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First Impressions of the Amazon Fire

Amazon gave the tablet world a good shaking up this week with the announcement of their $199 Fire tablet.

My cousin Dani has asked me via Facebook for my thoughts, and I wanted to share those with a wider audience.

The most impressive thing of course is the price.  The only other tablet that compares with this price is Barnes and Noble's Nook at $250.  The Fire is faster and has more memory, so the comparison breaks down fast.

Those who know component pricing suggest Amazon is selling this unit at very near cost; maybe even taking a slight loss on each unit   They can do so because they are banking on the razor blade theory of marketing.

The Fire is setup to only buy books, apps, streaming video and music from Amazon.  And the biggest advantage is their tie in to the physical products Amazon sells.  Expect UPS business to grow too.

There is a huge market out there of people who will see the value of a tablet in the  $200 neighborhood who do not see it in a $500 iPad.  I am tempted to get a Fire just for web surfing.  Almost 100% of what I do on our iPad is surf the net.  I do it so much my hand actually numbs up holding it.  I have always been able to multi-task.  I'll surf the net while watching TV.  I've been known to read while watching TV.

The Fire is a better financial value if all you want to do is surf the net, and it is lighter then the iPad since it has only a 7 inch screen.

The Fire does not ship until mid-November.  So far, I haven't seen anyone review one that they have had more then a few minutes with.  I am need to to see an independent review before committing.

Some have been concerned about the browser on the Fire channeling all the requests through Amazon servers as part of its Silk browser's Split browser capability (described on the lower half of Amazon's page about the Fire).  Amazon will be able to know every page you see, and that has raised privacy issues.

In truth, where you go on the web is hardly a secret anymore.  If this concerns you with the Fire though, you can apparently turn off the Split Browser and go direct, avoiding Amazon servers.

My biggest issue is I am a Google fanatic.  Fire uses Android as its operating system, but you can't tell that from their information.  No where do they mention Google or Android.  Android is Open Source, meaning Google is ok with anyone downloading it and putting it on their devices.

Because Amazon did not choose to use an official Android version, but the open source one, Fire users do not have access to the Android App store from Google, only the Amazon one.

And you cannot get Google Android apps from the Amazon app store, like Maps, Gmail, Voice etc.  I use a lot of those services, and would miss them.

The $250 Nook is as tied in to Barnes and Noble as the Fire is to Amazon.  One reason it has been popular is there are ways to "Root" the Nook and install a standard Android to it, with the Google Apps.  It is unknown how locked down Amazon has the Fire and whether tech savvy users will be able to do this with the Fire.

That does kind of break your social contract with Amazon since they are selling the Fire with the expectation it will drive traffic to themselves.  I would be OK with that, because I am already an Amazon customer and would likely still use them more then anyone.  If they were giving away the Fire, or loaning it as long as you continued to buy a certain level yearly from them, I'd feel differently ; it would still be their device, just used by me.  Instead they are selling it me, so I can do what I want with it.  We just have to wait to see if it technically will be able to be rooted.

Maybe after I read some reviews or actually get to play with one, it will go my Wish List.

Update 10-01-2011 : This appears to be a cousin driven blog post!  Nothing wrong with that.  My cousin Linda just asked on Facebook chat whether the Fire would support a keyboard for use with emails.  It apparently has an onscreen keyboard, but I missed where it does not have Bluetooth.  That pretty much eliminates a wireless keyboard.  Our iPad is very handy for taking notes at conferences.  I wouldn't use it for final product production, but for raw text it is fine. Too bad you can't use the Fire in the same way.


  1. Rumors are that Amazon will have a 10 inch tablet too. If they do bring one out, I am betting it will have more features like Bluetooth and cameras. They seem to be following Apple's playbook a bit by holding back features to support newer models.


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