1280 by 800 screen as well as other unspecified hardware improvements meant to target higher-end tablet customers. The price of this model will still be just $199.
The existing Kindle Fire will continue to be available to customers much as the iPad 2 remains available despite the hardware having moved on. The Kindle Fire Classic, or whatever it is called by this time, will be sold for just $149. This is expected to go a long way toward increasing Amazon’s exposure and overall Android tablet dominance.
The same report also goes on to explain that the previously mentioned 10.1” Kindle Fire is still going to be made and appears to be on the way either late in 2012 or early in 2013. Supposed 8.9” device development has been suspended, presumably because three active options in the Kindle Fire line will already be more than enough to choose from. There is no word so far how much this larger tablet will cost.
DigiTimes aside, I think that there is enough precedent to say that Amazon will likely have a large sale on the existing Kindle Fire prior to and immediately following the release of its successor. It may be kept around, much as the Kindle Keyboard has been, but more likely the price drop will simply be a transition tool. Amazon has been suspected of selling previous generation devices as “refurbished” regardless of their actual condition in order to drum up some last minute interest and clear out existing inventories.
Recent data out of ChangeWave Research indicates that the Kindle Fire is still idling at a much lower level of consumer interest than was the case in the fourth quarter of last year. Obviously nobody expected the rate to jump back up to as high as it was immediately after the holiday release of a much anticipated product, but the fact that there has been no noticeable change since the beginning of this year is being taken to mean that the Kindle Fire is essentially dead in the water.
ChangeWave Data (as seen on the right) puts the interest in Kindle Fire purchases among potential customers at about 8%. This compares less than favorably to the iPad’s 73%. I don’t think it is fair to say that this comparison should be made given that they serve completely different customer needs, but let’s take this for what it is.
The Kindle Fire is still running ahead of all other Android devices by a fair margin. Even in the limited information we get from this ChangeWave survey, interest appears to be at least 30% higher for the Amazon product compared to its closest non-iPad competition. In that respect, it is doing quite well. This doesn’t mean that there are great times in store for the future of the product, however.
The biggest issue right now seems to be the fact that Android is failing to match up with the competition. The best sellers are the Kindle Fire, which goes a long way to distance itself from Android, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which appears to be considered as one unit in the publicly available information of this report despite actually being a line of four separate products. Nobody else stands out.
I would predict that tablet customers get even more cautious in the months to come. We’re still waiting on an official announcement about the Kindle Fire 2. The release of Windows 8 tablets into the market is going to upset things in a way that nobody can quite predict yet. Even Apple might do something unexpected if the incredibly far-fetched iPad Mini ever actually appears. About the only company that customers can be completely sure of ongoing support from right now is Apple and even there it is hard to be certain that you’ll be making the best use of your money.
In the short term, I expect the Kindle Fire to become more of a niche product. It is a media consumption tablet rather than a fully functional computing device. You can’t reasonable replace even a small computer with it like you can an iPad. This doesn’t make it any less useful, but customers are now realizing that there are specific reasons to get a Kindle Fire and that you can’t expect it to function as an iPad competitor. It was never really meant to.
In the long term we have to wait and see where Amazon goes with the next Kindle Fire. If the reports of a larger, more powerful device are true then perhaps they will be trying for a serious PC replacement. It might not be the best time to be marketing something like that against all the new Windows 8 PCs, given how well Windows 8 is said to perform on a touchscreen device, but there is the chance that Amazon’s forking of Android will be sufficient to generate their own unique category in customer perception.
Even if they had no prayer of ever taking majority control of the tablet market, and realistically I don’t think anybody believes they have a prayer of doing so, Amazon isn’t about to drop the product line. It is still gaining popularity, however slowly. Media is still selling through it more steadily than through any other Android device. However much Kindle Fire sales numbers might not match up to holiday interest, that’s only part of what matters when it comes to success.
For a while now the big issue in predicting the ongoing success of the Kindle Fire has been the anticipated iPad 3. It was going to be a small scale device, roughly comparable in size to the Fire, and be priced closely enough that Amazon would have no choice but to step up in a huge way or give up entirely. So said the rumors, at least. Now that we know better, there is still the issue of what to expect in future releases from Amazon.
Clearly their tablet interests are an ongoing sort of thing. We already have fairly substantial rumors about the second generation of Kindle Fire being planned for this summer. If we take the original Kindle eReader as any indication, the first offering may have been little more than a probe into the market to see what potential there was for profit. Despite its popularity, the original Kindle didn’t hold a candle to the Kindle 2 even given the lack of substantial competition in the early days of the line and this has many wondering if the same level of improvement is in store for the Kindle Fire 2.
The most recent semi-reliable rumors seem to center around a 10” Kindle Fire being in the works. This would be a simultaneous release alongside an update to the 7” version, of course, but it would indicate a serious change of approach by Amazon in drawing direct parallels with the market-leading iPad. This is not out of character in any way, looking at past ads that highlight both the Kindle eReader’s greater suitability for reading in sunlight and the Kindle Fire’s dramatically lower pricing, but drawing increased attention to direct hardware comparisons is a bold move.
To support this, Amazon will clearly have to have a lot of improvements waiting for us. What can be expected? Here are some of my predictions for later this year:
- Cameras – both front and rear facing cameras suitable for video chat, probably VGA quality.
- Bluetooth – Kindle accessories are a big deal and this would open the door to everything from keyboards to wireless headsets. Essential for getting the most out of the tablet as a video player.
- 16GB+ Onboard Storage – The complaint about local disk space might be slightly over-emphasized for many users, but it’s hard to imagine not occasionally butting up against an 8GB limit. Cloud storage is great, but 16GB is not too much to ask.
- Android 4.0 – While this one is hard to say for sure, given potential complications with updating the Kindle Fire’s custom OS fork to take advantage of newer versions of Google’s product, the fact that it was designed with tablets in mind and offers a lot of new features means that an update must at least be in consideration at the moment.
There will not be major changes of philosophy. Users will not be seeing slots for expandable memory, for example. There will also obviously be no chance of an open system that connects easily to Google Play. The new Kindle Fire 2, when it comes out, will be more of what we expect from the first generation in most ways. It will just take what is already an impressive experience and build on it to do the job better.