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Amazon Kindle Fire: What the web is saying

Early reviews of Amazon’s(s amzn) Kindle Fire tablet appeared on Monday, in advance of the device being received by customers. A mixed bag of impressions round out the reviews, which isn’t surprising because of the varying use cases for Amazon’s 7-inch Android (s goog) tablet. Some are comparing it to the Apple iPad(s aapl), which makes sense to a point, although few will be likely to own both devices. The iPad offers far more capabilities due to the larger display and wider range of third-party apps. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has fewer functions, but to some, can perform those admirably at less than half the price.

The timing of the reviews coincide with my own decision to pre-order a Kindle Fire just yesterday: I explained my decision-making process of the Fire over the Nook Tablet here. If I like the Kindle Fire, I’ll end up selling my current 7-inch slate, a Samsung Galaxy Tab. But as I pointed out in my article, I don’t think consumers looking for a low-cost media tablet can wrong with either e-reading tablet. Yet discussion around the web seems pretty polarizing between the Fire and Nook Tablet today, based on the initial reviews.

At MSNBC, (s cmcsa)(s ge) Wilson Rothman loved the device and thinks Apple should be concerned that it has no similar form factor device to compete in the category. I’ve long craved a 7-inch iOS tablet for greater portability over the 9.7-inch iPad, but so far, it’s just a unicorn. Rothman points out that the Kindle Fire’s main features work well enough to provide an Apple-like experience:

I’ve had it [Kindle Fire] since Thursday — reading, watching video, listening to music, checking email, even playing some games — and I can say it’s tight. Turn it on and you know what to do, like with an Apple product. So much like an Apple product that Apple should be scared.

Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Andy Ihnatko continues the Apple versus Amazon theme in his detailed review. Although Ihnatko sees room for improvement in the user interface of the Fire, he notes that with Amazon’s ecosystem, you get a capable device for $199. And buyers may find themselves in one of these two camps instead of choosing an alternative Android tablet:

The Fire is a marvelous device. And Apple and Amazon couldn’t have created a more complementary pair of tablets if they’d colluded on it. Want a tablet that does everything, and which does books exceptionally well? Buy an iPad. Want something more compact, and you’re not terribly interested in much more than content consumption? The Fire is aces. I feel as if every potential tablet consumer will recognize themselves in one of those two descriptions.

Not everyone is impressed by Amazon’s new tablet, however. Jon Philips of Wired offers a mostly negative writeup of the Kindle Fire suggesting the 7-inch screen is “too small for any semblance of an immersive reading experience.” After reading dozens of Kindle books on my 7-inch Galaxy Tab, I wholeheartedly disagree and wonder if Philips has ever read a book on a smartphone, where it’s even more cramped. Other than video playback, Philips just wasn’t impressed by the device’s functionality, saying:

At the end of the day, the Fire must be judged by how well it executes in terms of its Newsstand, Books, Video, Apps and Web features. It does nothing very well, save video playback, running various Android apps, and making the business of Amazon shopping alarmingly fun and easy. If you already have $200 in your high-tech hardware slush fund, and you’re not willing to splurge one cent more, I suggest you wait longer before pulling the trigger on a tablet. Let that nest egg build. Let it grow interest. Wait for the Kindle Fire 2. Or — yes, I’m going to go there — consider an iPad.

There’s no lack of other reviews today and once my own Kindle Fire arrives, I’ll share my impressions. And of course, the Barnes & Noble Nook(s bks) Tablet for $249 also arrives later this week, giving consumers another low-cost media tablet option. Between that forthcoming device and today’s reviews, commentary on Twitter is all over the map. Here’s a small sampling of the more interesting tweets I read today.

http://twitter.com/#!/willfanguy/status/136090141717573633

19 Responses to “Amazon Kindle Fire: What the web is saying”

  1. I did really want to get this for the wife, but I am concerned about what she would do if she, or the kids wanted to watch a choice of movies or read a choice of books in a place where they are out of WIFI range. 32GB holds a lot of movies and books and games, 8GB does not. They would have to be very selective on what they put on.

    • Agreed, the memory limitation could put some off from buying the Kindle. It’s really optimized for a connected environment, so that the cloud is your “local” storage. Books, really don’t take up that much space; you should be able to carry thousands. A few hundred apps too. But when it comes to video, the storage can go quickly for sure.

  2. Andre Goulet

    It’s all moot to us Canadians. The only full user experience available in Canada is the iPad. Everything else has so many content restrictions on it to make the device a poor purchase decision. A rooted Nook *might* be okay with the Kindle app on it, then side loaded content, but that is not for consumers, just geeks.

    The devices are, in actuality, the smaller part of the equation. With that in mind, only Apple is succeeding across the board.

  3. John Davy

    looks like and interesting comparison taking place and all seem to have some varying views. Hands up to coming from the Nook front. Would suggest it is going to be a week or two before the dust settles and some real comparative detail gets loose.
    Very interested (being in London) to hear that B & N are considering a UK Europe launch for Nook. About time you hear from over here
    JD
    [email protected]

  4. ” Rothman points out that the Kindle Fire’s main features work well enough to provide an Apple-like experience” – and smoking a Parodi provides an experience like smoking a Cuban cigar. But, I wouldn’t recommend it as a substitute.

  5. Its an ok device if you live in the US, don’t travel much and use it mainly from home or school. Amazon’s original kindle isn’t even available in many countries around the world, neither is Amazon’s book/music/video store.

  6. No other manufacturer should be in the 7″ tablet space, unless they have a good excuse for losing money on every one, or can justify a higher selling price to consumers. Amazon is willing to lose money on each one they sell, in hopes of getting more revenue back on future sales. That they will get that return is questionable – if they lose $50 per unit sold, and their net incremental margin on all products sold via the fire is 20% (not likely, but give them the benefit of the doubt), then each Fire needs to generate $250 in additional revenue, just to compensate for the losses incurred by selling the Fire (this won’t cover development expense, or opportunity cost as Amazon focuses time and capital on the Fire).

    Apple doesn’t need to compete in this space, unless sales of the ipad slow down. They didn’t come out with a 7″ ipad at the start because they felt it wasn’t a good form factor for all of the functions a tablet might be used for, and I don’t see why that has changed, just because Amazon is selling one. However, if Apple wanted to sell a cheaper version, they could probably sell a 7″, reduced memory ipad for $300, but I would bet they would rather wait for costs to come down, and offer the ipad 2 for less money, and sell the ipad 3 at a higher price, than cut into their existing sales now.

  7. The limited non expandable memory on a device that depends on the wifi based cloud makes the Amazon Fire a device that loses much of its usefulness when wifi is not available. The larger expandable memory gives the Nook Tablet a serious advantage whenever and wherever wifi is not accessible to the user. Think travel of any sort. The Amazin Fire will not be able to be Rooted because of the limited memory as well as the lack of an SD slot of any kind, something that will be possible with the Nook Tablet just as it has been and is possible with the Nook Color now. Depending on the Cloud so much puts the Anazon Fire at a serious disadvantage whenever you are anywhere outside of the United States. You cannot order any books from the Amazon digital download area when you are anywhere outside of the United States. You can order digital downloaded books when you are outside of the United States with the Nook Tablet as long as you make your purchase using a U S charge card.

    • “The limited non expandable memory on a device that depends on the wifi based cloud makes the Amazon Fire a device that loses much of its usefulness when wifi is not available. The larger expandable memory gives the Nook Tablet a serious advantage whenever and wherever wifi is not accessible to the user. ”

      Jim, I’m not disagreeing with you as my Galaxy Tab with integrated 3G makes the device usable in far more places. But I’m curious: do you think your comment applies equally to the 16 GB iPad + WiFi model? Thx!

      • rick gregory

        Allow me, Kevin, as I have a 16g wifi iPad 2…

        I think the internal storage is fine in both cases provided one’s only doing books and limited amounts of video. On my Nook Color the 50 books I had never amounted to more than 100meg or so. Books are tiny in storage terms.

        Music’s not bad either. Remember, the first iPod had what, 4 or 5gig and was advertised as “1000 songs in your pocket”. What eats space is video and some games. Even then, I can rip a DVD to about 1gig per 2 hour movie, so in 6 gig I could get a movie or two, a few dozen albums and a few dozen books. In the 16 gig of my iPad2, even more.

        If you’re offline a LOT, e.g. an extended trip away from home, you might have issues, but the fact is that most prospective tablet buyers simply aren’t offline for days at a time unless they choose to be.

      • Kevin,

        Depends on the device, but in my experience 8GB is bare minimum, 16GB is adequate for a particular subset, 32GB is decent, and I might have trouble fully utilizing 64GB. I have touch devices with all of these sizes.

      • Major difference that has not been noted by any reviewers.
        All Apple products can fully access the iTunes Store and can fully utilize the Apples Apps store anywhere in the world. The Apple Cloud is available anywhere in the world.
        The Kindle Fire’s access is severely restricted anywhere outside of the United States.