My Kindle Fire arrived today. I bought it to have an Android tablet for web application testing. Of course, I'll also just plain use it too.
For context, I should note that my work bag that I take with me to work and pretty much everywhere contains the following:
* Windows laptop
* MacBook Pro
* iPod Touch
* TMobile MyTouch Slide (in my pocket, technically)
* Dell Venue Pro - Windows Phone 7
* Google Nexus
* iPhone 3G that actually only has 2G data access and no WiFi.
* Original Kindle
The Kindle Fire will probably replace the original Kindle, but for at least a while will just be an addition.
OK. With that out of the way, I've seen plenty of reviews of the Kindle Fire, most from people who clearly prefer the iPad. In many cases, I can see biases that the reviewers seemingly aren't aware of.
The first is that many of the reviews sound like someone who's been driving a Lexus or Mercedes for the last 2 years and they're reviewing a Toyota or Honda. Any but the most neutral reviewer in that situation would find themselves underwhelmed, no matter how solid and appropriate the Toyota.
That's because a Lexus is $60-80K while the Toyota is $25-30K. That's relevant because that's the same kind of ratio we've got when comparing a $500-800 iPad against a $200 Kindle Fire.
So, when reviewers act like that price difference doesn't matter, I have to wonder how they'd handle reviewing the Lexus/Toyota next to each other. Those reviewers keep comparing 3G data access, cameras, etc. against the iPad.
You want to know what the killer feature for the Kindle Fire will be? The fact you can buy one EACH for 3 kids for the same price as one 3G iPad.
The other thing that strikes me is that the people who are happiest with their iPads are those who buy into the "Apple lifestyle". They're the ones that buy their music, movies and TV from iTunes on a MacBook Pro or Air, watch that content on their AppleTV over WiFi provided via their Airport Extreme. That's clearly by design.
That's where I think my experience with the Kindle Fire so far differs from many reviewers. See, when I powered it up, it showed ~120 Kindle books on my bookshelf that I've already purchased. When I opened the music section, there were nearly 30,000 MP3's that I've already uploaded for free to the Amazon Cloud. When I open the video section, I'm greeted by a bunch of movies and 54 TV seasons, including the current season of Walking Dead where the last couple of episodes I haven't had time to watch are waiting. Along with them are piles of stuff in the Amazon Prime library.
That sounds like one big Amazon commercial, doesn't it? Of course it does. That's how most Apple pitches sound too. But, if, like me, you've actually been in the Amazon content camp for quite some time, things line up nicely and you have that same, smooth experience that longtime Apple customers have had when buying iPads.
None of the reviews I've read so far seem to have come from anyone who already had a lot of Amazon content. And, the content strategy is really where the success or failure of this product hinges, doesn't it?
Overall, it's a decent device. It does the 80% most common things I do on an iPad and, for content consumption, which is a large part of that, it does it better FOR ME, because my content is already on the Amazon stack.
The built-in speakers are acceptable, screen's bright, etc. The size is actually better for me than the iPad. I know, from reading the tech press, that I'm not supposed to feel that way, but I do. In portrait mode, it's narrow enough that I can type with my thumbs like on a phone. Given my hand size (I'm a 6'4" 260lb guy), it's actually better/easier than it is for me on software keyboards in phones. It's trade paperback size, which, in books, is clearly sold in that size for a reason. I can read much more comfortably with the Kindle than I can with the iPad. I like that.
Lots of geeks/techies seem to think "everyone" already has an iPad, any time spent in more "mundane" circles (like western Minnesota where I grew up), you'll find very few iPads and lots of derision at the idea of spending $500-800.
If you look at this like the early days of cars, you don't get America driving by selling them Mercedes Benz cars, you do it by selling $600 Model T's. The whole time Henry Ford was cranking out Tin Lizzies, Mercedes and other luxury brands were doing much more feature-full models, but cheap, basic cars took over America.
Only time will tell whether that parallel is correct or just another in a long line of ill-fitting analogies of technology to cars. But, I'm betting on Amazon.