Opinion: It's Not Worth Getting Heated Up About The Kindle Fire

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.


Comments

    Yep, the rights issue is extremely important here- for something that's primarily a content consumption device, not having the content available here decreases its worth (outside the US).
    You could probably set up a proxy system or something to fool Amazon, but it'd be a lot of bother and definitely not for everyone.

    But it'd still be a pretty decently specced, inexpensive, simplified tablet with access to the Android ecosystem and easy integration with the Amazon library of books- basically a great starter tablet for older parents.

      OZONEOCEAN: I agree with everything you say - except - I'm getting really tired if this patronising attitude people have to 'older' citizens.

      Quote: "basically a great starter tablet for older parents".

      Listen friend - I'm an older parent (60+), and I resent that, not just because it's patronising but because age doesn't mean 'unable to comprehend bright shiny tech'. I own 5 PCs, 13 Macs (all under 2 years old), an iPad 2, a Kindle Fire, an Asus Transformer Prime, iPhone 4 and 4S and an HTC Desire S; and most of my cronies are kitted out with about the same amount of tech as well.

      So stop already. There's a fairly large under 35 population that don't embrace new tech as well and I don't notice them being condescended to.

      Back to the Fire - the portability alone makes it a standout. I love my iPad2, but frankly, when I'm off to the shops or coffee bar, it's a bit of a pain finding room in my handbag or briefcase for it. A 7" tablet is perfect - better than carrying a book, and that's what I use the Fire for mostly - reading. I've used iPhones for reading for years, and Palms before than, but you can only fit so much content on a 'page' and with my eyesight not improving over the years, there's less and less content on the screen When Apple release a 7" iPad, my Fire will be handed down to a friend or relative - but until then - it's my constant companion, and the fact that I can access the net (by tethering it to my iPhone) wherever I am out is a bonus. So we don't get Amazon Prime in Oz, it's a pest, but when you live outside the States you get used to not having access to everything tech can offer. We're a lot better off than we were 20 years ago.

        What the hell do you own that many computers for? Are you some kind of alien octopus with 50 tentacles? I suspect I get as much out computing and the Internet using my piddling XP PC and Kindle Keyboard as you do with an extra house to fit all your gear into. Talk about pretentious!

    As far as I can seethe Fire exists as a portal to buy content from Amazon. If you can't get said content, there's really no reason to get one.

      Oh there's still plenty of reason- you'll be able to get books very smoothly and easily (presumably, since it's their device), It has good specs, it's not too expensive, and you can use Android apps and games. It's still a very decent and worthy device.
      And because it's so popular there will be a lot of easily available third party support products coming out for it- as with the ipad.

        Ha ha, you sound like your selling a boat to a guy living in the Sahara.

        You: "Just look at this outboard, massive horse power, sexy lines, heaps of rod holders, GPS, fish finder, this boat has everything, and I'll let you have it for half price",

        Desert Bedouin: "By Allah you're retarded".

          That's an amusing analogy, but unfortunately it's completely and utterly wrong.

          You're ignoring the fact that it's stiff a good tablet that does what other tablets do at a good price. The movies and music are just an extra thing.

          I wouldn't buy it as a tablet, but for someone in the market for a good e-reader that would also like some tablet functionality like web browsing and such (there are a lot of people out there like that) this is the perfect device.

            All the reviews I've read pretty well said it was mediocre in every way, but still good for the price. Seems they've gone to extra lengths to keep you in the Amazon ecosystem - zero transfer cables out of the box, and even no volume rockers. Dunno how it's supposed to be usable once you've rooted it.

              Because it's impossible to change the volume with on-screen controls? What an uninformed comment.

                Usually rooting involves doing weird things with volume buttons to get the device into recovery mode and whatnot. So if there aren't any volume buttons...

    I still don't understand why electronic content is STILL region controlled. I know commercially it's certainly there to fleece smaller markets.

    It just doesn't make sense.

    Its the same problem with Zune, no rights outside the US made the experience much less for those of us who bought one anyway. Of course, that changes today but Microsoft have stopped making devices for good, so it's too late now.

    I'm using this experience as a warning not to buy a Kindle Fire in the hope that Amazon will sort out rights, because I think it is likely they will do that at the same time they release the next-gen device. So keep your powder dry until you know you'll be bale to enjoy the full experience.

    I honestly don't see Amazon being at all concerned about the Australian market. European market? Yeah, that's more likely but we simply don't have the user base to justify the dollars needed for rights distribution here.

    The rights issue is pure laziness from Amazon (or any other device manufacturer) point.

    Sure they need to negotiate rights in each territory, but why do they need to do them one at a time? Do you really think local right holders wouldn't be happy to join up with Amazon in selling their stuff? Of course not.

    It's simply Amazon's pig headedness, they live in this world where the USA is the only thing they think of. It wouldn't take much to set up an office here to negotiate the local rights at the same time as the US rights are being talked about.

      Don't be a fool. The reason why Amazon, Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, Crackle or any of these content providers have no luck in the Aussie market is because of the stranglehold of local companies (mostly Bigpond Movies), who have a vested interest in keeping their exclusive rights to themselves. Why do you think it's impossible to get a proper HBO subscription in Australia? Because cable has to go through Foxtel.

        Bigpond has no exclusive rights in Australia. Apple would never allow that. Foxtel is a separate entity which has little baring on the operations of Bigpond Movies, in most cases also with little impact on the video on demand or electronic sell through rights as Foxtel will mainly deal in the Pay TV space. There will likely be a short exclusion window, but that will not exclude electronic sell through. The reason HBO is not available in Australia is because HBO sold the TV rights of their shows to various other distributors here in Australia, to release a channel with the same programming as the US they would have to re-acquire all those rights again. But again, nothing to do with digital sales.

      I doubt it has anything to do with laziness. It is far mor elikely that the Aussie market is going along OK and rights holders want to keep it going for as long as they can, to protect their margins. Also, as someone else pointed out, ours is a tiny market that probably isn't worth amazon's time and money to work too hard on.

    I'm a big fan of paying for my music and my downloaded content, and this comes at a cost ( and friends screaming in my ear as to how many much I could be saving) I will pay for easily distributed electronic content, I want to pay - yet Apple does not have a viable competitor for that content. Bigpond seems to be charging at least the same prices as cd's for music ( eg Florences + Machines new albulm) Apple has a monopoly on digital media - if Amazon content was open to Aussies then we would then have competition, and wouldn't need ministers to appeal on our behalves to apple to be fair, they would be forced to be fair because they would have competition.
    So how do we help them get the content to us? Why aren't we campaining that? Especially when stuff like our choice of competition is restricted by local problems. If Aussie media distributors spend as much money trying to get us legal content as they are to stop us from getting illegal content then we all would win.

      That makes more sense than anything I've read today.

      Sarah for Minister of Digital Distribution!

    I still think if you're realistic about its limitations and feel it meets your needs its a great device. For myself I wanted a tablet that was built with functioning as a reader in mind and would handle some basic web browsing better than my HTC desire, whilst still be more portable than my 15.6" laptop. With that in mind the price tag was tough to overlook...

    i am looking at buying one for christmas and was waiting for the fire to come out. should i just get the normal kindle that is out in dick smith or big w? is there a problem downloading books from amazon to the existing kindle that is on the australian market? comments would be appreciate - many thanks

      The Kindle in retail stores is the Kindle 3 (renamed Kindle Keyboard), and it works fine with books. You can use an Australian account, and buy books etc just fine. The issue comes with the music and video that comes with the Amazon Prime subscription.

        Steve
        Buy a kindle, an ordinary one. I did, and I only wanted it to read books. Period. And Amazon have the books and mags. Free! 99cents. $1.99. Or $10 or more.
        I read more and read wider.
        AND it's so damn easy to use even a Col Dyer can do it!
        Col Dyer

      Col Dyer
      November 16, 2011 at 3:31 AM
      AMANDA!
      Steve
      Buy a kindle, an ordinary one. I did, and I only wanted it to read books. Period. And Amazon have the books and mags. Free! 99cents. $1.99. Or $10 or more.
      I read more and read wider.
      AND it’s so damn easy to use even a Col Dyer can do it!
      Col Dyer

    Hi - I bought my father (an avid reader) an earlier version of Kindle, about 2 years ago from memory. Even though he is in Australia, he went on and registered it to a mythical US address, so get gets free downloads (as in 3G access) and access to more content. There was also a hold up with the earlier Kindle adoption in AU due to agreements over free 3G access. Do you think you could side step the limited content outside of the US issue with the Kindle Fire by doing the same?

    By the way, he swears by his Kindle as an electronic reader and is watching the Kindle Fire developments closely. Should I push him to get one and let us all know how it goes??? :-)

    Headline is severely over blown.

    A cusory look at the Fire tells you the story re-content, ie unless you are in the USA it is just a nece cheap tablet.

    If you gave Australia the US content then you would have trouble importing enough Fire's to meet demand.

    Rooted with android 4.0 or all Amazon content ill pick one up at $200 whichever comes first.

    For the many Australians who already have a USA VPN connection to bypass other silly content restrictions, the kindle fire will work just fine. :)

    This is supposed to be a non pro-iPad piece, the article does not say anything about the iPad being "so much better" than anything anyone else can do, but still, i see that Apple is in the wars in the comments yet again!

    It's been like forever - Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, iTunes, Tivo for crying out loud. Who are these people who work out the 'rights' for things and why can't they sit down like normal businesspeople and sort this stuff out for Australia? IMHO, it's because they're criminals who are flogging 'ideas' that never`really belonged to them in the first place... Did someone say Disney? The only satisfaction we get is that by the time they get their 'contracts' signed, we've all moved on. Who, but anyone's grandparents is using tivo (or iTunes for that matter)? Perhaps the fact that Amazon are subsidising the cost of hardware (in the hope of selling content we can't access) will entice some Aussies. The whole mess is surely a major cause of what these criminals call Pirating. Give us current, competitively priced content delivery and Pirating loses relevance.

      Little and highly simplified lesson in 'rights' and who works them out: If a person creates something, whether it be a story, a painting, or a piece of music, that person own the right to say how their creation is used i.e. 'copyright' or 'the rights'. In the case of a book, for example, a publisher may pay the writer to be allowed to print the book i.e. 'buys the publishing rights'. If another company wants to publish the same book - in any other form including digital - they have to purchase the publishing rights, in the same way you would need to buy a car before you could drive it. The publisher, of course, tries to get the best deal they can - preferably keep ownership of the rights but allow the other company to pay to 'use' them (like hiring the car). There are a lot of publishers all trying (like any good businessperson) to get as much as they can for what they own and Apple, Amazon, etc trying (like any good businessperson) to pay as little as possible for what they want. There's lots of publishers & lots of books, which is why it takes so long and of course they're going to focus on their most profitable market first. Sux, but that's life.

    I can't wait to jailbreak the HECK out of that thing

    This has probably been covered, but I've read through the thread and I'll still a little confused.

    If I buy a kindle fire (and ship it to oz through a us forwarder) will it be able to access all the books that are currently available to Australian users who have an older model kindle?

    I understand it won't be able to access amazon's other media (tv, movies and music), but if it can still do all the books and browse the web I'm ok with that.

    If someone could clarify this it'd be great.

    Cheers

      short answer - YES
      If you've bought an electronic product through Amazon then the content is available on the Fire....and you don't have to buy the Fire from Amazon (by nefarious means). There are any amount available from ebay sellers, and there are a few retail outlets in Sydney and Melbourne that sell them direct as well. Just Google for Aussie sellers.

    I live in Australia and have a Kindle Fire. Do the content restrictions bother me? Not at all.

    It is a great tablet, and if I want something from the Apps store; videos, songs, books etc, I just download them to my desktop computer and drag them onto the Fire.

    There are any number of sites where I can access android apps and digital content.

    I'm told that if you can get hold of a US credit card you should be able to download most Amazon content onto the Kindle Fire, even if you live in Oz.

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