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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Kindle Fire

After two weeks with a Kindle Fire, I offer these comments to those who might be considering one.
  • It's easy to use, and it's a much better platform for book reading than either a smartphone (screen too small) or laptop (too bulky). Some reviewers have complained that the Fire is slow, but I haven't found that to be true. Its WiFi works well. You can push your own PDF files onto it. Like any tablet, it has secondary uses such as reading email, casual web browsing, listening to MP3 files, and running canned apps for Facebook etc.

  • It excels at its raison d'ĂȘtre, which is displaying Amazon-distributed content: books, magazines, movies, etc. The integration with Amazon's commercial engine is seamless and impressive. However, there is little revolutionary about the Fire -- except its price. From an engineering perspective, it is an evolutionary product.

  • If you like Amazon-distributed content, you can't beat the price of the Fire. But if you don't care for Amazon as a content distributor or you have the twice or thrice the money to spend, you might be happier with a "real" Android tablet or an iPad -- particularly if you want a camera, two-way video, Skype, 3G connectivity, or full access to an app store (none of which the Fire has).

  • The Fire comes preconfigured for your Amazon account, and it's shipped with an AC power adapter. Convenient, but that's it. Plan on spending a little additional for a protective case and a micro-USB cable to download MP3's and the like.

  • Any tablet is yet another computing device in the household. Be sure that the convenience of a tablet is worth the cost and effort to acquire it, familiarize yourself with it, and customize it. Any tablet is better than any smartphone for viewing and reading; however, other functions like listening to MP3's and reading Tweets are little better on a tablet than a smartphone. If you own a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop, you'll have to decide whether to replicate all your MP3's and bookmarks across all three devices or use each device for specific purposes only. So far, I'm leaning towards the latter.