Amazon Offers $30 Discount on Kindle Fire!

Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon “just took the gloves off,” begins an article at C|Net. Only days after Barnes and Noble discounted their color touchscreen tablets — to just $199 — Amazon announced an even cheaper price for their own Kindle Fire tablets. “Save $30 with a Certified Refurbished Kindle Fire,” Amazon now advertises on the device’s web page. “Each Certified Refurbished Kindle Fire is tested, certified, and repackaged like new…

For a shortcut to the special offer, just point your computer’s web browser to (“Comes with the same one-year limited warranty as a brand-new Kindle Fire…” Amazon is reminding potential buyers.) “[T]his deal first went live on Saturday,” C|Net‘s reporter notes, “and I’ve been checking all weekend to make sure they’re still in stock.

“As of this morning, they are.”

C}Net’s reporter doesn’t even own a Kindle Fire tablet, but writes that “for $169 I’m extremely tempted — especially considering that Amazon backs it with a full one-year warranty, same as new Fires…For all intents and purposes, this refurbished Fire should be the same as a new one — just $30 less. Who’s in?”

I’ve been intrigued by the extra capabilities in Amazon’s color, touchscreen tablets, and yes, they’re more appealing now that the price is cheaper. But is the discount just a hint at an even more interesting possibility? Just hours after C|Net‘s article, a reporter at PC magazine asked an even more intriguing question. Was the Kindle Fire tablet just a beta release?

“Last summer, I was one of the first to write in detail about Amazon’s Kindle Fire, expected in the fall of 2011,” writes Tim Bajarin. “My sources on this were impeccable and early on I got a good idea of what Amazon had up its sleeves. However, during my discussion with my sources on this, one interesting tidbit came up that I have not written about until now…” He reports that even while Amazon was building their 7-inch Kindle tablet, they were already thinking about a much larger tablet, and writes that he now believes “that the larger tablet will be its marquee product and the hopeful cornerstone of its tablet strategy.”

He estimates a larger tablet would cost Amazon around $300 to build, which suggests its ultimate price could come in around $299. Besides the obvious popularity of the iPad, he considers other clues that Amazon’s first tablet device was basically just a trial run. (For example, there’s the odd placement for the on-off switch, and the way that the volume controls are currently available only on the screen of the device.) “In no way was Amazon being dishonest with its customers — rather, the opposite,” writes the reporter. “For a low price, Amazon delivered a solid tablet experience… To be truly fair, many people may never want a screen larger than seven inches because of the associated weight and bulk.”

But his article still left me very excited about the possibility of a larger Kindle Fire tablet. “[U]sers must realize that the Kindle Fire is an important stepping stone for Amazon. It has allowed the company to garner key consumer feedback so it can create an even better product that can compete with the iPad and, in the end, deliver an even better user experience for its customers.

“After all, as industry insiders joke, all first-generation products, whether hardware or software, are really ‘beta’ programs disguised as initial launches.”

And remember: you can still buy my newly-released word game for the Kindle, “Throw in the Vowel,” for just $1.99!

Amazon’s Funny New Kindle Ad

New Kindle vs iPad sunglasses ad

Amazon’s released a funny new ad for the Kindle. But it’s part of a larger real-world story that makes it even more interesting. In July of 2010, Amazon’s CEO was being interviewed by the New York Times. He was making a point about the Kindle’s low price — at a time when the cheapest Kindle cost $139. “At $139, if you’re going to read by the pool, some people might spend more than that on a swimsuit and sunglasses,” he told the newspaper. And two months later, Amazon released an ad which made the exact same point.

“Excuse me,” says a befuddled young man at a beach resort. He’s trying to read his iPad, and he has a question for the woman next to him, in a bikini. “How are you reading that, in this light?”

“It’s a Kindle,” replies actress Anna Zielinski casually, adding almost as an afterthought: “$139.” She smiles an enormous smile, and then says: “I actually paid more for these sunglasses.”

“Amazon’s New Kindle Ad Attacks the iPad!” I wrote on my blog in September of 2010. And at the time, that was the Kindle’s biggest advantage over an iPad: you could still read your Kindle in the bright sunlight. But now it’s 17 months later, and Amazon’s launched their own color-screen tablet device. (And it costs less than half of what an iPad costs). So two weeks ago, Amazon released a clever sequel to their first ad which updates the poolside conversation, and makes the same point.

“Hey, excuse me — that’s the new Kindle, isn’t it! $79 dollars?”

“Best way to read. Even in sunlight.”

“Yeah, but I mean, if you want to watch movies, or surf the web…”

“I’ve got a Kindle Fire for that.” (The woman nods to where her two children are playing with two Kindle Fire tablets)

“Three Kindles. That’s gotta be expensive.”

“Not really. Together, they’re still less than that.” (The woman in the bikini looks disdainfully at the man’s iPad).

And there’s one more line, just to make sure viewers don’t miss the fact that the iPad-owning man was completely shot down. “Someone sitting here?” he asks the woman in the bikini.

“My husband,” she replies….

You can watch the whole ad on the Kindle’s official page at YouTube ( ) In fact, soon you may only be able to watch it there, since I’m guessing Amazon may never broadcast that ad again. In fact, years from now it may be remembered only as an artifact in the great war of the tablets. Because Tuesday, Barnes and Noble announced a discounted color, touchscreen Nook which costs $199 — the exact same price as the Kindle Fire tablets. (And they’ve also reduced the price of their older Nook Color devices to just $169.)

Amazon may not want to broadcast an ad about how cheap their tablets are — when their competitor’s just released a new tablet that’s even cheaper!

Free Magazines for the Kindle Fire

Conde Nast Magazine covers on the Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon’s new tablets just got a little more interesting. Amazon’s announced that if you buy a Kindle Fire tablet before March 1, it’ll include digital versions of 17 different magazines for a free three-month trial!

Amazon didn’t release an official list of all 17 magazines, but they’re clearly visible in a promotional photograph that’s appearing on the Kindle Fire’s web site.

The New Yorker
Vanity Fair
Bon Appetit
Architectural Digest
Golf Digest
Teen Vogue

A Conde Nast executive said they were pleased to be “getting our content to an even wider audience,” and it highlights what I think is an overlooked feature of Amazon’s new color tablet. “Kindle Fire Newsstand customers will be able to enjoy their favorite magazines in rich, glossy, full-color,” Amazon explained in a press release, promising magazines not just from Condé Nast, but also major publishers like Hearst and Meredith. And for some magazines, there’s even going to be “interactive editions” with built-in video and audio — including Allure, Self, and Better Homes & Gardens.

It’s a nice perk, though when I’d first heard about the tablets, I’d assumed Amazon would be including a free subscription to their Prime shipping service. (They did, but only for the first month.) It’s important, because a Prime subscription qualifies those owners for lots of free “Instant Videos” on their tablet — along with access to a Kindle “lending library” where a new ebook can be “checked out” for free every month. But that Amazon Prime’s free one-month trial won’t even be available if you’ve already used Amazon’s Prime instant videos over the past year.

So if you’re worried about the cost of those online videos on your new Kindle Fire tablet, you might take a look at the online magazines available in the Kindle Newsstand. Every subscription begins with a free two-week trial, and nearly every major magazine is available. Browsing through the selection today, I also see Consumer Reports, Reader’s Digest, O (the Oprah Magazine), Maxim, Popular Mechanics, Cosmopolitan, The New Republic, and Elle.

And now 17 of those magazines are available for free for the first three months!

Magazine covers on the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet

An Earlier Arrival for Kindle Fire Tablets!

Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet

The wait is almost over. The Kindle Fire tablet “will start arriving on customers’ doorsteps one day early,” according to a new statement released by Amazon. And Amazon also announced that its Kindle Touch will begin shipping out on Tuesday.

“We’re thrilled to be able to ship Kindle Fire to our customers earlier than we expected,” added an Amazon executive. Calling the tablet “a premium product at the non-premium price of only $199,” he noted that the demand has surprised Amazon, and they’re now “building millions more than we planned.”

But there’s a bigger question: whether people will love Amazon’s new color touchscreen tablets the way that they loved the black-and-white Kindles. The stakes are very high, as Amazon acknowledged with a quote from Fortune magazine. “The culmination of 17 years of work, the Kindle Fire is the missing piece of the company’s vast corporate puzzle, bringing into harmony nearly every discordant service the company has built since CEO Jeff Bezos first set up shop in his garage in 1994.”

Of course, the complete article included some caveats. (“It’s not what many expected exactly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not Amazon’s most important product ever,” reads the tagline.) Fortune notes that the Kindle Fire tablet “isn’t a revolutionary device,” but ultimately concludes that it’s most significant feature is the tablet’s integration with Amazon’s “cloud” of downloadable media and other services. “More than any other Kindle before it, the Fire is an initiation into an ecosystem where nearly every service is provided by Amazon.” Saying it’s often “a not-so-subtle initiation,” the article notes how the video library, for example, includes very prominent reminders that many “Instant Videos” are free to Amazon Prime members.

I’ve always seen the Kindle Fire tablets as a device that lets you buy more things from Amazon — not just ebooks, but also movies, music files, and games and other applications. Of course Amazon wants it to be cheap — because they’re assuming they’ll earn even more money when Kindle Fire owners begin shopping heavily in Amazon’s store. So the real question is whether the device can deliver a “compelling experience,” one that actually gets customers excited about making all those new purchases from Amazon. And according to Fortune‘s reporter, at least when reading a color magazine on the Kindle Fire tablet, “photos and other art pop.”

But how does it compare to Apple’s iPad? After testing Amazon’s new Silk web browser, the reporter concluded it’s “a hair quicker, but the difference was negligible.” And the Kindle Fire also seemed to require a
re-charge after 6.5 hours of use, which the reporter calls “acceptable, but not exceptional when compared to the iPad 2’s 10 hours with WiFi on or the Nook Tablet’s touted 11.5 hours with WiFi off.” And remember those ads last year, showing a Kindle being read in bright sunlight while the iPad suffered from a bright glare? With the new Kindle Fire, “just like the iPad, Nook Color, and other tablets, you may have trouble reading outdoors thanks to the device’s color screen…”

Of course, Amazon’s tablet is also $300 cheaper than the iPad, which is the biggest clue to Amazon’s strategy. They want the tablet to be affordable, because they’re not expecting profits just from the sales of the device itself. They’re hoping to earn a lot more when those Kindle Fire tablets finally start arriving — so their owners start shopping! Will Amazon’s strategy work?

In just a few days, they’re going to find out….

Amazon Unveils New Kindle Fire Commercial

New Amazon Kindle Fire ad

Within two weeks, the first Kindle Fire tablets will start shipping from Amazon’s headquarters. But Amazon’s already filmed a new commercial showing the package arriving on someone’s doorstep! “For years we’ve been placing the things you love at your doorstep,” announces a female narrator. “Now we’re placing them at your fingertips.”

“Introducing Kindle Fire. A Kindle for movies, music, apps, games, web browsing, and of course, reading…”

To watch a video of the ad, point your computer’s web browser to . Sunday Amazon slipped the URL onto their Faceboook page for the Kindle, calling it a “sneak peek” of their newest commercial (‘to help make the wait a little easier.”) Within 12 hours, it had already drawn nearly 1,000 “Like” votes — and more than 320 comments. It was like the commercial finally provided something new to talk about — while everyone waited for their own Kindle Fire tablets to be delivered!

At least four different people posted “Can’t wait!”

It was exciting to see the new Kindle in action, with a shot of the woman swiping her finger across the tablet’s touchscreen. (“Sequences simulated,” Amazon explains in small, faint-grey letters at the bottom of the last shot.) You can also see the logo for Angry Birds — and for Facebook — in that last shot, reminding viewers of all the new iPad-like things that the Kindle Fire can do. (One of the movies available on its homescreen is “Green Lantern” — making the point that you can even watch recent releases on this Kindle’s color screen.)

The ad’s official title is “Placing the Things You Love at Your Fingertips”, and it was fun to read all the enthusiastic reactions on Facebook — though the ad also drew comments from a few “armchair critics”. The biggest complaint was simply that it’s not possible to buy the Kindle Fire in Canada or the United Kingdom. (One comment summarized a typical reaction: “I…wish I could buy one.”) And another commenter was surprised that the deliveryman left the package outside. “People in America must really trust their neighbors,” joked one commenter on YouTube.

I’d noticed that the woman in the ad was reaching for her house keys — suggesting it was her own doorstep where the Kindle had been left. But not everyone had the same interpretation. “Is it just me, or is this not her house and not her kindle,” suggested one viewer on YouTube. “Anyone else would have immediately gone inside and added it to the network, registered the device on their Amazon account and started adding apps. I think she just swiped someone else’s and then had the audacity to sit on their stoop playing with their Kindle.”

Some other commenters had a similar criticism of Amazon’s ad. “I find this ad a bit misleading,” noted one comment. In the ad, the woman sits on her doorstep and starts browsing the web with her new Kindle Fire tablet. “Amazon should make it clear that the Fire, at least this first version, works on Wifi only and is NOT 3G or whispernet capable,” the poster complained. And another commenter wondered why before surfing the web, she didn’t first have to plug in her new tablet. (“That Kindle already had a charge on it???”)

But I have another theory about what’s behind the negative comments.

I think everyone’s just jealous because the woman in the ad already has a Kindle Fire tablet — and they don’t!

What’s Amazon’s Most Popular Kindle?

Most Popular Version of Amazon's Kindle

I’ve been studying Amazon’s best-seller lists, trying to figure out which Amazon products are the most popular. Each hour, Amazon updates the lists for each category — including the “Electronics” department, where all their Kindles are listed. I realized today that it’s a great source of information about the new Kindles. And it seems to offer a definitive answer to the question: which of Amazon’s new Kindles is the most popular?

It’s their full-color touchscreen Kindle Fire tablet. In fact, it’s the #1 best-seller in Amazon’s entire electronics section — even though it’s also one of Amazon’s most expensive Kindles ever. But the #2 best-selling Kindle — both last week and this week — is Amazon’s least expensive Kindle ever. It’s the $79 Kindle, which ships with sponsored screensavers and “Special Offers”, and it seems to settle the question as to whether customers would accept ads on their Kindles in order to get a cheaper price.

In fact, the next four Kindles on the best-seller list also all include the special offers and sponsored screensavers. The third best-selling Kindle is Amazon’s other new model, the Kindle Touch, and again, consumers are opting for the cheapest one — the WiFi-only version that ships with advertising for $99. And surprisingly, the next best-selling Kindle is the old Kindle 3 — now called the “Kindle Keyboard”. (But again, it’s the cheaper $99 WiFi-only version which ships with “Special Offers.”)

This isn’t just a temporary phenomenon. I checked this list one week ago, and its rankings were exactly the same for the top four best-selling Kindles. In fact, since they were released 17 days ago, all Amazon’s new Kindles have stayed on their list of the top 100 best-selling electronics products. But it gets more interesting when you realize how many other versions there are of the new Kindles — and watch how they’ve fluctuated up and down on the list.

#5 is now the 3G version of the Kindle Touch (with Special Offers). Apparently even consumers who were willing to pay a little more for 3G connectivity still wanted to save money by buying the Special Offers version. Even a week ago, it was still in the #7 spot, and you’ll see the same trend in the #6 best-selling Kindle. It’s the 3G version of the Kindle Keyboard with advertising, proving that even consumers who were willing to pay a little more for 3G connectivity still wanted to save money by buying the Special Offers version.

But the #7 spot went to the international version of the WiFi-only basic Kindle without advertisements. And last week, it was in the #5 spot — so there’s still a few bargain hunters who just won’t buy a Kindle if it’s got advertising. Confirming that trend, the #8 spot — both this week and last week — is the cheaper WiFi-only version of the Kindle Keyboard without advertisements. Some shoppers were willing to forgo 3G connectivity — but not the ability to own a Kindle without advertising. In fact, the #11 best-selling Kindle this week is also the ad-free version of the WiFi-only basic Kindle (for $109) — the non-international version. But the ad-hating consumers seem to represent a smaller piece of the Kindle market. Proving this, I see that one Kindle has dropped out of the top ten altogether. The #9 best-selling Kindle used to be the ad-free, 3G version of the Kindle Keyboard at $189. This week, it’s fallen all the way to the #12 spot.

And I had to laugh when I saw which product claimed the last two slots in top 10. Apple’s iPod touch has now claimed both those spots — #9 for the 8-gigabyte version, and #10 for the 32-gigabyte version. I’ve been writing about Apple’s fight for dominance in the tablet market , and it looks like on Amazon’s best-seller list, you can watch it happening in real time. Last week, there was only only non-Kindle product in the top 10 — and it wasn’t from Apple. Instead, the #10 spot went to Garmin’s 5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (whic this week is #13).

Of course, the lists can’t tell you how many Kindles have been sold — but it’s still a fun source of other trivia. For example, I think it’s amazing that the Kindle Keyboard has now racked up reviews from over 32,990 people!

I wonder how many reviews the Kindle Fire tablets will have one year from today?

Fighting Kindle Fire: Will Apple Release an iPad Mini?

Apple's Steve Jobs and the iPad vs Amazon's Kindle

There’s yet-another rumor about a new tablet device. Apple may launch a price war with Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet — by releasing their own cheaper iPad tablet!

If the rumors are true, Apple would release the device in early 2012. Apparently a financial analyst went straight to the source — the manufacturers of tablet components in China and Taiwan. There, he heard “rumbling” about an “iPad mini,” according to the Apple Insider blog. “The ‘mini’ name doesn’t necessarily refer to the size of the device, he said, but a lower entry-level price.”

“‘We believe this lower priced iPad could be priced in the mid-to-high-$200 range,’ White wrote in a note to investors. ‘We expect this will be followed by a much more powerful, feature rich standard-priced iPad 3 in (the second quarter of 2012).'”

A lower price could boost sales around the world, in both developed and “developing” countries, according to the analyst. But it’s also a clear response to the new tablet from Amazon. The Kindle Fire, priced at just $199 put some real “price pressure” on the iPad (which sells for $499). It’s the newest battleground in a war between Apple and Amazon that’s been going on for the last four year.

In 2007, Steve Jobs was asked about the newly-released Kindle at Apple’s annual “Mac World” conference — and he predicted a rocky reception. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read any more,” Jobs told reporters. “40% of the people in the United States read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top — because people don’t read anymore.”

Of course, at best that was always a “glass half empty” statement. (It also meant that 60 percent of Americans do read more than one book each year.) And according to a more-recent poll, now it’s only 25% of Americans who read one book or less each year, with 75% of Americans now reading more than one. (Plus, there’s apparently another 40% of Americans who every year read at least 11> books.) And the poll found even higher percentages for us people who own a digital reader. Each year a full 62% of us read at least 11 books, while 26% of us are reading more than 20 books!

In any case, the Kindle became an extremely successful product, and when Apple finally unveiled their iPad in 2010, Steve Jobs acknowledged that they’d include the ability to read ebooks. He conceded that Amazon “has done a great job of pioneering this… we’re going to stand on their shoulders for this.” But he still remained cold to the idea of a tablet that was smaller than the iPad — like the 7″ Kindle Fire
tablet which Amazon eventually introduced.

“One naturally thinks that a 7-inch screen offers 70% of the benefits of a 10-inch screen,” Jobs said one year ago in a conference call. “This is far from the truth. The screen measurements are diagonal so a 7-inch screen is only 45% as large as iPad’s 10-inch screen. The screens on these tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad’s display. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion. While one could increase the resolution of the display for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper so that the user can sand down their fingers to a quarter of their present size.”

It’s fascinating to read Jobs’ remarks in the conference call — just one year before his death — in light of the rumors of an “iPad Mini” that’s coming in January. It may be that it will be just a cheaper version of the iPad (keeping its large 10-inch screen). But if they do make the iPad smaller, they’ll be defying the intense criticism that Jobs laid down just 12 months ago. “Apple has done extensive user testing on touch interfaces over many years and we really understand this stuff. There are clear limits of how close you can physically place elements on a screen before users cannot tap, flick or pinch them,” Jobs had said. “This is one of the key reasons we think the 10-inch size is the minimum size required to create great tablet apps.

“The 7-inch tablets are tweeners – too big to compete with an iPhone and too small to compete with an iPad.”

…our potential competitors are having a tough time coming close to iPad’s pricing – even with their far smaller and far less expensive screens…The proof of this will be in the pricing of our competitors’ products, which will likely offer less for more. These are among the reasons we think the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA – dead on arrival.

Their manufacturers will learn the painful lessons, that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning customers and developers who jumped on the 7-inch bandwagon with an orphan product.

Amazon Remembers Steve Jobs

Amazon front page tribute after death of Steve Jobs

Today Amazon posted a memorial to Steve Jobs on the front page of It read simply: Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011. When you clicked on the link, it went to, which had posted the same words beside a picture of their co-founder.

All across the web today, people are remembering the man who helped change their lives. I sat down to write about Steve Jobs on my desktop computer — and realized that he’d actually helped invent the desktop computer. It’s a legend in Silicon Valley that’s probably worth remembering today. 35 years ago, at the age of 21, he’d 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.

Today even my friends who use a PC are still sharing fond and grateful thoughts — along with nearly everybody else — and you can see signs everywhere of an almost global response. The best-selling book today on Amazon is Steve Jobs — a yet-to-be released biography by Walter Isaacson (a former CNN chairman and the managing editor of Time magazine). It’s also the third best-selling ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store (and, presumably, it will also be available in Apple’s iBookStore.) Today the founder of Facebook even posted a personal statement about Steve. “Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world.” And 355,835 Facebook users 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…”

Steve Jobs on a motorcycle

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. Just yesterday morning I’d been writing a post about how Apple would respond to Amazon’s new Kindle Fire tablet. But the truth is, Jobs had 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 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.

Today on Facebook, my friend Joab 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.”
One of the most moving photos I saw today showed a San Francisco memorial service where a mourner held a picture of Steve Jobs…on their iPhone.

Steve Jobs on an 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.”

Amazon’s New Kindle Fire Ad – plus the Song and Its Lyrics

Ink well from Kindle Fire ad

I’ve always loved Amazon’s slick ads for the Kindle — and they’ve created another one to promote their new color/touchscreen “Kindle Fire” tablet. It opens with a quill pen lifting a drop of ink out of a copper pot. “The instruction we find in books is like fire,” the announcer intones — reciting a quote from Voltaire.

“We fetch it from our neighbors, Kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes property of all.”

The parchment is on a desk where a drawer is opened, revealing the metal letter blocks for a printing press — history’s next technology for transmitting words. “From Kindle, Fire is born,” the announcer continues, as the words reappear on the screen of a Kindle being read casually at the beach. Then the camera pulls back even further, revealing that someone is watching a video of that ad in their living room on the new touchscreen Kindle tablet. “A Kindle for movies, music, web, games, and reading,” the announcer concludes. “Kindle Fire.”

Within two days, the ad had been watched nearly 700,000 times on YouTube – and it’s been fun to see the reactions. “I’m watching this on my iPad,” joked one viewer in the comments — while another comment offered a different perspective: “thank god they didnt over price like Apple!” And another viewer had one very specific gripe. “…like all good things, this is US only. You selfish bastards!”

What makes this ad so effective is its music, and I finally tracked down the original song. It’s called, appropriately, “Words,” by a young new band called the Givers. (They’re a Louisiana-based group which just released their first album, Light, in June.) You can hear the whole song in a video at . It’s a stunning musical jolt with intense vocals and a pounding beat – and it’s got some strong lyrics to match.

It almost reads like an ode to all the new self-published authors who are finding an audience on the Kindle.

The words we say today, we’ll say.
And we’ll see them again. Yes, we’ll see them again.

So I choose my words so carefully,
like the sun, make it glow, or they glare at me.
Well, I choose light.
I like that warm,
keep me up at night.

And I pry that door of honesty
And as the warmth shines in, it dawns on me
That I choose light
To guide me through my actions at night.

The words we say today, we’ll say
And we’ll see them again. We’ll see them again.
The words go out so far, and come back so hard.
And we’ll see them again. Yes, we’ll see them again

So just hold up. Don’t fold up,.
Before you know, before you know, before you know, you’ll know
You’ll see it again. Yes you’ll see it again

And if your notion is in motion
Before you know, before you know, before you know, you’ll know
You’ll see there’s no end. Yes you’ll see there’s no end, end, end, end, end, end, end, end…

The waves high, slow tide, see them, go I
You’ll see them again, you’ll see them again.
And if the waves ride high, then so will I.
Before you know, before you know, before you know, you’ll know.
And you’ll see them again. You’ll see them again.

The words we say, today, we’ll say.
And we’ll see them again. We’ll see them again
The words go out so far, and come back so hard.
Yes we’ll see them again. We’ll see them again.

The words we say. The words we say
The words we say. The words we say
So I’ll choose my words so carefully
I’ll choose my words so carefully

The 10 Biggest Surprises about Amazon’s New Kindles

New Amazon Kindle Touch web browser surprise

There’s been some unexpected discoveries in the details about Amazon’s four newest Kindles. I’ve tried to identify the 10 biggest surprises in the list below — starting with five bad surprises, and then five good.

1. There’s No 3G Web Browsing
“Browsing available only in Wi-Fi mode,” reads the incriminating words on the 3G version of the Kindle Touch. Reportedly over the weekend some Amazon customer service reps incorrectly told customers they could still use Amazon’s 3G network access for web browsing on the upcoming Kindle Touch. “We apologize for the confusion,” reads an official response Sunday night from “The Amazon Kindle team” in an online discussion forum at “Our new Kindle Touch 3G enables you to connect to the Kindle Store, download books and periodicals, and access Wikipedia – all over 3G or Wi-Fi.” But… “Experimental web browsing (outside of Wikipedia) on Kindle Touch 3G is only available over Wi-Fi.”

2. Power Adapters Not Included
A USB cable is always included with any Kindle that you buy, so presumably you can always charge them just by plugging them into a USB port. But for both the new $79 Kindle and the Kindle Touch, Amazon’s not including a power adapter. (They’re sold separately, for $9.99).

3. One Miserable Keyboard
Originally I’d thought the $79 Kindle shipped with a touchscreen, because there isn’t a keyboard built into its plastic frame — just an on-screen keyboard. But apparently there’s no way to actually type letters into that onscreen keyboard — at least, not using the “touch-typing” that we’re used to with other devices. Instead, Amazon pulls up a picture of a keyboard, then lets you slowly nudge your controller key (up, down, or sideways) to gradually move a highlight across the keyboard — one key at a time — until it’s finally highlighting the next letter you want to type. (And then you press the controller one more time, to select that letter.)

79 Kindle keyboard uses controller instead of touchscreen
If you’re planning to input text to search Amazon’s Kindle Store, Wikipedia, or Google, and you’re buying a $79 Kindle — expect it to be a little awkward and time-consuming!

4. Your Personal Documents are now Stored at
Apparently now even if you e-mail a file to your Kindle, Amazon keeps a copy on their “cloud” servers. On Amazon’s interactive list on the “Manage Your Kindle” page (at, users are now seeing documents listed that they’ve e-mailed directly to their Kindle. They’re listed after selecting the “Personal Documents” choice from a pull-down menu labelled “Your Kindle Library” (along with more menu choices for books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, audible audiobooks, and active content). The only choice for personal documents is deleting the document from your Kindle — but it shows how committed Amazon is to the concept of a “cloud,” a virtual Amazon-controlled space where your documents are always waiting in limbo, for whenever you want to access them again. If the entire document is also stored, this creates an automatic back-up copy, but some privacy-sensitive users might already feel weird if a multi-billion dollar corporation has suddenly started creating lists of their own personal documents and photos.

UPDATE: One of my readers contacted me saying that “your personal documents are only stored online if you choose to do so. By default, the option is turned on, but you can turn it off…”

5. Amazon Prime not Included
You’ll only get a one-month free trial of Amazon’s Prime shipping service when you buy a Kindle Fire tablet. Maybe Amazon’s figuring it’s such an essential part of the tablet experience, most customers will still be willing to pay an extra $79 for a one-year subscription. But I’d thought Amazon would offer a much longer trial to try luring Kindle Fire customers into buying more things from Amazon’s store.

Now here’s five of the biggest good surprises about Amazon’s new upcoming Kindles…

1. Kindle Fire will have a NetFlix App!
Besides watching video from Amazon’s online video store, you can also use a Kindle Fire tablet to watch online videos from NetFlix! (Besides sending DVDs to your home, NetFlix also has a streaming video service that lets customers “Watch Instantly” online.) And one technology blogger noted Amazon was emphasizing this point during their big announcement on Wednesday. “The video service is one of four big developers – along with Pandora, Facebook and Twitter – that should have apps ready for the Kindle Fire at launch, Amazon has said over and over again…”

2. The Kindle Fire Supports Flash
It’s easy to take Flash for granted when you’re surfing the web from a desktop computer – but it’s a big deal to have this capability in a tablet. Apple’s iPad travelled a rocky road while trying to get its own version of Flash, but Amazon’s tablet will have it fron its very first day.

3. The Silk Browser is Incredibly Fast
There’s already been some complaints about how Amazon’s handling privacy in the new web browser they built for their Kindle Fire tablet. But it’s been designed specifically to provide faster web browsing, using Amazon’s servers to pre-format web pages before they even get to your tablet. “That provides a much better user experience,” an Amazon engineer explains in an online video, and another engineer even acknowledges their goal was “to kind of change the whole game, and really re-think how do you do web.” (“It’ll seem like a traditional browser — just a lot better and a lot faster than you’re used to working with.”) That’s a big claim, but there’ll be a lot of happy Kindle Fire owners if Amazon can pull it off. “We were only shown a brief glimpse of the new Silk browser,” reported the technology bloggers at Engadget, “but we must say the thing appears to deliver on its promises.”

4. One Special Offer Can Pay for the Cost of a Kindle.
Amazon knows customers don’t necessarily want ads on their Kindle – but they’ve worked hard to line up some very attractive offers. “[S]pending $114 on the Kindle saved me 20 percent on buying a new Apple MacBook Air,” reported one finance columnist, “a savings of $200.” He notes there’s been other discounts which exceed the original price of a Kindle with Special Offers, including a 20% discount on new LCD television screens. (“Some KSO buyers saved hundreds of dollars on their new TVs,” the columnist notes!)

5. Amazon’s Selling Kindle Fire at a Loss
Amazon’s also spreading around some other big discounts. The day after Amazon announced their new Kindles, their stock dropped more than $7 a share — a whopping 3.16%. It more than wiped out the 2.5% gain from Wednesday when they’d first announced their new Kindles. Amazon’s stock continued dropping on Friday — another 2.79% — but what’s bad for investors is often good for consumers. The stock drop is apparently tied to a report from an influential stock analyst who believes Amazon is selling each Kindle Fire tablet at a $50 loss.

On the big day when the new Kindles were finally announced, CEO Jeff Bezos posted a special message on the front page at “There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less…

“We are firmly in the second camp.”

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What’s Changed in Amazon’s 4 New Kindles?

Amazon's new touchscreen Kindle Touch

UPDATE: For Black Friday weekend, Amazon’s also offering a 32% discount on their old tablet-sized Kindle DX!

Wow! Amazon announced four new Kindles yesterday, including a cheap $79 Kindle. (I’ve spent the last 24 hours studying all the cool new features!) As expected, Amazon announced a color, iPad-style tablet, and they also announced three new versions of their beloved black-and-white, e-ink Kindles. All but one of the new devices come with a touchscreen keyboard (instead of having a keyboard built into the plastic frame), and Amazon will start shipping them to customers on November 21!

The most interesting surprise was that cheap $79 Kindle. It’s a new version of Amazon’s “Special Offers” Kindle, which uses slick advertising images for screensavers (and offers other deals at the bottom of its Home page). The earlier version became Amazon’s best-selling Kindle, due to its low price of just $114. Now the new version is $35 cheaper, though for $30 more, you can get another version without the special offers.

They’re calling this $79 one simply “Kindle” — a plain, bare-bones name for the simplest edition of their expanded “line” of Kindle products. And the older Kindle 3s are now referred to as the “Kindle Keyboard,” to distinguish them from the newer Kindles (which all have only a virtual on-screen keyboard.)

The screen on the new $79 “Kindle” is still six inches (diagonally), though the device is now 18% smaller — just 6.5 inches tall — because Amazon’s replaced the built-in keyboard with a virtual keypad “that appears just when you need it.” It’s also 30% lighter than previous Kindles, weighing less than 6 ounces. (Previously the lightest Kindles were 8.5 ounces – and even the smallest Nook weighs 7.48 ounces!) But the biggest difference is its low price. Remember how exciting it was when refurbished “Special Offers” Kindles appeared for $84? Now the everyday price is even cheaper!

It’s a WiFi-only Kindle — but there’s some things to watch out for. For example, its battery life is half that of the Kindle 3. It’ll still last a long time — one month with the wireless turned off, versus two months for the Kindle 3. The $79 Kindle also got half as much storage space as the other Kindles, with just 2 gigabytes (instead of the 4 that you’d find on the other new e-ink Kindles or even a Kindle 3). And it also doesn’t have any audio capabilities, as far as I can tell. But there’s another new version of the Kindle which sells for $99 called “Kindle Touch.” Amazon describes it as “a new addition to the Kindle family with an easy-to-use touch screen that makes it easier than ever to turn pages, search, shop, and take notes.”

It also ships with the “Special Offers”, and it seems to be very similar to the new $79 Kindle, except its battery life is twice as long. Like the $79 Kindle, the $99 version can also only connect to the Kindle Store and the web through a local WiFi connection, though there’s also a 3G version for just $50 more (which also ships with the “Special Offers”). Ad-free versions of both the 3G and WiFi Kindle Touch are also available for $40 more.

“The new, latest-generation Kindle is for readers who want the lightest, most compact Kindle at an incredible price,” Amazon’s announcement explained yesterday. So what else is new in the Kindle Touch? There’s a special feature called X-Ray which Amazon says will let customers “explore the ‘bones of the book.'” With one tap, it’ll display all the passages in a book which mention characters, places, or historical figures and important ideas (and other topics of interest). “The vision is to have every important phrase in every book,” Amazon explained in their press release. “Amazon built X-Ray using its expertise in language processing and machine learning…and a deep library of book and character information.”

X-Ray will include pointers to each book’s Wikipedia page — and it also displays information from Shelfari, an online book community that Amazon acquired in 2008. (It’s a kind of social networking service for book lovers.) On Shelfari’s web site, users create virtual bookshelves, where they can review and rate books they’ve read, and even tag and discuss them. But on the new Kindle Touch, users can access a book’s plot summaries, quotes, character descriptions and other “fun book factoids”.

I was hoping Amazon was going to announce a big upgrade for the web browsers, but it looks like they saved that for their fourth new Kindle — the color, 7-inch tablet, “Kindle Fire” tablet. Amazon called it “a new class of Kindle that brings the same ease-of-use and deep integration of content that helped Kindle re-invent reading – to movies, TV shows, music, magazines, apps, books, games, and more.” Translation: it can play video, and it makes it easier to shop in the Kindle store.

It lets you shop for over 100,000 movies and TV shows to watch in Amazon’s online video store, and over 17 million songs from Amazon MP3. (And if you’re a member of Amazon’s “Prime” shipping service, over 11,000 movies and TV shows are free!) Amazon will always remember your position in a video if you need to finish watching it later — just like they do for Kindle ebooks. And obviously, the Kindle Fire can also display ebooks, many of which are now in full-color, including “thousands” of bestsellers, children’s books, comic books and cookbooks.

To showcase its color screen, Amazon’s landed the exclusive rights to 100 different graphic novels from D.C. Comics, including Alan Moore’s Watchmen, “which has never before been available in digital format.” Other graphic novels available exclusively on the new Kindle Fire include Batman: Arkham City, Superman: Earth One, and Green Lantern: Secret Origin. And of course, you’ll also be able to read newspapers and magazines in a new full-color layout on the Kindle, including USA Today, Wired, and The New Yorker. And in addition, Amazon has announced that Kindle Fire owners “will enjoy an exclusive free three-month trial to 17 Condé Nast magazines, including Vanity Fair, GQ and Glamour.”

And naturally, the device will run apps from Amazon’s app store, including popular games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. (To draw customers, Amazon is still continuing their tradition of giving away a new paid app every day for free.) “Amazon designed the Kindle Fire user interface from the ground up to make it easier than ever to purchase, manage, and enjoy your digital content,” Amazon said in a press release Wednesday. “Just like with Kindle e-readers, Kindle Fire comes automatically pre-registered to your account so you can immediately start enjoying your digital content…”

Its screen is one-inch larger than a regular Kindle’s screen, and “the Kindle Fire display is chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic,” according to Amazon, “which means it is incredibly durable and will stand up to accidental bumps and scrapes.” It displays 16 million colors in high resolution, and will weigh in at 14.6 ounces.

But putting all the technical specifications aside, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos offered a much simpler description, calling it “a beautiful, full-color Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games, web browsing, and more, for only $199.”

Let the new era of Kindles begin!

Click here to see all of Amazon’s new Kindles