I love the Kindle Fire tablet launched today, even though I have yet to touch one. I love the $199 price, the clever browser (more about that below, it may surprise you), the tight integration, the application, book and video marketplace, the small size, I even like the limited features compared with an iPad. The Kindle Fire is perfect… for my kids. I’ll be buying three of them for Christmas.
Right now my boys, ages 5, 7 and 9 all have iPod Touches that have served them well despite having been many times lost, spilled on, and in one case very lightly driven over by a car. But the Touches, which also cost $199 as I recall, are getting old, their batteries recharged so many times to where they now barely last an hour. It’s time for something new, which in the eyes of my boys means something better.
In this instance bigger is better and the Kindle Fire is certainly bigger. My boys don’t need 3G or 4G, they don’t need a camera (I don’t want to see my seven year-old running a webcam business), what they need is a video machine with ebooks, light surfing capability and cool games. The only part I am unsure about with the Kindle Fire is those games, but I also know that Amazon isn’t stupid. Even the limited marketplace is an advantage in my view because it will probably do a good job at vetting content, protecting my kids.
Analysts will wonder how the Kindle Fire will affect iPad sales. It has to. I’ll be buying three Kindles, for example, rather than one iPad. So I’m predicting Amazon will have a hit and Apple will take a hit, but so what? Wasn’t something like this going to come along eventually anyway? If Amazon mightily validates the smaller form factor so scorned by Steve Jobs, you can bet Apple will follow with a seven-incher of its own. Game on!
What I’m not sure I see coming from this, frankly, is any boost for Android, which is hiding somewhere inside the Kindle Fire, potentially generating royalties only for Microsoft.
But this can only be good for consumers and I like what’s good for consumers. Maybe the aggressive pricing and fair feature set will incite Apple to new greatness. It probably will.
Now about that Amazon Silk browser that is being touted as so revolutionary and key to the Kindle Fire’s supposedly snappy behavior (remember I haven’t touched one): it’s clever, but not revolutionary at all. In fact, for all the gee whiz technical claims of Amazon this exact same technology has been used by thousands of rural Internet users for more than a decade.
The power of Amazon Silk that allows the Kindle Fire to need only eight gigs of local storage is its integration with Amazon S3 storage and EC2 cloud services. S3 will hold a copy of all data in the cloud for free while EC2 will run a smart application proxy that will cache, prefetch, and transcode data on behalf of the Kindle Fire user with the help of massive computing resources on that backend and gigantic data pipes. Where a dynamic page might require 20 or more DNS hits and data grabs, we’re told, the Kindle Fire will do all that via EC2 making the actual page generation a single grab at WiFi speeds, the page having been pre-assembled in the cloud at lightspeed right down to resizing graphics to smaller sizes that fit the Kindle Fire screen.
Cool, eh? Yet those features (TCP Acceleration and Web Page Acceleration) were both present in my old Starband satellite Internet connection back in 2000, where they were necessary to make surfing even possible over a 44,600 mile round trip. The Starband equivalent of EC2 was (and still is) a Gilat data center in Virginia. I’m not sure the Amazon Silk team has actually invented anything at all.
So unless Amazon quietly bought Gilat, the owner of Starband, then they are going to have a hard time keeping other tablet companies from copying or licensing these clever browser features.
Amazon Silk is cool, but we’ll see its equivalent on an iPad, too, almost immediately.