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November 16, 2011

Kindle Fire - The first 24hrs - an e-commerce viewpoint (and Gadget Geek)

This is part I of a II part series:

  • Kindle Fire - The first 24hrs - executive summary (you are here)
  • Kindle Fire - Detailed review (coming soon)

I've been living with my Amazon Kindle Fire for about 24hrs now and I wanted to share my initial thoughts.  The goal of this review is to look at the AKF from a couple of viewpoints:

  • You are new to tablets, should you take the plunge?
  • You are already in the Kindle family, should you upgrade?
  • You have an iPad already
  • You are in the e-commerce ecosystem, what does AKF mean? (be sure to catch up on my initial thoughts here).

As you know, I tend to be somewhat verbose, so I wanted to start with an executive summary.

Executive Summary - Scorecard

First, I'll start with a scorecard:

  • Packaging - A+ - Very cool packaging and it's eco-friendly.
  • Setup - A+ - Wow, amazingly easy setup - the device was already wired to my account.
  • Overall device asthetic - B - It's a little heavier and thicker than I expected (iPad spoiled)
  • Screen/resolution - A - very strong and crisp
  • Speed - A - the device hums, I was only able to slow it down running 3 things in parallel
  • User Interface - A - very cool how they have hidden all the nasty Android stuff and the carousel/favorite shelf metaphor is very clean and cool
  • Apps - B - very good set of apps, missing three of my favorites though: Spotify, Twitter and WatchESPN :(
  • Books - A - The Kindle reader and store are excellent as you would expect
  • Music - A - I had tried the Amazon music cloud stuff, and the AKF brings it to life.
  • Movies/Videos - A - This is where the device really sings - the Prime instant video is amazing and a game changer and can't be good for Netflix.
  • email - C - The email client is pretty basic and lacks that iPad aesthetic.  It also doesn't work with exchange which is a problem for me. There is an App, TouchDown, that seems to bridge the gap.
  • Web - C - Text based sites were snappy, graphic heavy seemed very slow to me - could be a settings issue or maybe Silk will get smarter with time? Example - just loaded cnbc.com and it took 25 seconds?
  • E-commerce - A - The Amazon app is amazing, it also lets me install my favorite other apps (eBay, paypal, etc.).

In summary, overall I'd give the device a solid A- and if they could improve the browser speed, I'd get rid of that minus.

  • Exceeded expectations - The content apps (music, video, books) are very strong.  I did have a bug with one book (see below), but otherwise, everything in this area was very strong.  Having used an Android phone, the UI exceeded my expectations, it hides a lot of the Android warts and the app-store experience is much better than the junk in the normal android app store.  
  • Under expectations - With all the hype around the Silk browser, I was expecting it to be much much faster.  I'm still working on this/exploring, but it seems when I load image-heavy sites, the browser really crawls - 10+ seconds to load a page kind of slowness.  Text-based sites are very snappy though, so it seems to be something with the way the device is loading images.  I haven't played with settings to see if that's something I can experiment with and get it to be faster.

Executive Summary - Conclusions

Here's my conclusions based on the different scenarios:

You are new to tablets/ereaders: 

If you want a tablet primarily for media consumption, this is your best first tablet.  You get first-class book reading, movie watching and music and the Prime membership is a no-brainer.

If you want a first tablet primarily for email and heavy web surfing, you should wait to see if Amazon can get the browser to be faster.  Most business people will be disappointed, most consumers will be fine.  FYI, Facebook and many of the other apps are quite snappy.

You are in the kindle family:

If you are already in the Kindle ecosystem, this is a huge leap up from the e-ink displays.  While it has a glass screen and you'll have a bit of glare in some reading situations, I personally preferred backlit so I can read in low light situations.  What's awesome is you can do both - keep your old kindle and bring it to the beach, and then use the AKF for everything else.

The movies, illustrations, color, apps and what-not make this a clear 'yes' for Kindle users that are thinking of upgrading.  If you have kids, it's great to have access to children's books, or if you read books with illustrations, it's a much better experience.

You have an iPad already:

The AKF is 40% the price of an iPad, but 75% of the experience.  If you are already an iPad user, that 25% is very noticable - the email and browser are the biggest differences, but little gaps in the app experience, etc. mean that you'll probably gravitate to using your iPad vs. the AKF if you already have one.  I think a lot of the negative reviews (NYT are directly comparing the AKF to the iPad).I never was in the camp that AKF is some kind of iPad killer.  For a larger audience, it is a very strong first content-oriented tablet and for the Kindle folks, it's a great upgrade.

E-Commerce Ecosystem:

The Amazon integration (Amazon app, app store, book store, etc.) is amazing and I continue to believe this device is going to materially accelerate Amazon's business and be one of the hottest holiday gifts this holiday.  

Finally, as Bezos has said - this is a premium product at a non-premium price.  It's not an iPad, but it is a great step for Kindle users and a good first tablet for most non-business users.

SeekingAlpha Disclosure - I am long Amazon and Google. eBay is an investor in ChannelAdvisor where I am CEO.

 


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