It’s all about tablets this week as following on from Microsoft’s Surface reveal, Amazon today announces three new Kindle Fires -- the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, and the Kindle Fire HDX, in 7 and 8.9-inch sizes. The new devices offer a slimmer design, better screens, faster hardware and an updated OS.
The $139 Kindle Fire HD has a high-definition display with 1280 by 800 resolution and 216ppi -- 66 percent more pixels than the previous generation Kindle Fire. It’s powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, and has dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio.
Amazon wishes to confuse its Kindle Fire market in much the same way Microsoft does with Xbox Points. Today the online retail giant announces "Coins", a new form of virtual currency that tablet customers can use to make purchases both in the app store, as well as in-app.
"Amazon Coins is an easy way to purchase apps and in-app items on Kindle Fire, and for developers it’s another opportunity to drive traffic, downloads and increased monetization" Amazon claims. While this seems to add disorder, there is a silver lining. For one, customers will receive up to a ten percent discount when buying Coins to make purchases, as opposed to using good old fashion real currency.
Amazon is a truly global company but until now its Android Appstore was only available in seven countries -- the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan.
That’s about to change though as Amazon has today announced plans to introduce its Appstore to close to 200 countries, inviting developers to submit their apps with the promise that they’ll be able to reach millions more active Amazon customers by doing so.
Last night something strange caught my attention, nearly enough to post a late-day story. Then this morning I got a little email nudge from Amazon PR, and thought: "Yeah. Why not?" The timing and broader ecosystem implications are interesting for service "Send to Kindle". Just as Google whacks RSS -- pulling feed icons from its products and setting Reader's execution -- Amazon provides a mechanism for saving content you come across, say, browsing at work for reading at home on your ebook reader or tablet.
The concept is by no means new, not even for Amazon. There are several good cloud services dedicated to saving content for later reading or incorporating the capability. Instapaper comes to mind, and Feedly has an easy tap mechanism to save for later. What makes Send to Kindle different is device/app-specificity. Additionally, websites, including WordPress blogs, can place a button supporting the service.
We've had to wait a tad longer than expected, but it's finally here. The team behind the popular custom Android distribution CyanogenMod unveiled the second monthly release based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, more than a month after the last build.
Like it usually happens with monthly builds, with CyanogenMod 10.1 M2 the focus is on stability improvements rather than introducing numerous new features that have yet to pass rigorous testing. As a result some of the latest features found in nightly builds may be left behind for future monthly releases in order to provide a custom Android distribution suited for daily-driver use.
How could I resist something like this? A bug in Amazon Kindle for iOS 3.6.1 de-registers the iPad or iPhone, deleting all content and settings from the device. Because of the iTunes Store review process, Amazon resorts to posting a warning that existing customers shouldn't install the app. What's wrong with this picture? That's my question for you, oh faithful, snarky commenters (surely you have words for me, too -- ouch).
Amazon's app note: "There is a known issue with this update. If you are an existing Kindle for iOS user, we recommend you do not install this update at this time". That was hours and days ago. Today, Amazon bumped up the app to v3.6.2, which supposedly resolves the problem. I don't have an iOS device, so would you mind checking for us all please -- lab rat in the Kindle Store.
For those of you skydiving from the edge of space or returning from a week in some Fringe alternate universe, today Apple announced iPad mini -- so far the autumn's worst kept secret. Rumormongers got right the event and sales dates, product name and screen size but flubbed the price; sorry it's not $249 or $299, Bub. That's in another alternate reality. But do dream.
I just have to ask, again: Will you buy iPad mini? I look forward to the impact facts will have on your answers. In February I asked: "Apple is rumored to be developing a smaller tablet. Would you buy an 8-inch iPad?" About 56 percent of the 3,624 respondents answered "Yes". That's a high number. But much has changed since, with Google Nexus 7 joining Kindle Fire at $199, Amazon offering 8.9-inch tablets and Apple choosing to price higher than many people hoped. So I ask the question again, offering new poll and your chance to comment.
The invitations are out, and rumors proved true. Apple will hold a special press event, presumably for iPad mini, on October 23 -- that's three days before Microsoft launches Windows 8 and Surface tablets. Talk about party crashing. Apple almost surely will steal much of its rival's thunder, splitting media coverage and assuring that most every Windows 8 or Surface blog post or news story will mention Apple and iPad mini.
Anyone who thinks the timing isn't deliberate lives in lala land. Capitalism is all about brutal competition, and if iPad mini debuts next week Apple will heap hot coals through Microsoft's Windows and onto its shiny Surface. InterWeb writers have obsessed about the rumored tablet for weeks. Its arrival will be almost as blah blah worthy as Steve Jobs returning from the dead.
Gaining elevated privileges (popularly known as "root") is facilitated by an exploit found in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that Amazon didn't fix before shipping the tablet. The fairly uncomplicated process gives the Kindle Fire HD a new trick up its sleeve -- using the Google Play Store, which provides access to all apps available there.
Following Amazon's Kindle Fire HD announcement, a reader reminded me of a prediction I made at the start of the year: "If Apple gives up its position of industry leadership in 2012 the only company capable of assuming that role is Amazon.com". I stand by those words -- Amazon is really bringing the fight to Apple -- but the most important part is "if Apple gives up its position", which it clearly hasn’t, at least not yet. The real loser here, in fact, is not Apple but Microsoft.
I could be wrong about this but I don’t recall any pundits (me included) predicting that Amazon would introduce a larger format tablet, yet that’s exactly what they did. The larger Kindle Fire HD with its built-in content and app ecosystem (and that killer 4G data package!) is a viable iPad competitor at a terrific price and puts real pressure on the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. Will Apple match the price? I don’t think so. That’s not the game they want to play. But the game is on, nevertheless, and users can only benefit from competition.
Google is in a tough spot. Apple suddenly looks like an ally now that Amazon has unveiled Kindle Fire HD. Both companies stand to lose big time should the tablet achieve any meaningful sales success. Google Play doesn't offer strong enough ecosystem to battle with either iPad or Kindle Fire, but Amazon's tablet is more likely to scorch Android's earth. Amazon's vertical integration -- store, software and services -- is tight, as good as Apple's and in many respects superior. No matter which wins, Android loses.
Here's the problem: Only Amazon has done any meaningful Android customization on tablets, creating a curated experience similar to Apple's. Like iOS, Amazon Android is tightly vertically and horizontally integrated with siloed services. Kindle Fire is designed to mainly work within the Amazon content/retail sphere and little outside it. Amazon runs its own stores -- everything from apps to movies -- while shunning Google Play. Meanwhile, Kindle Fire supports the custom Silk browser rather than the stock Android one or Chrome. Amazon Android is a competing platform/ecosystem within the larger, more open one Google champions. (The original Kindle Fire is customized Gingerbread and new HD models customized Ice Cream Sandwich.)
Amazon on Thursday unveiled four new Android tablets in the Kindle Fire family: two models with a 7-inch screen, and two with an 8.9-inch screen.
Irrespective of how many Kindle Fires Amazon actually sold, it's hard to argue that the retailer has done anything wrong. It built a content ecosystem first, and then delivered the hardware with which to consume that content. The icing on the cake was that the device was one of the cheapest brand-name tablets on the market.
Just hours ahead of Amazon's debut of a new Kindle tablet on Thursday, Kobo, the e-book company that can be thought of as "Canada's Kindle" debuted a new color Android tablet called the Kobo Arc.
Kobo Arc is the company's second Android tablet, following up on the Kobo Vox which debuted around this time last year.
I've seen some desperate bone-headed, PR moves before, but Amazon's newest is one to long remember. When Apple announces a press event, the InterWebs erupt with speculation about what it can be. When product inventory is low in stores on some fruit-logo product, rumors explode about something new in the pipeline. Amazon has to work harder, issuing today a press release that Kindle Fire has sold out, ahead of next week's press event. Could the retailer be any less subtle, while revealing sales data that is absolutely nothing but meant to be something.
BetaNews founder Nate Mook nails exactly what's wrong with Amazon's gambit to drum up excitement ahead of the September 6 event. Earlier today he forwarded the Kindle-Fire sell-out email, writing: "It's SOOOO successful. So we're not making any more". That sums it up.
Amazon just dropped an invite in my inbox for an unnamed "press conference". Timing sure is interesting with persistent rumors about a new Kindle Fire and possibly even a 10-inch tablet. All this around when about Apple is rumored to hold an event that could unveil the next iPhone. I don't take much stock in rumors, just what we know.
Which is this: Amazon will hold a press conference in two weeks at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif. Please use comments to make your guess what on earth it will be.