Large Tablet Buyer’s Guide, 2012 Holiday Season

The tablet space once dominated by Apple’s iPad has exploded in the past year to 18 months, and now many tablets are selling well. Here are some of the more notable tablets in the large display (~10 inches) tablet market.

Apple iPad, 4th Generation:
Highlights: 9.7″ 2048 x 1536 display (264 ppi); 1.2 MP front-facing camera; 5 MP rear-facing camera; dual-core A6x CPU with quad-core GPU; weighs 652-662 grams; 16, 32, and 64 GB storage options; WiFi and WiFi with LTE options; priced from $500-830.
Pros: Beautiful display; excellent build quality; access to the industry-leading iTunes and App Stores, with many apps designed for the larger tablet display; AirPlay mirroring to Apple TV; good integration with other iOs devices and iTunes; good update support from Apple.
Cons: Expensive; choices and options, such as what browser to make the default browser, are limited by Apple, sub-standard Maps software, Apple’s cloud music storage, iTunes Match, costs $25 a year, new Lightning Dock connector will not work with earlier iPhone, iPad, and iPod docks.
Bottom Line: Despite the talk of Apple perhaps losing some of its mojo with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini, the new iPad is still the standard-setter in the large tablet space, and for good reason. If you are invested in the Apple ecosystem and have music in iTunes and/or another iOS device, and you plan to stick with Apple moving forward, then this iPad is a no-brainer. Similar for older, non-tech savvy users and young users, as the iPad interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Finally, not all tablets have LTE connectivity, so if that is important then the new iPad is a good choice. If you’re not invested in Apple products, are looking to have more options with your device, or like to root and customize your device, then I think there are other good large tablets on the market for a lower price.

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Google/Samsung Nexus 10:
Highlights: 10.055″ display with 2560 x 1600 resolution (300 ppi); 1.9 MP front-facing camera; 5 MP rear-facing camera; dual-core A15 CPU and quad-core Mali T604 GPU; 2 GB RAM, weighs 603 grams; 16 and 32 GB storage options; WiFi only; priced at $399 and $499.
Pros: Beautiful display with best-in-class pixel density; excellent integration with Google services; stereo front-facing speakers; NFC; micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectivity; as a Nexus device it will receive timely updates from Google; good developer options.
Cons: The Google Play Store’s selection of movies, TV shows, and tablet-optimized apps is improving but still limited; integration with non-Google services is not as natural as with other devices.
Bottom Line: If you want a “pure Google” experience and a large display then this is a great choice. Unlike other Android-based tablets, the Nexus 10 will receive updates directly from Google, often six months earlier than other Android tablets receive updates, and I think that counts for a lot. Also, if you’re into rooting your tablet so that you can modify features or install entirely new operating systems on it, then this tablet is a good choice. For its support from Google and excellent display, I would rank this tablet just below the iPad, with its greatest shortcoming being more limited content and fewer tablet-optimized apps.

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Kindle Fire HD 8.9″:
Highlights: 8.9″ 1920 x 1200 display (254 ppi); front-facing “HD camera”; 1.5 GHz OMAP4470 dual-core processor; weighs 567 grams; WiFi only version comes with 16 and 32 GB options; WiFi with LTE version comes with 32 and 64 GB options; priced from $300 to $614.
Pros: Beautiful display; stereo speakers; Dolby audio; access to an expansive library of movies, music, TV shows, magazines, and books; free unlimited cloud storage for Amazon content; option to subscribe to Amazon Prime and have unlimited content streaming; Amazon claims fastest WiFi of any tablet.
Cons: The Fire HD 8.9″ is powered by a “forked” version of Android, which is a heavily modified Android-based operating system that is incompatible with the the Google Play Store and many apps found there. As such, it only has access to the Amazon App Store, which has a much more limited selection of apps than the Google Play Store. One could turn to the Android developer community for a fix, but that can be very involved.
Bottom Line: The Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is a great tablet for media consumption, so for the traveler who wants to be able to watch movies and shows on a plane and occasionally use basic apps, the Fire HD 8.9″ is a good combination of display, content, and price. But for a more well-rounded tablet, there are better options out there.

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Microsoft Surface with Windows RT:
Highlights: 10.6″ 1366 x 768 display (148 ppi); 720p front and rear-facing cameras; quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 CPU; weighs 680 grams; 32 and 64 GB options; WiFi only; priced from $500.
Pros: Integration with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8; innovative tiled user interface that allows for a lot of personalization; Microsoft Office and the attachable Smart Touch cover/keyboard allow the Surface to be used for school and business moreso than the competition; USB, microSDXC and HD video out ports allow for greater connectivity; integrated kickstand; Internet Explorer (which is now receiving very positive reviews).
Cons: Unimpressive display resolution; expensive; Microsoft is new to the tablet space and is not very established in the smartphone space, so being an early adopter runs the risk of the platform not receiving developer support needed to meet its potential.
The Bottom Line: The new tiled interface on Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 is really exciting and is receiving rave reviews for its customization and for thinking outside the box. While these products are relatively new, Microsoft has been working for some time on having a complete, integrated product line on launch, so I think the growing pains will be manageable. For someone who likes to be in front of the masses and who is willing to pay $500 for a tablet and another $100 for the Smart Touch cover, this is a great tablet. It’s also a great choice for someone who uses Microsoft Office a lot, or someone who wants a tablet that can also perform many of the tasks normally reserved for laptops. However, the Surface may not be the best fit for someone who mostly wants a tablet to read news, play games, watch movies, and use social media.

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Honorable mentions: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, the stylus-equipped Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, the less expensive and slightly outdated Apple iPad 2, and the ultra-affordable Barnes & Noble Nook HD+.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!!


Google unveils Nexus 4, updated Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and Android 4.2

While Google was forced to cancel its Android event in NYC today due to Hurricane Sandy (which sounds like it’s about to blow down my living room windows right now), it went ahead and unveiled three new devices – a smartphone, a modified version of its 7″ tablet, and a new 10″ tablet, as well as Android 4.2 – online. All three devices are Nexus devices designed by Google in conjunction with equipment manufacturers that contain the newest, unmodified version of the Android operating system and are intended to represent Google’s vision of an ideal Android device.

Nexus 4:
The Nexus 4 is a smartphone built by LG that contains a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, a 4.7″ 1280×768 IPS display, Corning Gorilla Glass 2, 8 MP rear/1.3 MP front cameras, NFC, 2 GB of RAM and a choice of 8 GB or 16 GB of storage. Notably, the phone is being sold unlocked directly through Google and will not have any carrier sponsorship or affiliation. What this means is that it will not work on Verizon and Sprint’s CDMA networks, and is not 4G LTE compatible with any carriers. This was done in order to maintain complete control over the device and to avoid having to make different versions of the phone for different carriers’ 4G LTE specifications. The device looks really nice and the processor, display, and RAM are as good or better than anything out there now, but I think the lack of 4G LTE technology – which is pretty much standard right now – is a big mistake and will prevent this smartphone from selling well. While Nexus phones have never been huge sellers, they come with unmodified Android that can run better than some of the modified versions of Android, like HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s TouchWiz, that we see on other phones, and they receive much better update support too. I think with proper marketing Google could make its Nexus line commercially successful, but leaving off 4G LTE will not help make that happen. I understand Google’s frustration with Verizon for not allowing the Galaxy Nexus to receive updates directly from Google, and I don’t know the extent of Google’s efforts to make 4G LTE happen while still having direct control over the software update process, but again, I think not having 4G LTE on a flagship phone is really unfortunate. [edit: upon further reading, it is possible for actual HSPA+ speeds to approach actual 4G LTE speeds right now, but 4G LTE has much more potential and represents the The Nexus 4 will be sold at the relatively reasonable off-contract price of $299 for 8 GB and $349 for 16 GB.

Nexus 7:
Google unveiled the Nexus 7 tablet built by ASUS with a 7″ display last summer, and the new Nexus 7 is the same with added memory and a cellular data option. At release last summer, it received great reviews but the biggest story was how inexpensive it was – $199 for 8 GB and $249 for 16 GB. Now Google has made the Nexus 7 even more financially enticing, with the 16 GB version reduced to $199, a new 32 GB version for $249, and a 32 GB version that comes with HSPA+ cellular connectivity for $299. I think the 16 GB version may be my next tablet.

Nexus 10:
The Nexus 10 is built by Samsung and has a pretty impressive 10.055″ 2560×1600 display with 300 ppi. It also packs a dual-core CPU and quad-core GPU, 5 MP front/1.9 MP rear cameras, NFC, 2 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The Nexus 10 tablet is wifi only, and is $399 for the 16 GB version and $499 for the 32 GB version. Initial reviews are positive for the Nexus 10, and I’d love to see that display in person. Personally, though, I think tablet technology is advancing so fast that I would hesitate to spend $400+ on one knowing how quickly it will be obsolete. In fact, I would say $299 is the most I’d be willing to spend on a tablet that will probably only last me a few years. I spent $729 on the original iPad a few years ago and now newer graphics-heavy apps crash all the time, and next time around I think I’ll be more budget-conscious (that is not a knock on Apple, but instead an example of how quickly things move in the tablet market). Anyway, for someone looking for a more expensive and larger tablet I think spec-wise the Nexus 10 looks good, and I would go for a Nexus tablet over any other Android tablet just for the update support from Google as well as developers that Nexus devices receive.

Android 4.2:
Android 4.2 – called “a new flavor of Jelly Bean” as opposed to Key Lime Pie – provides some cool new features like gesture typing with better predictive text, multiple user support for tablets, wireless streaming to TV via a wireless HDMI adapter, improved Google Now, and most interestingly, a Photo Sphere feature that allows 360-degree vertical and horizontal photos akin to what we’re used to in Google Street View. I’m looking forward to checking out 4.2.

For more on how Nexus devices are created, The Verge has a great article and video I highly recommend.

Technology Week in Review

Apple v. Samsung Patent Litigation:
Things keep getting more and more complicated in this patent battle. Last week Judge Lucy Koh of the United Stated District Court for the Northern District of California granted Apple’s motions for a preliminary injunction banning the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. This week, Judge Koh denied Samsung’s motions to stay the Galaxy Tab injunction and the Galaxy Nexus injunction. The Galaxy Nexus ban went into effect after Apple posted a $95.6 million bond, which it did on Tuesday after Judge Koh denied Samsung’s motion to stay the injunction. After that, Google pulled the Galaxy Nexus from its Google Play Store, and promised that sales would resume next week after the release of Android Jelly Bean, which would address the unified search patent that was the basis for the injunction. I hope that there is still some form of unified search included in the software update, and the more I have thought about it this week, the more I don’t think it is appropriate for Apple to have a patent on all methods of unified search (for more on the legitimacy and necessity of software patents, see the quotes from Judge Posner, below).

On friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is especially attuned to handling patent cases, denied Samsung’s motion for an immediate stay of the Galaxy Tab injunction but granted Samsung’s motion for an immediate stay of the Galaxy Nexus injunction. The appellate court directed Apple to respond to both motions to stay by July 12. An important distinction to note is that an immediate stay and a stay are really different forms of relief here, and the grant or denial of a motion for an immediate stay only impacts the time period before the motion for a stay is decided, which will be sometime after Apple responds. So, after Apple responds, the court will grant or deny a stay of the Galaxy Tab injunction and grant or deny a stay of the Galaxy Nexus injunction. But again, according to Google, it sounds like there will be a software update that will allow the Galaxy Nexus to be sold even if the injunction is reinstated. Either way, I would think Samsung – and probably Google – will continue to fight to invalidate the “Siri patent” relating to unified search, as that is really core to Google’s business.

And speaking of the Siri patent, a Chinese company is now claiming it invented and patented that technology and is suing Apple in China.

Judge Posner speaks out about software patents:
Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is a highly-respect jurist, especially in the intellectual property arena. He stopped the Apple v. Motorola patent infringement action, which – no surprise – involved Apple claiming that Motorola used technology patented by Apple in Motorola’s smartphones, from going to trial last month. In his opinion dated June 22, he wrote that Apple’s asserted patent of technology that allows for smoother playback of streaming video “is not a claim to a monopoly of streaming video!” This past week, in the wake of the Apple v. Samsung injunctions, he spoke out against software patents and questioned whether they should even exist. His reasons included that there is already incentive for technology companies to innovate because being the first to market new technology provides enough financial benefit without patent rights to that technology, innovations are cheaper in the technology world than in other areas, there are so many minor patents that go into one device, and because technology companies have so much money to bring infringement actions in an effort to get a competitive advantage, which is not the aim of patent law.

The reason for patent law is to promote invention and innovation by giving inventors the exclusive right to their inventions for a limited time period. In my opinion, these current patent battles hurt innovation because there are so many different technologies that go into a device that it seems almost impossible to make state-of-the-art devices without taking a risk of ending up having to fight a costly patent infringement lawsuit. Maybe companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung, have the funds to take such a risk and the reward for them makes the risk worthwhile, but some smaller companies may feel differently and not bring great technology to market.

Apple settles IPAD trademark dispute in China:
Check out my post from earlier this week for more on this.

The Nexus 7 continues to get good press:
The New York Times writes that the Nexus 7 could be a game-changer and give the iPad a run for its money.

iPad Mini and retooled “new iPad” on the way?
Maybe Apple really has some tricks up its sleeve, or maybe the Nexus 7’s imminent release and rumors of a Kindle Fire 2 have stirred the rumor pot, but this week brought more reports of a smaller “iPad Mini” and a retooled “new iPad” with a new display and thinner casing. According to the reports, both devices could release this year. I guess anything is possible, but I think Apple is pretty consistent with the devices it releases and when it releases them, so I would be surprised if either of these devices come out this year.

Two lighter stories:
Walmart is running a promotion for Energy Sheets, which is a Listerine Strips-like product with caffeine, where it will send Energy Sheets spokesman/rapper Pitbull to whatever US Walmart location gets the most new “likes” on Facebook. Two guys with either a good sense of humor, good taste in music, or both, started an #ExilePitbull campaign to send Pitbull to the most remote Walmart in the country – on Kodiak Island off Alaska. So far the Kodiak Walmart page has over 67,000 “likes,” more than 11 times the Kodiak Island population.

Def Leppard has been at an impasse with its record label over royalties for digital downloads, and as a result, much of Def Leppard’s catalog is not available for digital download in stores like iTunes and Amazon. In order to make their music available without caving in to their record label, Def Leppard has decided to re-record their songs. The band is not at all happy that they had to resort to this and called these new recordings “forgeries.” I listened to the new recording of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and it sounds pretty good, but I agree with the band that it is so hard to re-create recordings from so long ago when the band members were younger and at different stages of their lives than they are now. In the end, though, it’ll get their songs in iTunes and hopefully bring in some revenue and also make it easier for younger music fans who only download music to get exposed to Def Leppard.

Technology Week in Review, 6/29/12: Apple wins two injunctions against Samsung, RIM delays BB 10, and Google announces Jelly Bean and Nexus 7 & Q

This past week was pretty full of technology news, and here’s a quick rundown of some interesting items…

Apple wins preliminary injunctions against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Nexus
At the close of business on Tuesday, Judge Lucy Koh of The United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction banning sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The injunction was based on Samsung’s alleged infringement of an Apple design patent related to the shape of the iPad – rectangular with rounded corners, curved bottom, and the edge of the display equidistant from the edge of the device on all sides – and the very similar design elements found in the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This injunction really deals with a device that is outdated and has been replaced by the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

As I was typing this entry, news broke that the same judge in the same court granted Apple’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Samaung Galaxy Nexus. That hits close to home here at TMF HQ, considering I have and love the Galaxy Nexus. Of the four patents in question with regard to the Galaxy Nexus injuntion, Judge Koh only found that one of the alleged infringements – “a universal interface for the retrieval of information” (dubbed the “Siri patent”) – is capable of causing the irreparable harm necessary to warrant a preliminary injunction. The “Siri patent” as I understand it involves a user being able to perform a variety of tasks using one method of data input – Siri. Examples include searching the internet via the browser, locating a destination on a map, pulling up a contact’s phone number in the contacts directory, and adding a meeting to the calendar. This is done through Siri on iOS, but on my Galaxy Nexus has similar functionality using the Google search box with optional voice input found on each homescreen. I am not sure if the method of performing these tasks is the same from a coding perspective, but I can see how the Google search box qualifies as “a universal interface for the retrieval of information.”

This injunction will hurt Samsung more than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 injunction because the Galaxy Nexus is still a flagship device, even though the Galaxy S III will likely be the choice for customers going forward now. I would also think that some method of a unified search will be incorporated into devices in the future, so hopefully Samsung and Google can find another way of doing it that will not infringe, if the method used in the Galaxy Nexus does in fact infringe. And I say “if” because a preliminary injunction is not a final determination on the merits; obviously, though, a ban on a device in such a fast-moving industry is very damaging even if in the end it is lifted, which is why Apple has to post a bond of nearly $96 million for the injunction to go into effect.

Not to be left out, there also may be some patent issues with the upcoming Nexus 7 tablet too. From a consumer’s perspective, it is difficult to watch all these patent battles when I know that I am funding them, but I guess this is inevitable with such valuable patents in a fiercely competitive market.

Things keep going downhill for RIM
RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, announced that it was delaying the highly-anticipated BlackBerry 10 operating system from this fall to 2013. RIM also announced decreased revenue for the first quarter of 2012, but for a company whose time is running out as the competition keeps upping the ante, the delay of BlackBerry 10’s release seems much more troubling.

Google was busy
Google held its annual I/O Developer’s Conference this past week. Check out my post from Wednesday for more detail on some of the big news that came out at I/O 2012. At the event, Google unveiled Android Jelly Bean, which is aimed at having a smoother user experience and also incorporates improved voice recognition and a personal organizer of sorts dubbed Google Note, as well as the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus Q media streaming device. The Nexus 7 and Jelly Bean are receiving very good reviews, including by CNET, The Verge, BGR, and Engadget. However, CNET and The Verge gave the Nexus Q mediocre reviews based largely on the device being limited to displaying Google content and the high $299 price tag. Jelly Bean, Nexus 7, and Nexus Q will be available in mid-July, but the latter devices are available now for pre-order in the Google Play Store.

Google also announced a revamped Google+ app designed for tablets and the implementation of Google+ Events, which syncs with Google Calendar and also allows guests to automatically upload photos to the Event page and organizes uploaded photos in chronological order.

In light of the shift towards media consumption with the Nexus 7 and Nexus Q, Google also announced that it will begin offering magazines, television shows, and movie purchases in the Google Play Store.

A few more tidbits from Google this week include an updated Google Earth for Android app that includes 3D imagery for 14 cities, Google Chrome for Android leaving beta and becoming a stable release for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich, and Google Chrome coming to iOS and becoming the most popular free app in the App Store in one day, despite no promotion by Apple. Unfortunately, Apple only allows Safari to be the default browser, but Chrome still works great on my iPad. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple will handle some very popular competing apps in Chrome and Google Maps (after iOS 6 replaces Google Maps with Apple’s own mapping software). I think that if an iOS user prefers Chrome or Google Maps to Safari or Apple’s own Maps, then the user should be able to make those apps the defaults, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple restrict that capability.

Again, for more on these Google stories, check out my post from Wednesday.

Finally, Google co-founder Sergey Brin made an appearance and did a pretty cool demonstration of Google Project Glass using Google+ Hangouts:

Barnes & Noble unveils the NOOK Tablet

Making sure not to lose ground to Amazon’s Kindle Fire (available November 15), earlier this week Barnes & Noble unveiled the NOOK Tablet, available November 21 for $249. The NOOK Tablet is very similar in specs to the Kindle Fire, with two notable differences being that it has double the RAM (1 GB) and storage (16 GB), and of course, is $50 more than the Kindle Fire. Worth noting with respect to storage is that the Kindle Fire, while it has half the storage of the NOOK Tablet, comes with free cloud storage for content purchases from Amazon. Anyway, here’s a good comparison of the specs courtesy of CNET:

Both of these devices are marketed to people who want to consume media – e-books, magazines, newspapers, watch movies and TV shows – as well as play games, browse the internet and send and receive emails. I think consumers who want to do more heavy-duty tasks on their tablet, like video editing and multi-track recording, will opt for something more powerful like the iPad 2 or the Galaxy Tab 10.1. So, it seems that the success of these devices will be dependent on the media services available on each device. One major difference with the media services is that the Kindle Fire uses Amazon Prime to stream movies and TV shows while the NOOK Tablet allows Netflix and Hulu (presumably because Barnes & Noble does not have a proprietary streaming service). Another difference is that Amazon has an mp3 store that integrates with its Cloud storage while Barnes & Noble does not. Each provider has an established e-book/magazine store.

I think Amazon has the advantage in the content department given its established business in streaming video and downloading audio, but does that mean that Amazon’s device will be better for consuming media? I’m not sure. While Amazon provides more digital content, if it excludes other content providers/competitors, like Netflix, from its device then that may become an advantage to Barnes & Noble, which so far appears more open to third-party content providers. Amazon actually has an interesting dilemma on its hands: pushing its content services on consumers may hurt its tablet business, and opening its tablet to a variety of content providers may hurt its content services business. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of restrictions each device has on third-party content providers and applications, but right now Amazon’s digital content services are more extensive than that of Barnes & Noble.

[UPDATE 11/9/11: Amazon revealed some apps that will be available on the Kindle Fire, and the apps include Netflix. So it seems that the fear that Amazon will not allow competitors’ apps on the Kindle Fire was unfounded.]

Looking at the bigger picture, I think Amazon’s digital content, combined with revenue from sales of physical products on Amazon, will allow Amazon to put out comparable tablets for less money. For example, a one year subscription to Amazon Prime in order to stream videos on the Kindle Fire for $79 more than makes up for the cheaper price of the hardware, while Barnes & Noble gains no additional revenue by allowing Netflix to stream on its devices. So for this reason I would say Amazon has a better chance of succeeding in the tablet space long-term than Barnes & Noble. Again, though, I think both of these devices will live and die on content/media integration, and I look forward to seeing how each device handles media.

Here are some reviews of the NOOK Tablet as well as some comparisons between the NOOK Tablet and the Kindle Fire: CNET, PC World, Gizmodo, Gizmodo 2, BGR, and Engadget.

Also worth noting is that Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its NOOK Color to $199, introduced the NOOK Simple Touch for $99, and dropped the price of the NOOK 1st Edition to $89.

Amazon announces Kindle Fire tablet and two new Kindle e-readers

As expected, Amazon announced a tablet today, dubbed Kindle Fire. Amazon also announced three new versions of the popular Kindle e-reader, the Kindle Touch 3G, the Kindle Touch, and the redesigned Kindle.

Here’s the Press Release, and a commercial:

Kindle Fire:

The biggest announcement by far is the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire runs on Android and is powered by a dual-core processor and comes with 8 GB of memory, with free cloud storage. It sports a 7″ LCD touchscreen with 169 pixels-per-inch (compared to 132 for the iPad and iPad 2) and gorilla glass. The device weighs 14.6 ounces (compared to 21.2 for the iPad 2) and has wifi. Notably absent is a camera and a microphone as well as the option for 3G or 4G support. The Kindle Fire integrates Amazon’s multimedia offerings (more below), as well as email and web browsing with flash support. In fact, Amazon created the Amazon Silk Browser for the Kindle Fire, which is a “split browser” that splits the browsing workload between the Fire’s browser and Amazon’s cloud-based servers, thus allowing faster browsing. Amazon claims the technology is “revolutionary,” but to me it sounds similar to Opera Turbo, but that’s neither here nor there. The Kindle Fire is available for pre-order now and will be released on November 15.

While the specs of the device are competitive withe other products in the market, perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of the Kindle Fire is its pricetag – $199! At that price, even those reluctant to welcome tablets into their lives, perhaps due to the high price of current tablets and/or the sentiment that a tablet is nice to have but not a necessity, may take a look at the device.

Earlier this week, I wrote an entry about Amazon’s entry into the tablet market. One part of the entry examined Amazon’s business model – to sell devices in order to sell content – versus the business model of other tablet manufacturers – to provide content in order to sell devices. Well, sure enough, a large part of Amazon’s Press Release discussed the various content that would be available (with profits going to Amazon) on the Kindle Fire:

Kindle Fire puts Amazon’s incredible selection of digital content at your fingertips:

-Over 100,000 movies and TV shows from Amazon Instant Video, including thousands of new releases and popular TV shows, available to stream or download, purchase or rent – all just one tap away. Amazon Prime Members enjoy instant, unlimited, commercial-free streaming of over 11,000 movies and TV shows at no additional cost. Kindle Fire comes with one free month of Amazon Prime.
-Over 17,000,000 songs from Amazon MP3, including new and bestselling albums from just $7.99 and individual songs from $0.69.
-Over 1,000,000 Kindle books, including thousands of bestsellers, children’s books, comic books and cookbooks in rich color.
-100 exclusive graphic novels, including Watchmen, the bestselling – and considered by many to be the greatest – graphic novel of all time, which has never before been available in digital format, as well as Batman: Arkham City, Superman: Earth OneGreen Lantern: Secret Origin and 96 others from DC Entertainment.
-Hundreds of magazines and newspapers – including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Wired, Elle, The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan and Martha Stewart Living – with full-color layouts, photographs, illustrations, built-in video, audio and other interactive features are available from the new Kindle Fire “Newsstand.” Kindle Fire customers will enjoy an exclusive free three-month trial to 17 Condé Nast magazines, including Vanity Fair, GQ and Glamour.
-All the most popular Android apps and games, such as Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope and more. All apps are Amazon-tested on Kindle Fire to ensure quality and Amazon offers a new free paid app every day.

Amazon clearly thinks it can make a pretty good profit from content purchased by Kindle Fire owners, and I think rightly so, which is why it is selling the device for such a low price.

For those who aren’t in a rush to get this device, there’s a rumor that a second generation Kindle Fire will be coming out early next year.

Kindle Touch 3G and Kindle Touch:

Amazon also announced two new versions of the Kindle Touch. The Kindle Touch 3G will sell for $149 with ads, $189 without, and the Kindle Touch will sell for $99 with ads and $139 without ads. These price points are the same, or very similar, to the Kindle 3. Of note, the new Kindle Touch models feature a 6″ e-ink touchscreen display, and use “EasyReach,” which allows for pages to be turned by tapping the screen in certain locations rather than swiping. the Kindle Touch models are available for pre-order now and will ship on November 21.


Finally, Amazon also announced a redesigned Kindle, which features a 6″ e-ink display, with the “most advanced e-ink,” and wifi connectivity. It weighs in at just under 6 ounces, compared to the 8.5 ounce Kindle 3 with wifi. It’ll sell for $79 with ads, and $109 without, and is available now. If anyone has been reluctant to switch from paper books to e-books because of the upfront cost involved, this should alleviate that concern.

Wrapping up:

I think Amazon’s announcement today, particularly with respect to the Kindle Fire, is really exciting for anyone interested in technology. It looks like good hardware, and it seems that Amazon has the content to support it. I love my iPad, and want continued success for Apple, but I do think competition is good. Afterall, without the iPad and the Nook, would we be seeing Amazon pushing forward at this rate with new gadgets? I don’t think so. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Kindle Fire does, and will compile some reviews in the coming days.

Amazon tablet on the way?

There’s an interesting article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Amazon Has High Hopes for Its iPad Competitor.” The article takes a look at whether Amazon will be able to succeed in competing with Apple’s iPad where so many other competitors – including Samsung, Motorola, Research In Motion, and Hewlett-Packard – have failed.

The article makes an interesting distinction between Amazon’s business model and that of Apple’s other competitors:

The competition will be asymmetrical. Apple sells movies, music and books in order to sell devices. Amazon sells devices in order to sell books, movies and music. Apple has never faced an opponent with such a vastly different strategy.

What this means is that Apple’s goal in the tablet world is to sell iPads. All the other stuff it offers on the iPad, including iTunes, iBooks and the App Store, is really there to make the iPad more desirable so that Apple can sell more iPads. Amazon’s goal, at least with the Kindle, is to sell content, and it created the Kindle to give consumers a way to purchase content. In fact, as the article mentions, Amazon supposedly sells Kindle devices at a loss just so that more people will have Kindles, and in turn purchase e-books. With a Kindle tablet, the content will not be limited to e-books – I’m sure Amazon would integrate its instant video rental and purchase service, its mp3 store, and its Cloud drive, not to mention it would almost certainly make searching for and purchasing products through Amazon an integral feature of a tablet.  Amazon stands to gain a lot of revenue if it produces a device that increases consumption of content.

The different business models have two effects on the market, in my opinion. First, it allows Amazon to sell devices at lower prices than its competitors, who don’t have the ability to pull in profits from content to the degree that Amazon does. Second, it will almost certainly allow an Amazon device to have at least some useful and familiar apps right off the bat, which is something that Apple’s competitors have not been able to do thus far.

The article also mentions a problem that Amazon will face, and that is that there is a certain cool-ness to being the original. Amazon has it with the Kindle, and Apple has it with the iPad. By way of anecdote, years ago I bought my girlfriend (now wife) an RCA mp3 player as a gift. I think it cost somewhere around $75, and was a fraction of the price of an iPod at the time. It worked really well and did everything she needed it to do, but when someone would ask about it she’d say “it’s an mp3 player” and then when that person had a confused look on their face, she’d say “it’s like an iPod” and they’d get it. So this past Christmas I was planning to get my fiancee an e-reader because a few months prior she had said she’d someday like “a Kindle” (read: “an e-reader”), and me being the thoughtful guy that I am made a mental note of that. In the end I decided to get her a Kindle over a Nook, mainly because I liked the contrast of the text on the Kindle more. But another factor in my decision was that the Kindle was the original (and at the time the Nook was still up-and-coming), and I didn’t want to give her something that would be described as “like a Kindle” the way she described her RCA mp3 player as “like an iPod.” Maybe that makes me a follower, but I don’t think my way of thinking is unique, and I have no doubt that there are people out there who are much more brand-conscious than me.

The difference with Amazon entering the tablet market, though, is that Amazon already has street cred for revolutionizing the way people shop and for bringing e-readers to the masses, so I think the article is right to say that Amazon could be better positioned to enter the tablet market than other manufacturers. Amazon is a household name, and perhaps the name combined with a low price and existing content is all that will be needed for many consumers to make a purchase.

I think it will be a difficult road for any tablet manufacturer to take over the tablet market, but I am hopeful that Amazon will make a dent because competition is always good for technology.