Kindle Fire – REVIEWS

Last Christmas I bought my wife a brand new third-gen Kindle (now labeled by Amazon as the Kindle Keyboard). Since then Amazon has created, and now launched, their latest version of the eReader: the Kindle Fire. Needless to say, we both suffered a bit of buyer’s remorse (“if we only would have waited a little bit longer!”).

Sometimes, the best remedy for that particular sense of regret is the product’s reviews:

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David Pogue, New York Times

Saying the Kindle Fire is like an iPad for just $200 is a dangerous comparison. Amazon’s budget-priced tablet does not have the “polish or speed” of Apple’s touchscreen tablet.

The Fire deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force — it’s a cross between a Kindle and an iPad; a more compact Internet and video viewer at a great price! But at the moment, it needs a lot more polish.

Animations are sluggish and jerky — even the page turns that you’d think would be the pride of the Kindle team. Taps sometimes don’t register. There are no progress or ‘wait’ indicators, so you frequently don’t know if the machine has even registered your touch commands. The momentum of the animations hasn’t been calculated right, so the whole thing feels ornery.

Buyers might pick the Kindle Fire over the new $250 Nook from Barnes & Noble because of Amazon’s selection of content, as well as its Whispersync technology and cross-platform support. Customers who buy Amazon’s $80-per-year Prime membership also have access to unlimited streaming of 13,000 movies and TV shows, along with free two-day shipping on purchases.

But for users who are solely looking for an e-reader, Amazon’s e-ink-based Kindles (which start at just $79) are no-brainers. As a full-fledged multimedia tablet, the Kindle Fire falls short.

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Jon Phillips, Wired

iPad killer? No, the Kindle Fire is not. And it doesn’t even match the iPad in web browsing – the one area in which its hardware should have sufficient performance to compete. But the press has definitely supercharged Amazon’s product with a level of hype and enthusiasm that would make Apple proud.

Once you get past the “insanely low price” of the Amazon Kindle Fire, it just doesn’t live up to the hype. Its 7-inch screen is too small for most tablet activities, its performance can lag, and it lacks 3G data connectivity and a slot for removable storage.

The main strength of the Kindle Fire is it’s a “pretty good bargain” for anyone who is reluctant to buy a touchscreen tablet, allowing the device to enter an “impulse-buy threshold” that Apple’s iPad cannot touch with its current $499 entry price.

Potential buyers should, at the very least, wait for a second-generation Kindle Fire – or just upgrade to Apple’s iPad. Plus, the current iPad 2 will be even cheaper once Apple launches a third-generation iPad (expected to debut in early 2012).

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Larry Dignan, ZDNet

The Kindle Fire does a sufficient job of hiding the “warts” of the Google Android mobile operating system; but Amazon’s tablet is just about getting users to buy more content direct from the online retailer.

The new tablet requires that users live in “Amazon’s world,” a closed system that even prevents users from visiting the regular Android Market on the Kindle Fire’s Web browser. When attempting to access the traditional Android Market, users are then sent to Amazon’s own proprietary Appstore, which allows the retailer to “ensure app quality.”

More than anything, the Kindle Fire is an “impulse purchase device,” prompting users to buy an Amazon prime subscription, extra storage in the Amazon Cloud service, and even buy physical goods and have them shipped to your home.

In that respect, the device will be profitable for Amazon (even though the company is believed to be selling its tablet at a loss). The Kindle Fire is like an “e-commerce kiosk” that Amazon is putting in the hands of its customers, making the Amazon experience a platform unto itself.

However, the Fire isn’t necessarily an iPad killer. In fact, it’s likely that there will be folks that will own an iPad and a Kindle Fire.

If anything the Amazon and Apple approaches will occupy the low and high ends of the tablet equation, respectively, and crush everything caught in the middle.

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More reviews at Gizmodo and The Verge

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This Year’s Reading List

I’m a pretty slow reader and I mostly read for information; very rarely for leisure. Regardless, I set a goal of a dozen books for this year – one a month.

It’s November and I’ve only read nine. Well, actually I just started my newest book… so, eight. One reason may be because the first book was nearly 1,000 pages (that counts as three, right?). Another reason was due to some time spent on Atlas Shrugged – after the first 100 pages I just couldn’t get into it. It’s heralded as an epic that should not be missed; so maybe I’ll try again next year.

Here’s a list of the nine books from this year (most recent listed first):

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This book needs to explanation. Nearly 380,000 copies sold the first week.

Building a Company by Bob Thomas. This is Roy Disney’s biography; authored by the same man who wrote Walt Disney, An American Original (which I had read in 2009).

DisneyWar by James B. Stewart. This is probably my favorite book (see previous blog entry). It chronicles the Eisner era at the Walt Disney Company.

Realityland by David Koenig. A fun read that describes the [sometimes troubled] history of the Happiest Place on Earth. From ridiculous construction schedules, to rumors and urban legends, to accidents (including a monorail fire), and everything in between.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. It’s like Dan Brown’s version of National Treasure. ‘nuff said.

Four Decades of Magic by multiple authors. It’s a collection of essays to commemorate Walt Disney World’s 40th anniversary.

The Apostle by Brad Thor. What? Everybody needs to read a politically-leaning, testosterone-educed, current-event thriller once in a while!

The Big Rich by Bryan Burrough. The history of the four big Texas oil tycoons and how they made their riches.  H.L. Hunt was easily my favorite (what a creepy guy!). Supposedly, his life inspired the TV show Dallas.

Walt Disney by Neal Gabler. Without a doubt, the single most comprehensive Disney biography that exists. While some moments seemed to drag on (the Snow White time period, for example) the book is extremely thorough and an excellent read.

Are we sensing a pattern? That list seems to be heavily weighted with biographies and Disney (interestingly, even the Steve Jobs biography has Disney connections). What can I say? Fascinating people fascinate me! Honestly, I could recommend every single book. I’m very picky with my choices; so very rarely do I read through a book that isn’t excellent.

Any recommendations for future reading?

“Surprisingly well informed”

I’ve just finished what I would consider my new favorite book – DisneyWar by author James B. Stewart.

It’s a fantastic book that chronicles the Eisner era at the Walt Disney Company; yet, it doesn’t read like a history or a biography. It’s a real page turner! I’ve joked with friends that, when I finish the book, I might go through a period of mourning (as though I’ve lost a loved one). I seriously didn’t want it to end.

I have only two gripes about this book. First, there were too many areas that the author just breezed over; like the creative meetings and management decisions that lead to the creation of Disney California Adventure theme park. Suddenly, the park just exists – as executives gather at the Grand Californian Hotel for a retreat. This park, that Disney executives are currently pouring over a billion dollars into in order to boost attendance, has certainly had a troubled past. Disney isn’t known to completely re-imagineer entire theme parks that are turning a profit. California Adventure has suffered from bad press and bad word-of-mouth. Why? It couldn’t have anything to do with Eisner’s decision to build it “on the cheap”, could it?

My last complaint comes from a sentence, made by the author, late in the book (page 504). He writes, regarding Disney fans he had met at a Save Disney event in March 2004, “[they were] surprisingly well informed, [and said] they stay in touch through on-line Disney fan sites”.

What an odd statement. Why does it surprise the author that Disney fans would be so well informed? It lead me to believe that the Author may have held Disney fans in some sort of contempt; possibly assuming we are childish and ignorant. He must have wondered, what type of adult plays with Mickey Mouse toys and watches cartoons, anyway? I really don’t think people are specifically attached to any one product (the movies, parks, or merchandise). Not on their own merit, anyway. I think many of Disney’s products are able to do what so few others can: spark genuine emotions that then create positive life-long memories. Pixar has certainly nailed this formula. I think it’s these cherished memories that people mostly associate with the Disney brand – which then encourages them to buy the merchandise.

My first Disney-related memory is from when I was about 5 years old. My family took a trip to Walt Disney World… and I was amazed. I reportedly told my parents that I wanted to live there. In turn, I’ve taken my own children to Florida. Three times. And each time I’ve witnessed their amazement I am somehow able to relive my own deep-harbored original reactions. I am able to see the park through their eyes and believe in all of Disney’s magic.

Walt Disney once said that he didn’t make films for children, but for the child in all of us. And, I think that pretty much says it all.