The disappointment that is the Kindle Fire

Recently, I heard from a friend who bought a Kindle Fire a few months ago. At the time, I had asked him to remember me with some feedback about his experience with the device. And that feedback was not good at all. Aside from the fact that his device died soon after receiving it, he comments that the device “usability was stripped to almost nothing for international users, there was poor application functionality, and multiple interface glitches.” It wasn’t the first time I had heard negative feedback from a friend regarding the Kindle Fire. Another friend had much the same to say about it and more. After rooting the Kindle Fire and installing a custom OS, he remarked that the hardware was inferior and that in his opinion the Nook tablet was a far superior device. The former gentleman has set his sights on a Nexus 7 and the latter has settled in with his brand new iPad.

Before the Kindle Fire was announced, it had been labelled ‘a potential iPad killer’ in the media. As I watched the live blog of the announcement by Jeff Bezos, I realised that iPad killer it was not. I might have mentioned that fact a few times on this blog, if you recall. I have always maintained that the Kindle Fire was never intended to be a general use tablet of the calibre of an iPad, but a content delivery system for the Amazon Prime ecosystem.

Until today, I won’t deny feeling a little disappointed in the Fire as a device. I felt that either Amazon deliberately allowed the public to assume it was a general use tablet, or they naively thought it could take the place of a general use tablet. In either case, it spoke of a fundamental disconnect between what the public was expecting and what Amazon thought the public wanted.

Fortunately, when I was asked to recall what the first generation Kindle was like and how much of an improvement the second generation Kindle was on the first, I realized that all was not lost. “The next Kindle Fire will be better. He’ll learn from people with more discernment than he. Just as he did with the first Kindle”, my friend reminded me. Whatever else Amazon intended with the first generation Kindle Fire, they wanted to deliver a product to their customers that they saw as innovative. And as with the first generation Kindle, we can expect that they will take whatever feedback we offer in return and improve on the device so that the next generation will better fit what customers want to see in the device.

Although, I strongly doubt that those improvements will include offering a more generalised tablet experience, I am almost sure that the hardware is likely to be more robust and the interface will be less clunky and buggy. Whether the content available to international users is expanded or not remains to be seen. That aspect of the Fire remains outside the influence of Amazon and in the hands of the respective media houses.

I’m not one for advocating using the general public as beta testers for your new device, and this is exactly what has happened with the Kindle Fire. To be honest, there is no true way to get a solid impression of what works and what doesn’t without placing the product in the hands of the customer. Software beta tests are largely free, but it would certainly be corporate naiveté to give away devices to the general public and ask for their feedback. The best possible outcome from a disappointment like this one, is to view it within the context of other such product offerings. And in light of what the Kindle dedicated eReader has evolved into, it doesn’t seem particularly unreasonable to see the first generation Kindle Fire as only a beginning and that the best is yet to come.

The one caution I might leave with you is that it be remembered that Amazon is not in the business of making tech gadgets and that expecting an all purpose, general use tablet is a bit of a stretch. Their business is all about what they can provide you themselves, without the input of any other third party content providers.

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