November 11th, 2013
For the next two days, Amazon is offering all their customers in the U.S. a $40 credit for “digital content” when you buy any new Kindle Fire. That’s $40 for ebooks, or any other digital content (like apps, music, movies, or TV shows). It’s almost like getting a Kindle Fire for $99 (since the cheapest model currently costs $139).
Just be sure to enter the code “Kindle40″ when you’re completing your purchase. And Amazon’s making it even easier to try out one of their new Kindle Fire HDX tablets. At the side of each Kindle’s web page, they’re now touting a 30-day “risk-free” trial. “If you’re not 100% satisfied, you can return your device in new condition within 30 days”, it explains. But if you read the fine print, Amazon will actually let you keep your Kindle for almost ninety days before returning it.
If you purchase a Kindle any time between November 1st and December 31st, Amazon will let you keep it all the way through January 31st, and still return it for a full refund (according to Amazon’s Returns web page). And it’s got another interesting policy I didn’t know about. Apparently you can always return a Kindle within 60 days of its purchase for an 80% refund. Basically, Amazon’s trying to make it as easy as possible to try out your new Kindle to see if you like it.
One Amazon customer even reports that Amazon’s $40 credit may be just the beginning. After chatting with a customer support rep at Amazon, she posted on the Kindle Boards forum that “they are planning several promotions over the next few weeks.” It makes sense that Amazon would want to encourage people to Kindle Fire tablets during the big holiday shopping season. It’s got me wondering what else they might offer us in the future that could be better than a $40 credit?
By the way, I found the $40 credit on a technology blog that’s called “Gotta Be Mobile,” and they noticed that there was one more thing to watch for. The $40 credit apparently expires in March of 2014. (So about three and a half months from this week). “March of next year is a ways off,” the blogger writes, “and most users could go through $40 worth of credit in a heart beat, but if you’re the kind of user who likes to save your credit until something good comes along, it’ll be important to keep that expiration date in mind.”
But if you’re already wondering if you should buy a new Kindle Fire, now Amazon is giving you one more reason to say yes!
October 17th, 2013
I really enjoyed CNN’s review of the newest Kindle Paperwhite, which they’d called “the best digital reader ever.” So I had to laugh when I saw a review for Amazon’s new color table, the Kindle Fire HDX. Business Insider gave a review with a headline that was exactly opposite. They wrote that newest Kindle Fire was “Not The Best Tablet You Can Buy”.
But they still called it Amazon’s best tablet ever.
So what did they like about the tablet? First, its 7-inch screen “is sharper than the relatively weak display on Apple’s iPad Mini”. And the design of the tablet has been improved too, so it’s now got a comfortable angular shaped (as opposed to the box-with-rounded-corners design of the earlier Kindle Fires). Their reviewer, Steve Kovach, ultimately concludes that the device’s battery life was “pretty good,” lasting about six or seven hours on a single charge. And I think that’s a bigger deal than he recognizes, because high-definition screens always do tend to use up more of your battery’s charge.
So what didn’t he like? Hisfirst real complaint seemed to be that Amazon’s app store has a lot fewer apps than Google’s own app store (which is available on most other devices). He even writes that the selection of apps for the Kindle Fire is “tiny” — just 85,000, versus the nearly 1 million that are available in Google’s store. But ultimately I think the reviewer makes a mistake when he writes that the Kindle Fire is “missing” popular Google services like YouTube and Gmail. You can watch YouTube videos just fine on a Kindle Fire if you download a free third-party app like FREEdi YouTube player — and you can also set up the e-mail application on your Kindle Fire so it’s downloading its email from Gmail.
I think Business Insider makes that mistake because it fits into their larger percerption — that just like the earlier version of the tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX “is a pitchman that tries to entice you to buy more stuff from Amazon at every turn…. The tablet is constantly encouraging you to dip into the bank and buy more stuff from Amazon.” But their reviewer acknowledges that there’s a perfectly good reason why Amazon is doing this, calling it “part of the reason why you can get the Kindle Fire HDX for just $229.”
But the most interesting line of his review isn’t even in the review, but in the author’s byline, which includes this disclaimer. “Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.” On the one hand, you could worry about what happens when our news outlets are being purchased by the people that they’re supposed to be covering. But on the other hand, it seems pretty clear that their reviewers still aren’t pulling any punches!
I think my favorite line of the review came when they were discussing one of the newest features on the Kindle Fire HDX — its “Mayday” button, which instantly connects you to live a human being who can help you with technical problems. Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has always insisted that customer service is a big part of what made his company so successful, and even Business Insider applauded their newest approach. “[I]t’s pretty cool that Amazon has invested so heavily in customer service that it has real humans waiting to help you out 24/7 at the push of a button.
“That’s much better than running down to the Apple Store and waiting forever for a Genius to help you!”
October 1st, 2013
For two weeks straight, I spent every waking minute trying to finish my first free app. But it’s finally here, and here’s the big announcement: it’s ready for downloads from Amazon’s “Apps for Android” Store. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet for the Kindle Fire (or for any Apple devices). But you can still download it now to your Android tablet — or even to an Android smartphone!
Yes, the app is called “500 Inspiring Quotes,” and it came out much better than I expected. My girlfriend took a wonderful photo during a visit to Alameda’s Crown Beach, and the night that I finally released my app, I surprised her by including it as the app’s “cover photo!” For over a year I’ve been struggling to learn how to write a computer program. That night was my chance to prove that I could really do it.
Everything in the app was meant to be both simple and positive, and I read thousands and thousands of quotes searching for 500 that could always deliver a real lift whenever you sat down to read them. There’s quotes by everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Seinfeld to Winston Churchill, Voltaire, and even Cervantes. But I also worked in quotes from some of my favorite authors — like Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Henry Miller, and Mark Twain.
There’s not any ads in the app, since it was never meant to make money — just to share some warm moments of inspiration. And ultimately, it was a very personal experience, since I was weighing the words of the greatest minds of our civilization — and then trying to cherry-pick
the words which would mean the most to the people who read them. I found some surprisingly great quotes from unexpected sources, like Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy and even tennis player John McEnroe. And this also gave me a chance to include some nice thoughts from both Roger Ebert and Annette Funicello, who both died this year, but are living on in their words.
In the end I even spent part of my birthday looking for more inspiring quotes — since it took a long time to find over 500 of them. So this app represents a personal triumph for me in more than one way. I finished all the quote-gathering, and finished all of the computer programming too. And now instead of downloading apps for my device, I can upload one instead, to share it with everyone else!
It’s ultimately given my app a very interesting relationship with Amazon. More than two years ago, Amazon started an Android store so they’d have their own place for selling apps when they eventually launched the Kindle Fire (back in the autumn of 2011). But all of those apps in Amazon’s store are also available on other Android devices, which is how you can download my app to other non-Amazon tablets and Android smartphones. Because my app is an Android app, I also uploaded it to Google’s own app store (the Google “Play Store”), which ended up with a very funny twist for this Kindle-loving man.
Even though I was trying to build an app for the Kindle Fire, so far (through the Google Play Store), it’s only available on the Nook!
June 6th, 2013
Wow! Amazon’s suddenly started selling a product that everyone thought they’d discontinued back in October! It’s the Kindle DX — with a huge 9.7-inch black-and-white screen on a device that’s nearly 11 inches tall. It was one of the last Kindles that Amazon ever released with a keyboard built right into the plastic, instead of using an on-screen “virtual” keyboard like the ones in the Kindle Paperwhite. And the Kindle DX ships with free 3G wireless connectivity, so you can surf the web even when you’re away from your WiFi connection!
The Kindle DX has always been one of my favorite Kindle models. (I always joke that the only thing better than an e-ink screen is a big e-ink screen…) I’m baffled as to why Amazon chose to revive this product line now. But maybe Amazon thinks the Kindle DX is a nice gift idea for Father’s Day. It’s got the biggest screen of any Kindle that Amazon’s ever released, and without all the distractions of a full-color tablet.
This is especially exciting because just eight months ago, I came to this blog to write a sad post called “Goodbye to the Kindle DX.” The month before a Kindle executive had surprised a technology site called The Verge with the news that Amazon is “pretty much done” with the Kindle DX. In that same interview, he’d emphasized that Amazon wouldn’t abandon the Kindle DX — though he never said what Amazon would be doing. At the time NBC News reported that the Kindle DX would go “to e-reader heaven” — though they admitted at the time that Amazon hadn’t actually confirmed that.
So in an unexpected move, Amazon has again started selling them again — and it’s almost as though Amazon has turned back the clock. The Huffington Post noted that basically Amazon “is re-releasing a product from 2009,” though it’s still a little expensive. At $299, the Kindle DX costs $100 more than some of Amazon’s color Kindle Fire HD tablets. But that’s actually a discount from the original selling price for the Kindle DX, which was $380.
And best of all, you can read ebooks on a giant screen that’s 7.2 inches wide by 10.4 inches tall…
Remember, for a shortcut, just point your web browser to
April 15th, 2013
If you’re shopping for a new Kindle Fire tablet, I’ve just discovered some great new ways to save money. For example, if you’re just shopping for a basic Kindle Fire tablet, you can buy one now from Amazon for just $134. It’s a refurbished Kindle Fire, a previously-owned device that Amazon promises has been “refurbished, tested, and certified to look and work like new.” That’s a savings of $25 — and Amazon’s also offering similar discounts on some of their other Kindle Fire tablets!
This means that you can also save $30 on the high-definition versions of Amazon’s 7-inchKindle Fire tablets. A refurbished model now costs just $169 — a nice discount from its usual price of $199. These tablets come with 16-gigabytes of storage space, but Amazon’s also offering the same discount on the tablets with more storage. For $199, you can buy the 32-gigabyte version of a refurbished Kindle Fire HD tablet — though the new ones would normally cost you $229!
That may actually feel like a $50 savings to some people, because up until this month, Amazon was charging $249 for the 32-gigabyte version of their Kindle Fire HD tablets. But sometime in April, they quietly discounted its price to just $229. Now they’ve discounted that another $30 if you’ll purchase a refurbished version. And if you opt for the 16-gigabyte drive instead, you’ll save $80 over what the 32-gigabyte version would’ve cost you in March!
I was hoping Amazon would also discount some of their black-and-white, e-ink Kindles. But when I checked this morning, they were still on sale at their regular price. In a way, that makes these refurbished tablets seem that much more special. The only thing better than a multimedia Kindle is one that Amazon sold you at a big discount!
“Every Certified Refurbished Kindle is backed by a full one-year limited warranty,” Amazon explains, “just like a brand-new Kindle.” (Before shipping them to customers, Amazon performs a full diagnostic test, install the latest software, give the devices a thorough cleaning, and even re-package them in a new box.) It even comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, so you can watch thousands of movies and TV shows in Amazon’s Instant Video library without having to pay for them individually. Amazon Prime also qualifies you for a discount on faster shipping of any products you purchase from Amazon — but it also earns you some fun Kindle freebies, like the ability to access new books for free in the “Kindle Owner’s Lending Library”!
And as a last selling point, Amazon’s even created a new web page where they compare their Kindle Fire tablets to Applet’s iPad mini. The page’s slogan…
“Don’t you love getting more for less?”
March 27th, 2013
People have been worrying about this for more than a year — ever since Amazon came out with their color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon’s insisted that they remain commited to their black-and-white Kindles too, but CNN is reporting that other manufacturers of digital readers might not be so lucky. “As tablets boom, e-readers feel the blast,” reads the headline in CNN’s “Games and Gadgets” section. The popularity of tablet devices may be hurting sales of black-and-white “readers”.
They point to the dramatic collapse recently in sales of the Nook. (Barnes and Noble apparently reported that for the last three months of 2012, their Nook division actually earned 26% less than it had the previous year.) At first I’d thought the Nook was just losing its customers to Amazon’s own Kindle readers. But CNN cites some technology analysts who have a different theory.
“It’s not that the Nook failed,” argues one analyst from Forrester Research. “It’s that the world of tablets exploded…” The Kindle Fire and iPad-style tablets have proven more popular than anyone expected, and they’re now becoming a regular part of our lives and the way we use computers — “not just a handy device to consume a bit of media.” It’s strange to remember that the very first iPad was released less than three years ago. But CNN gives Amazon credit for proving that other companies could also successfully sell their own tablets, inspiring even more companies to enter the market.
Google entered the tablet market soon after with the Nexus 7, and CNN believes that the Kindle Fire “likely nudged Apple” into building a smaller iPad Mini. The end result is that there’s a tablet for every budget. But that may also make people less interested in buying a black-and-white reader that’s dedicated mostly just for ebooks, the article concludes — adding “this trend has been particularly unkind to the Nook.”
But could the Kindle suffer the same fate, losing its audience to the fancier color touchscreen tablets? CNN posed the question to another well-respected technology research firm called Gartner, who acknowledged that “It’s a rough market.” But he seemed to think it was rougher for companies which aren’t named Amazon. The iPad dominates the market for high-end tablets, and in the rest of the market, Amazon’s Kindle “brand” has already established itself. If I’m reading this right, he’s saying that the lower demand for black-and-white readers actually helps Amazon, because it makes it harder for new competitors to establish themselves against Amazon.
Of course, not everyone wants a multi-functional device that does more than display ebooks. (My girlfriend refuses to install any games on her Kindle, because she’s worried that she’ll then start endlessly playing those games — instead of reading on her Kindle, which is what she really loves doing!) But on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard for me to even remember what the world was like before the Kindle came along.
Just imagine how much the world could change again over the next five years — especially if people decide to start reading more their ebooks on tablet computers!
March 21st, 2013
Wow! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you got a color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablet — with an HD screen — for just $99? And one well-respected technology blog reported just that possibility on Wednesday. “We’re now hearing that a $99 Kindle Fire 7″ tablet is in production, and will be shipping this year,” wrote Sarah Perez at the technology blog TechCrunch.
But just hours later, a business news blog was reporting that Amazon had already issued an official denial of that report. “It’s not happening,” BusinessInsider quotes Amazon as saying. “We are already at the lowest price points possible for that hardware.” Of course, BusinessInsider had already run their own story about the possibility of a $99 high-definition Kindle Fire Tablet — citing as their source that first blog post which appeared on TechCrunch. It now appears below Amazon’s official denial, and BusinessInsider is probably glad they’d added a few skeptical sentences (noting, for example, that TechCrunch had called the story a “rumor” that she was “hearing”.)
It’s a really fun idea, though, so I enjoyed reading the rest of the analysis from BusinessInsider. (“It’s a stunning price point, but it’s not totally crazy from Amazon…”) They note that TechCrunch reported Amazon may have gotten a discount on the chips for their tablets, and adds that “it’s not hard to envision Amazon selling a Kindle Fire tablet at or just below its manufacturing cost.” BusinessInsider‘s best estimates are that Amazon spends $174 to build the 7-inch version of their tablets, but their reporter also notes that Amazon’s CEO “says he wants to make money when people use a Kindle, not when they buy one.
“This makes Amazon completely different than Apple, which makes money on hardware, and picks up some additional revenue from apps and content…”
It’s almost obligatory for articles like this to ask who wins and who loses. Microsoft and Google would both be threatened by a $99 tablet, BusinessInsider concludes, because neither company has significant traction yet in the market for selling tablets. Apple wouldn’t be threatened now, but “In the long run, like in five years, it will be a problem for Apple because the price of an Amazon tablet isn’t going up. The software and hardware aren’t going to get worse, they’re only getting better.” And what’s fascinating is that all of that is absolutely true, even if Amazon isn’t releasing a $99 version of their high-definition Kindle Fire tablets.
Inevitably, reporters have to play these elaborate games of “What if…?”, because it’s all part of sorting out whether the rumor really is plausible. But it’s also a fun exercise on its own, reminding us that we do indeed living in interesting times, where you really never know what’s coming next. Wow! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you got a color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablet — with an HD screen — for just $99?
Yes, it would….
March 14th, 2013
Amazon’s just lowered the price on their large-screen Kindle Fire HD tablets! Now the 8.9-inch tablets are just $269 (for the Wi-Fi only version), and $399 for the version with built-in connectivity to Amazon’s 4G wireless network. Len Edgerly, who does the Kindle Chronicles podcast, described it as “big developments for Amazon’s biggest Kindle Fire HD model”. And Amazon’s also announced that these large-screen tablets will now also be available in England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Japan.
Amazon calls the 8.9-inch tablets “our highest resolution, largest high-definition display”, and in a press release Wednesday they bragged that it’s “perfect for web, apps, movies, games and magazines.” My girlfriend complains that the 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire tablet is too small for enjoying a big-budget Hollywood movie, but these larger tablets also have dual stereo speakers with Dolby audio, which according to Amazon will deliver a “crisp, rich sound”. There’s even a front-facing camera for taking high-definition photos and making video phone calls. And there’s an extra significance in the way Amazon is now releasing these high-def tablets to the rest of the world.
Less than two months ago, a research firm noted that the Kindle Fire “practicaly doesn’t exist” outside the United States. Localytics had determined that 89% of all of Amazon’s tablets where in America, with most of the rest were in the United Kingdom, “After those two, no other country has even one percent of worldwide Kindle Fires,” their report concluded. But where Amazon had made their tablet available, it had been a big success — for example, in America, where Amazon’s Kindle Fire made up one-third of the entire market for Android tablets.
Based on that, the researchers concluded that if Amazon comes up with a good plan for distributing their tablets globally, Amazon “could quickly dominate the Android tablet market worldwide!“
February 26th, 2013
I knew the Kindle was successful — but I never dreamed it was literally destroying its competition. But last week, Barnes and Noble told its investors that not only did their Nook division lose money for the second year in a row. They also reported that its loss this year was going to be even bigger than their losses were last year — and a company insider suggested they’ll put a smaller emphasis in 2013 on trying to sell Nook devices.
The disappointing figures covered both Nook sales and whatever revenues they were earning from selling ebooks for the Nook. And Barnes and Noble is now lowering their predictions for how much they’ll be able to earn throughout all of 2013. On Monday, the New York Times reported that’s the worst news for the company’s investors. “The problem was not so much the extent of the losses, but what the losses might signal: that the digital approach that Barnes & Nobles has been heavily investing in as its future for the last several years has essentially run its course.”
But the most interesting detail in the Times’ article is that it’s not just investors who are losing hope for the Nook, but also the executives at Barnes and Noble. Citing a person “familiar” with the company’s inside strategy, they suggest that in 2013 Barnes and Noble may try to emphasize its vast library of digital ebooks in deals with other tablet manufacturers (like Samsung and Microsoft). “They are not completely getting out of the hardware business,” the source said, “but they are going to lean a lot more on the comprehensive digital catalog of content.”
One technology blogger even wrote that the Nook was in a “death spiral,” noting that Barnes and Noble had already issued an earlier warning in January about disappointing Nook sales over Christmas and during the last three months of 2012. “Companies very rarely warn twice in 40 days about the same problem,” writes a blogger at BGR.com, adding “When it happens, it usually indicates that something so unexpected is taking place that executives just cannot wrap their minds around it.” Amazon’s got a better distribution plan for their Kindle tablets outside of North America, but Barnes and Noble seems to be having problems even selling ebooks to their current Nook customers. For these reasons, he writes, “It is hard to see how the Nook’s revenue decline is going to be reversed in 2013.
“And it’s very hard to see why any new consumer who researches his or her purchase for even five minutes would now take the betamax risk of buying a Nook.
December 10th, 2012
“Today only,” Amazon’s just announced on a special web page, “save $50 on Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch”. That means you can pick up the 16-gigabyte model for just $249 (WiFi-only) — and even the 4G + WiFi version, with 32 gigabytes of storage, now costs just $449.
Remember, these are the “high-end” models with an 8.9 inch screen. (The original models — which are still available — only offer a 7-inch screen.) Amazon warns that this deal is limited to just one Kindle Fire HD per customer — and while the sale ends Monday, it’s also only available “While supplies last.” It’s the kind of sale that makes you wonder if Amazon is considering an upgrade to their line of high-definition Kindle Fire tablets. Are they trying to clear out their inventory before replacing them with an upgrade model?
But I think there’s an even simpler explanation: Amazon wants to attract shoppers who are looking for a nice Christmas gift. They plastered this discount on the front page of Amazon.com, describing it as their “Deal of the Day.” Historically Amazon has always showned a big spike in their sales during the month of December. Maybe this year they want as many people as possible to buy a Kindle Fire HD.
There’s a couple of reasons why Amazon wants you to buy a Kindle Fire HD. The biggest one is it makes it easier to buy more things from Amazon! Even if they sell the tablets at a discount, they’ll still earn more money from those customers when they start downloading movies and music to the devices from Amazon’s store. Plus, Amazon’s probably even more interested in “mind share.” Once all those purchases are tied to your account, it makes it harder to switch to a tablet from another vendor — like Apple — because you’d lose access to all of the media that you’ve already purchased from Amazon!
I’m sure Amazon’s given it a lot of thought, but in the end, that’s their problem to deal with — and we as consumers are the ones who are going to benefit. Because if you were looking to purchase a Kindle Fire HD, you can now do it for $50 less!
November 6th, 2012
There’s an old saying that journalists love a horse race. Current events are more interesting when there’s one side that’s winning and one side that’s losing. That’s why blogs like to focus on the “war” between the iPad and Amazon’s own Kindle Fire tablets. Unfortunately, neither company releases their sales figures, but periodically you’ll get some good estimates from the “market analysts” at professional research firms.
And that’s what happened on Monday, when some surprising new numbers were released by the technology analysts at IDC. It’s a research firm that focuses specifically on consumer technology, and they’d made two interesting observations. In just three months — July, August, and September — they’re estimating that 27.8 million tablet computers were sold. And that means that nearly three tablets were sold this year for every two tablets that were sold in the same period in 2011.
Even if you just compare tablet sales to the previous three months, total tablet sales have now still increased by 6.7%. But what’s even more interesting is that Apple’s share of the tablet market is getting smaller, IDC notes. According to their calculations, more customers are now choosing instead to buy devices with the “Android” operating system — like Amazon’s Kindle Fire!
Of the 27.8 million tablets sold between July and September, 14 million of them were from Apple (all the various versions of the iPad). That barely gives Apple half of the new sales for tablet computers, with a share of 50.4% (versus 65.6% in the previous three months). The next-biggest vendor was Samsung, who sold 18.4% of the tablet computers bought between July and September. But Amazon’s share of the market during that same period was 9% — which was nearly double what it had been in the previous three months!
That may not sound like much, but Amazon waited until September, the last month in the quarter, before announcing their newest tablets. “Here’s why Amazon’s tablet share is going dramatically higher,” writes a blogger at ZDNet, noting that Amazon’s newest version of their Kindle Fire tablet can compete with the iPad on both price and features. He also notes that during September, Amazon was only selling their Kindle Fire HD tablets within the United States. But as Amazon expands their sales to the rest of the globe, their share of the market should increase.
Of course, there’s also another story behind Apple’s figures, according to the analysis by IDC. “We believe a sizeable percentage of consumers interested in buying an Apple tablet sat out the third quarter, in anticipation of an announcement about the new iPad mini. Now that the new Mini, and a fourth-generation full-sized iPad, are both shipping we expect Apple to have a very good quarter.” But they note that the iPad Mini is still relatively expensive at $329, which opens up a market opportunity for Amazon and their Kindle Fire tablets.
Now with the Christmas shopping season approaching, IDC reports that Apple’s missteps “leave plenty of room” for companies like Amazon to “build upon the success they achieved in the third quarter!”
October 29th, 2012
Ouch! I know Amazon wants to beat Apple in “the war of the tablets”. But today Amazon launched a surprisingly aggressive attack against Apple’s newest tablet computer, the iPad Mini. They fired the first shot last Thursday during a conference call announcing their earnings. But today they continued their attack using the front page of Amazon.com!
Apple had announced their new “iPad Mini” just six days ago, priced at $329. It competes directly with Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, though its color touchscreen has a lower density of pixels (offering just 163 pixels for every inch of screenspace). Even the original Kindle Fire — now priced at $159 — has 169 pixels per inch. And Amazon’s new Kindle HD (priced at $199) now offers 216 pixels per inch.
Apple’s always had a reputation for producing good-but-expensive products. So apparently, Amazon wanted to make sure that everyone noticed that Amazon’s cheaper devices were actually offering more pixels per inch. Somewhere in Seattle, someone came up with a publicity stunt that was sure to get the attention of technology bloggers everywhere. The first thing you see today at the top of Amazon.com is a quote from the technology site Gizmodo.
“…your [Apple's] 7.9 inch tablet has far fewer pixels than the competing 7-inch tablets! You’re cramming a worse screen in there, charging more, and accusing others of compromise? Ballsy.”
Amazon seems anxious to position themselves as the better-and-cheaper option, especially with the Christmas shopping season coming up. (Ironically, Gizmodo.com went offline this afternoon, possibly overwhelmed by all the additional traffic they were now getting from Amazon.com!) Just two days after Apple had launched their newest product last week, a spokesperson for Amazon had also contacted the AllThingsD blog, and bragged that the sales for the Kindle Fire HD had actually increased the day after Apple had announced the iPad Mini. In fact, Amazon sold more Kindle Fire HDs on that day than on any other day since they’d launched the product. Not only that, but Amazon had actually sold three times as many as they’d sold just the week before!
It’s possible that there was a pent-up demand for tablets on that one day. I’m guessing that a lot of shoppers had postponed their purchase just to see what kind of device Apple was going to announce. But apparently a lot of them then decided to go with Amazon’s device, because it was much cheaper and offered a higher density of pixels. And now Amazon’s making sure everyone’s hearing about the difference.
I wanted to ask a hardcore Apple fan what they thought of Amazon’s argument, so I contacted my friend Steve. (He’s been an Apple enthusiast for years, and once wrote a blog post where he jokingly described himself as a freedom-hating Apple fanboy.) “It’s a fair hit…” Steve conceded. “I get that it’s an improvement over the original iPad, in that it’s the same resolution but smaller so the pixel density is higher. But the pixel density is still lower than anything else they sell — or, other than the orignal iPad, anything else that they’ve ever sold!”
My friend Steve also pointed out that the iPad Mini is also going to have to compete with the Kindle, at least in some ways, “and Kindle has this nice, paperlink e-ink surface. As a backlit device, we really need the smoother, crisper screen to be an easy-on-the-eyes experience, and the iPad Mini really doesn’t deliver on that.” Plus, even for a die-hard Apple fan, it’s hard to get past the fact that Apple’s priced their newest device at least $130 higher than the Kindle Fire tablets that Amazon’s aiming at the lower end of the market.
“To market the iPad Mini as a high-end device, I think it really needs more screen resolution.”
October 21st, 2012
So the Kindle Touch is currently listed as “unavailable” at Amazon.com (as shown in the screenshot above), followed by an even more discouraging notice. “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” And there’s an article reporting the same message 10 days ago from the British web site Tech Radar. While an Amazon spokesperson told TechRadar their device was still available through other retail “partners”, they also confirmed that it was “no longer available at Amazon.co.uk.”
So it’s looking like it’s “dead for now” — though Amazon could always have a secret plan for reviving the Kindle Touch sometime in the future. But currently Amazon is also no longer showing the Kindle Touch among the strip of all available Kindle models that’s displayed at the top of each Kindle’s web page. And Amazon’s U.S. web page for the Kindle Touch is now simply pointing shoppers to their new touchscreen Kindle Paperwhite devices (officially released just three weeks ago), which Amazon describes as a “newer model of this item.” Unfortunately, the new Paperwhite, with its built-in front lighting, is significantly different from the Kindle Touch, and it’s drawn at least a couple of dissatisfied reviews. 676 users have now given the new Paperwhite an average rating of less than 3 and a half stars on Amazon (out of a possible five), which is lower than any previous model of Amazon’s black-and-white Kindles.
Amazon’s averaged four stars for their Kindle and Kindle DX, and four and a half stars for the Kindle Keyboard. And even though it’s only been available for less than a year, the Kindle Touch already has an average rating of four stars (after racking up 6,471 reviews on its web page at Amazon). To be fair, the new Paperwhite has also received many positive reviews, too. And I still think our Kindle word game still looks absolutely gorgeous on the glowing screens of the Kindle Paperwhite…
But to head off any disappointment, Amazon’s now taken the unusual step of “preemptively disclosing” shortcomings of the Kindle Paperwhite right on its web page, “most likely to get out in front of user complaints,” C|Net reports. Towards the top of the Paperwhite web page, Amazon’s now linking to a web page from “the Kindle Team” which presents three disclaimers. (“Learn more about certain design decisions and changes from prior generations to help make an informed purchase,” the link promises.) On the page, Amazon acknowledges that at the bottom of the screen, the Paperwhite’s built-in light will sometimes provide uneven illumination under certain lighting conditions, and that, unlike the Kindle Touch, it doesn’t have audio or text-to-speech capabilities. And there’s also only 2 gigabytes of on-device storage, half of the storage that was available on the Kindle Touch.
Amazon may be suffering a backlash after high interest in the device, which they’re apparently trying to address before “Black Friday” and the big holiday shopping season. One day after its official release, Amazon had already sold out of their Kindle Paperwhite, with an Amazon executive conceding that pre-orders “have far exceeded our expectations.” But even three weeks later, new orders are still being delayed 4-6 weeks, with Amazon also imposing a new limit on orders of two per customers. Of course, that information also makes more sense now that we have the other piece of the puzzle. If the Kindle Touch really is unavailable now, that could explain the higher-than-expected demand for the new touchscreen Kindle Paperwhite!
But it’s also got me wondering if Amazon might bring back their older Kindle Touch devices — especially if they’re having trouble filling orders for the Kindle Paperwhite during the crucial Christmas shopping season. I wouldn’t be absolutely surprised if Amazon suddenly announced they were bringing back the Kindle Touch for a special a sale on Black Friday. Amazon wants customers to be happy, so it’d make perfect sense to give Kindle them a choice for their touchscreen Kindles.
After all, Amazon’s real goal is to just to sell you a Kindle. They don’t necessarily care which one!
October 17th, 2012
I own six Kindles, one of each kind — but the Kindle DX has always been my favorite. So I was sad to hear Amazon may be discontinuing it. It was one of the Kindle’s very first models — introduced in June of 2009 — but now you can no longer purchase one directly from Amazon. If you go to its web page at Amazon.com, it’s only listed as available from third-party sellers.
This is a surprise, because just a few weeks ago, Amazon seemed to suggest they’d keep selling the Kindle DX themselves. In September an Amazon Kindle executive named Jay Marine had surprised a technology site called The Verge with the news that Amazon is “pretty much done” with the Kindle DX. But the executive had also stressed that Amazon wasn’t abandoning it, though it wasn’t clear just what exactly he’d meant by that. The Verge site reported that Marine “did note that there may be a few more DX’s manufactured and it’ll continue to be sold online [my emphasis], before it completely falls off of the face of the earth.”
I guess maybe I’m just having trouble reconciling those two phrases — “continue to be sold online” and “falls completely off the face of the earth.” But Monday, NBC News reported in their technology blog that the Kindle DX would finally go “to e-reader heaven”. Calling it “one of the oldest e-readers offered by Amazon and certainly the largest”, they argued that most consumers seem to prefer devices with a smaller (and cheaper) screen. Although I think it’s worth noting that NBC’s blogger couldn’t get a definite comment from Amazon confirming that the Kindle DX was definitely being discontinued.
I think the Kindle DX turned off some shoppers with its higher-than-usual price tag. Even today in the third-party market, they’re still selling for over $250 – which is more than you’d have to pay for one of Amazon’s color, touchscreen Kindle Fire tablets! In fact, this summer when I’d tried selling off my second Kindle DX on eBay, I had trouble finding anyone who was willing to pay more than $200. Now if you’re trying to get rid of your Kindle DX, Amazon will let you trade yours in for a $90.75 gift card.
But on this day, as we say our possible goodbyes to the Kindle DX, I’d like to take a moment to offer up some appreciation. It was great for reading PDF files, because you could switch the screen’s orientation to “landscape” and then stretch the book’s pages all the way across all 10.4 inches of the screen. (In fact, I ultimately sold my second Kindle DX to a local college student, who looking forward to reading his textbooks on it!) And as one of Amazon’s earliest Kindles, it still came with built-in network connectivity (instead of requiring you to connect to a local WiFi network). I once read my Kindle DX during a camping trip up in the mountains, and it was also great if you found yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly, like the lobby of a doctor’s office.
Of course, there’s one more thing — the thing that I’ll always love most about my Kindle Dx. There’s only one thing better than an e-ink screen, I’ve always said — and that’s a really big e-ink screen. The Kindle Paperwhite may offer you more contrast with its front-lit screen, but the Kindle DX accomplished the same thing the old-fashioned way: with a bigger screen! I like seeing my ebooks big, 7.2 inches wide by 10.4 inches tall.
But apparently, if Amazon’s moves today are any indication, there just weren’t enough people who felt the same way.
October 6th, 2012
Exactly one year ago, Amazon was posting a memorial to Steve Jobs on the front page of Amazon.com. It read simply: Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011. When you clicked on the link, it went to Apple.com, which had posted the same words beside a picture of their co-founder. All across the web, people were remembering the man who’d helped to change their lives. And as I’d sat down to write about Steve Jobs on my desktop computer — I’d realized that he’d actually helped invent the desktop computer.
Friday saw people marking the one-year anniversary of Steve’s death, so I thought I’d take a moment to remember what I’d felt on that day. I’d say that it’s a legend in Silicon Valley which is probably worth remembering today. 36 years ago, at the age of 21, Steve Jobs teamed up with Steve Wozniak to sell home-built personal computers from Jobs’ garage.
Jobs didn’t design those first computers, but his personality helped launch the personal computer revolution. When he was 29 years old, he’d tried to lure Pepsi’s senior vice president of marketing to Apple. Unfortunately, the VP had already decided against accepting Jobs’ offer before he’d even sat down for their lunch. But he’d changed his mind after hearing a speech from the passionate young visionary. Jobs argued, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
Most people know the highlights of Jobs’ life. (That year was 1983, and the next year Apple would release their legendary Super Bowl commercial arguing that the new Macintosh computers would show people “why 1984 won’t be like [George Orwell's] 1984.”) But by building Apple into a successful brand, Apple helped legitimize personal computers, proving there’s a market for “consumer technology.” And under Jobs’ leadership, they proved it again two decades later with new mobile products, which ultimately helped to pave the way for Amazon’s Kindle.
On the day that Steve Jobs died, even my friends who used a PC were still sharing fond and grateful thoughts — along with nearly everybody else — and you could really see signs everywhere of an almost global response. The best-selling book on Amazon was Steve Jobs — which at the time was a yet-to-be released biography by Walter Isaacson (a former CNN chairman and the managing editor of Time magazine) which Amazon later declared was one of the 100 best books of 2011. On that day, it also became the third best-selling ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store (and, presumably, it was also available in Apple’s iBookStore.) The founder of Facebook even posted a personal statement about Steve. “Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world.” One year later, more than half a million Facebook users have clicked the “Like” icon to show they agreed.
In fact all across Facebook, nearly all my friends were posting their own reaction. “I tend to think of him as ‘Uncle Steve’,” wrote a friend of mine who worked at Pixar. “That is what at lot of us called him at Pixar while I was there, because Uncle Steve took care of us. And when I did see him around Pixar, more often than not he was smiling and seemed happy… Good job Uncle Steve.” My friend Tom — a motorcycling enthusiast — shared one of his favorite photos of Jobs riding a motorcycle. “Ride on, Steve,” Tom posted. “You’ll be missed…”
But there’s a forgotten legend about Jobs — the “wilderness” period between 1985 and 1997 when he’d parted ways with Apple to start his own computer company. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice,” Jobs once said. “And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Job was determined to import the “garage start-up” feel to his new company, Next Computer. “He abandoned conventional corporate structures, instead making a ‘community’ with ‘members’ instead of employees,” remembers Wikipedia. Besides the open floor plans, everyone received exactly the same salary when they started — with regular raises and performance reviews — and “to foster openness, all employees had full access to the payroll.” Everyone at Next was paid a month in advance, and in one building the company even hosted temporary art exhibitions using an in-house curator!
Jobs later said his time outside of Apple was the best thing that happened to him — “The heaviness of being successful…replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” If you ask a geek, they’ll tell you that Next Computer helped to popularize the “object-oriented programming” style of designing software which has since become an industry standard. But in the popular imagination, it’s Jobs’ excited ambition that you think of when you imagine the head of a cutting-edge technology company.
He gave good tradeshow, I told my girlfriend — and of course, Mac enthusiasts fondly remember Jobs’ return to Apple. Much of the technology developed at Next found its way into Apple’s computers, and
Apple’s sales increased as the company introduced a series of new devices like the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone. The week that Jobs died, I’d been writing a post about how Apple would respond to Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet. But Jobs had already been thinking about the answer for at least 15 years.
I believe Steve Jobs recognized that desktop computers were just the “first generation” of devices. If there’s a pattern after his return to Apple, it’s a focus on smaller and smaller devices. Jobs recognized that technology was going mobile, and he was already positioning his company for the future. “Don’t you see what’s happening?” argues one technology site. “PC’s are 1990, man! Handheld devices are approaching the processing power of PCs – and everyone has at least one… It’s like Microsoft just cornered the market on Univacs.” And by 2007, Apple was already selling just as much recorded music as the entire chain of Target stores — and more recorded music than Amazon.
On Facebook, my friend Joab had shared his favorite comment from the technology web site, Slashdot. “Bill Gates put a computer on every desk; Steve Jobs put a computer in every pocket, and in every purse.” But one of the most moving photos I saw showed a San Francisco memorial service where a mourner held a picture of Steve Jobs…on their iPhone.
And my friend Jonathan posted a link to a new memorial in Boston. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…” reads the inscribed quote from Jobs himself. “Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.”