The new Kindles

Just watched the Amazon product announcement video today. There’s something about Jeff Bezos’s style that ever so slightly puts me off. I’m not sure if it’s the long pauses. Nonetheless, impressive presentation overall.

Product demos, concrete ship dates and aggressive pricing. Amazon neatly sidesteps a lot of the comparison to the iPad by pitching more than hardware. The message is clear: “We’re not a me-too company. We’re innovative. We’re pioneers.” And it works for the most part. The presentation goes in detail about the work that went into the hardware - no expenses spared, software-hardware integration, speakers, wi-fi. Kindle Freetime is another well thought-out addition. But many of the arguments such as the “upgrade treadmill” hit closer to the Android devices which change every few months. And with the second generation of Kindle Fire tablets, Amazon also continues to do their own thing with Android.

The most exciting device for me was the Kindle Paperwhite Wi-Fi. Looks to be a great e-reader. Jeff Bezos talks at length about books and reading - Kindle Singles, Kindle Serials, direct publishing. Their ecosystem for books and reading is unmatched and has matured very well, perhaps more than when it comes to other content. There are some very cool things happening with immersion reading and x-ray. If they sold books here, I might get one just for reading.

After this video, it’s hard to see how Apple and Amazon will not continue to carve up the tablet market (if there is one) among the two of them. But the Nexus 7 may just stem the tide. And I’m not entirely convinced about the Surface just yet.

But for all the comparisons to the iPad, Amazon seems to view the tablet as a consumption device and a way for them to sell you stuff - a media tablet. And the evolution for such a product is to become an even better media tablet. That’s what the new Fire is. The iPad, on the other hand, represents what Apple wants it to be - a best-of-breed tablet computer. That’s the trajectory that we have seen it take over the past three years. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple manages that expectation when the long-rumoured smaller iPad joins the lineup. If not an iPad Air, depending on what it’s meant for, maybe they’ll just push it as a new iPod.

The next few months should be fascinating.