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Kindle Apps: What They'll Need to Be Useful for Web Working

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I’ve already expressed my opinion on what would make the Apple tablet (s aapl) a significant part of my day-to-day web working habits, but Amazon (s amzn) seems keen on positioning itself in or around the same space in the market, so it’s only fair I turn my attention to the Kindle, too. The recently announced apps for Kindle could potentially open up the platform to more than just reading.

As of now, the Kindle — although I find it professionally beneficial in the sense that I find myself reading more — doesn’t have a direct and measurable impact on my work life. I can think of a few ways apps could change that situation and make the Kindle a valuable tool in my web working toolbox. After all, the Kindle has always-on 3G connectivity and extremely good battery life, both very desirable things in a mobile platform.

A Twitter App

It’s an obvious pick. Basically any device that can have Twitter on it almost inevitably will have Twitter on it, eventually. But Twitter on a Kindle would be a good fit because it requires very little in the way of resources and processor power. It’s basically text, and if there’s one thing the Kindle does well, it’s text.

Sure, there are lots of images, videos and web links on Twitter, too, and some might feel that that was the most important aspect of the service. For my purposes on the road, though, I’m less concerned with deep engagement and more concerned with basic access. As long as I can read my stream, and, more importantly, post updates from my Kindle, I’ll be more than satisfied.

A Gmail App

Another mostly text web-based tech that would work on a Kindle is Gmail. The ability to browse your text-only email with a simple, light interface via the Kindle would actually be preferable to reading it on a computer, in my opinion, since it would make it that much easier to actually concentrate on the content of your messages.

It shouldn’t be that hard to include a simple composition component, too, since the Kindle has a full keyboard. The key to making this app really useful will be keeping it simple, so let’s hope all parties involved keep that in mind. For instance, just because the Kindle can now read PDFs natively, doesn’t mean a Gmail app needs to be able to display PDF attachments. Basic email is all I’m looking for.

A Word Processing App

I want to use my iPhone to write things on the road from time to time. I don’t want to have to get my laptop out just to jot down a basic idea, but I can’t, in all honesty, use the iPhone’s virtual keyboard for anything longer than a text message or a very brief email or tweet. It’s functional, but nothing more.

Despite the small size of the keys, I definitely prefer the hardware keyboard the Kindle makes use of. I use it all the time to make notes in the books I’m reading (a favorite Kindle feature of mine), and after an initial adjustment period, I now find it quite comfortable. A basic app that allows me to create even basic text files that I can then transfer to my PC for further editing and use in other documents is exactly what I need from a Kindle word processing app.

A To-do App

I know the iPhone (and other smartphones) sort of has this covered, but since my to-do needs are very basic, I think I’d actually prefer to do this sort of thing on the Kindle with its basic, paper-like e-ink display. It might not be as easy to navigate without a touchscreen display, but I might actually be more inclined to use something attached to my reading platform than to my phone.

No iPhone, But Not Without Merit

The Kindle isn’t an iPhone; it’s designed to be a single-purpose device. I don’t think Amazon ever foresaw a future in which it would begin offering apps for the platform when it conceived of the Kindle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. As a mobile device, the Kindle has a lot of advantages over media players and other platforms, and with the right kind of effort in the right directions by developers, it could be a very handy little web working tool.

What kind of apps would you like to see on the Kindle?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Evolution of the e-Book Market

8 Responses to “Kindle Apps: What They'll Need to Be Useful for Web Working”

  1. I don’t dig this at all. If you don’t want Twitter, don’t use it. If you don’t want Twitter to run on your Kindle, switch it off. The fact that you don’t want something doesn’t mean that nobody wants it, or that it shouldn’t be made available.

    I want Kindle (as an app) to run on everything I have. I have it on my Android phone, because at the moment, I don’t have a Kindle tablet. Regardless of what the future holds, the ability to download books that I have paid for to any device I want to read them on seems the most flexible solution for me.

    Conversely, there are certain aspects of the Kindle tablet which frankly are streets ahead of things like iPad. One is the long battery life. Another is the large display – albeit one which is geared to fairly static images. Another is the hard keyboard. From my point of view, the ability to use a Kindle tablet not only to read text, but to interact with it – either as emails or word-processed documents – would mean that it would change the way I did mobile computing. What I personally am looking for is a device that offers:
    – a largish screen
    – a long battery life (>10 hours)
    – the ability to write (keyboard)
    – the ability to hook up to the internet

    That’s not really a demanding list, and it’s not hard to imagine that there are lots of people who are looking for the same. All the other stuff – games, flashy graphics, youtube – are fun, but don’t honestly make that much difference to productivity.

  2. I like my Kindle the way it is. I even love the black-and-white (or black-and-kinda-white) screen. I don’t miss colors, I don’t miss a better web browser, and I certainly don’t miss Twitter.

  3. Noam Rathaus

    My feel is that you are not on the right direction, I got the Kindle to replace book reading, not to get a smart phone, I like to be able to shut down the phone and read a book.

    Having tweeter tweet there in the background, emails come in, will be distractions.

    That is why I think iPhone, BlackBerry, PC versions of Kindle are a waste of time.

  4. Great insights Darrell. It is quite interesting how this space is evolving and merging and expanding and overlapping. I have enjoyed getting Kindle books on the iPhone Kindle App for some time, and therefore avoided getting the Kindle itself and having to worry about one more device and the overhead that comes with it. I wonder if the Kindle Apps will entice me in getting a Kindle, or if I just go for the Apple tablet. It is more likely that the Apple table that might be able to play the role of a laptop replacement, and more likely to be the winner I would say!

  5. My first response to this discussion, frankly, is that we’re talking about ways to make it easy for people to interrupt us while we’re reading. There you are enjoying the latest great American novel, and somebody’s tweets come through – like adding commercials to books.

    But Kindle could be very useful for educational contexts. Being able to have reading group discussions on Kindle could be great for work, too — professional development opportunities abound. Being able to send someone an article or paragraph the way we now send or tweet a link could be excellent.

    We can look up words while we read with Kindle right now, but it might be nice to be able to pull up a map of the place we’re reading about, or a timeline.

    Update-able textbooks would be very good, too. That may be outside the realm of apps, but it would be good enough to be worth working towards.