The Kindle Fire

A well placed offering.

At $200, the new 7″ Kindle Fire color LCD tablet is attractively priced and designed, for what it offers. However, I see limited use for photographers at this stage, and all the talk of competition for the iPad seems to miss the point of the very meaning of the word.

Click the picture.

Simply stated, you do not choose between a Porsche and a Ford when buying a car, though you may own both. The comparison between the iPad and the Fire is much the same. They can coexist in a market which has not remotely been penetrated yet one whose lower demographics have nothing to choose.

With apps like Snapseed bringing a well designed touch interface to the oft tedious job of photo processing on the iPad’s 9.7″ screen, the migration of the iPad away from a pure consumption device to a content creation one is accelerating. I often find, for example, that I create or edit blog postings using the WordPress app on my iPad, especially now that the app’s many early problems, with lots of bugs, seem to have been overcome. The latest mobile version offers most of the editing tools of the desktop variant.

The Kindle Fire is a more narrowly focused device than the iPad in its first version, but Amazon’s touting of its ingeniously designed predictive web browser, named Silk, is very promising. So, in addition to all the usual book access, now supplemented with music and videos, you will be able to browse the web for content. If the browser is fast then the Fire will make a tremendous tool for schools at all grades. And, if content is king, then the Fire is only the second tablet to hit the market not only with a full complement of content in all its guises, but also with a loyal and growing customer base.

At its attractive price, maybe our 9 year old will cease having to lug 10 lbs. of books to and from school daily, when all he needs access on any day is a page or two. Carrying 10 lbs and accessing 2 ounces really is rather silly. The Fire weighs but 15 ozs …. A touch Kindle at $200 plus lots of public domain content should be substantially cheaper than traditional hard copy while adding video and sound to the learning experience, so it’s not like the device represents an increase in operating costs. And teachers will be able to maintain dynamic curricula on the school’s servers, accessible at the touch of a screen. One can but dream, with makers of traditional – and very profitable – academic text books even now warming up their slush funds to delay the inevitable victory of digital delivery and consumption. It’s called the US taxpayer-funded abomination which is our public schooling system.

Meanwhile, until proposed screen designs which meld eInk (traditional Kindle and excellent in bright sun) and LCD (excellent in all other lighting conditions) are perfected and manufactured in volume, the Kindle Fire will have the same issues with readability as the iPad – meaning it’s unusable outdoors most of the time.

So the iPad soldiers on without any competition, all other tablet makers are in big trouble (Dead Pool: HPQ, RIMM; Two shots, back of skull: Asus, Acer, B&N Nook, Xoom, Sony) either because they are clueless drunks (Dead Pool) or overpriced with no apps or content (Two shots crowd).

For photographers, there’s little here. The Fire’s screen is small and the absence of apps, at least for now, debilitating. However, a rumored 10″ Fire in 2012 may change the competitive landscape and I most certainly hope it does. Competition is always good – have you checked you monoplistic provider’s cell phone bill recently between all your dropped calls?

Disclosure: Long AMZN stock and long AAPL 2012 call options.