Look, I’ve got to come clean; I too got excited about the Kindle Fire — both the initial announcement, all the stuff about Silk and even the review we ran yesterday. Then I realised that the Kindle fire is nothing that Australians should get all hot under the collar about.
Directly from the “let’s get this out of the way early, because that way anyone who doesn’t read beyond the first para will get it”, this isn’t a pro-iPad piece. Now, head down to the comments and do your worst…
That aside, the Kindle Fire looks like a pretty neat bit of kit, and as a noted gadget fiend, I should be all excited about it, right? I mean, it’s got the ecosystem to take Apple on, it’s in a highly portable form factor and it’s dead cheap — at least by tablet standards. Everyone taking on an Android tablet from now on is going to have to work extra hard to make their higher-priced offerings stand out next to the Fire.
Still, I’m not excited. Not at all. Not yet.
There’s two very simple reasons for that. The first is quite basic. As sexy as the Fire might appear, both in the features it’s offering and especially in the price — three Fires for the cost of one iPad? Yes please! — as Australians, we can’t order them from Amazon.
OK, that’s not a killer problem; there’s any number of US-based shipping agents who’d no doubt be happy to take my money and ship a Fire on to me, albeit at a slight price premium. At which point I hit the second stumbling block: Content.
The Fire’s big selling point is that it’s got Amazon’s marketing muscle behind it. Books, movies, apps, you name it, the Fire delivers it… in the US only. There’s no international launch for the Fire because Amazon doesn’t have those rights agreements locked down as yet anywhere but the US. Undeniably, a huge part of the Fire’s asking price relies on the fact that it’s an essentially closed content consumption system; while Amazon might not make a whole lot on the hardware, it’ll make a killing on apps, books and movies. With no rights (except for maybe books) outside the US, there’s no incentive for Amazon to offer the Fire to Aussies just yet. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in time, but time is the third reason I’m not that excited about the Fire.
The Android tablet market moves fast. This time twelve months ago, the hottest Android tablet on the market was the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, a 7 inch unit that’s now rather terribly dated in terms of functions and features. Things have sped up a great deal since then, and the Fire’s not even starting from a position of being cutting edge to begin with, especially as it’s running from a forked version of Android that’s getting older every day.
Could Amazon sort out content deals to make an Aussie version of the Fire a flaming hot property? Of course they could, but these things take time with plenty of rights holders to deal with, all of whom are rather well versed by now in digital rights.
To give some perspective, when the original iPad launched in Australia, the iBooks app was available, but there were no paid books. None. Zip. Nada. Nil. It took a hefty six months for Apple — a company known to be tough and aggressive when it comes to negotiations — to get local book rights sorted. Digital books are at least a little ways along in Australia; now multiply that by music and video rights and you’re looking at a much more complex process. Every day that those negotiations continue is another day that the Kindle Fire’s hardware gets older and dustier and replaced with better and shinier new things. Time moves on, but will the Fire go out by then?
That’s why I’m not excited about the Kindle Fire just yet. Amazon could, at a stroke prove me rather badly wrong and announce imminent Australian availability with a raft of services built in, at which point I’ll get properly excited about it all over again.
Then again, if Amazon made that kind of splash into the Australian market, there’d be a whole host of reasons to get excited.
As for the Kindle Fire? I’d love to be wrong, but I’d say it’s more likely we’ll see some kind of service when the Kindle Fire 2 or Fire 3 rolls around.