Amazon has unveiled their new Android Tablet and it sells for just $199 for a 7″ multi-touch display. The tablet can use wifi but not cell phone signals to access the internet. Just this week, Amazon, also announced the large amount of content, available to USA Amazon customers only, that subscribe to Amazon Prime. I never really cared about faster shipping but features like a large library of content available for free streaming of 10,000 movies and TV shows makes the package very attractive, I think. The Kindle Fire is another in the long list of innovations from Amazon. I am very impressed with their management, leadership and willingness to focus on the long term and take risks with their investments.
The Amazon Fire has a heavily Amazon modified Android operating system. Amazon doesn’t do a good job of explaining what the limits on their marketing material the share really are. They hide how few people really have access to some features (like saying “18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books” – without mentioning much of that is available to less than 5% of the population). Since they don’t make that clear, it is hard to know what other limitations they don’t make clear so outside the USA (95% of the population) you are on your own to guess what features are really available to you.
It has most of the features you would expect of a Android tablet: the ability to use the internet, app market, etc.
Unlike the previous Kindle options this offers color touch screen. Amazon is keeping the digital ink Kindle’s as their suggested book reading choice. Heavy users of the book reading function will likely keep a Kindle digital ink device. But the new device can also serve as a book reader, there are limitations of the current color technology that mean it just isn’t as great for long hours of book reading.
Amazon is touting the “cloud-accelerated” browser which does sound like a worthwhile innovation taking advantage of their Amazon Web Services cloud (AWS). The Amazon Silk browser is different in a radical new way. When you use Silk, without thinking about it or doing anything explicit, you’re calling on the computing speed and power of the AWS. We’ve refactored and rebuilt the browser software stack to push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud. This lets Silk do more work, more quickly, and all at once.
Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.
Amazon EC2 is always connected to the backbone of the Internet where round-trip latency is 5 milliseconds or less to most web sites rather than the 100 milliseconds that’s typical over wireless connections. AWS also has peering relationships with major internet service providers, and many top sites are hosted on EC2. This means that many web requests will never leave the extended infrastructure of AWS, reducing transit times to only a few milliseconds. This is good, latency is an important, and often overlooked technical issue. It also seems a bit misleading, I think the latency your device experiences interacting with the cloud is higher (the technical details Amazon is touting are talking about communication within the cloud – which is good and helpful, just not quite as good as it sounds). The silk browser technology looks to be a very big innovation that will be very useful.
The price of the Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet illustrates once again that Amazon is still practicing what Jeff Bezos’ believes: driving down costs to customers and customer focus.