On The Kindle Fire HD

Last night Amazon announced the Kindle Fire HD, its updated foray in the tablet market. I jumped the gun a bit on Twitter, when – while Jeff Bezo’s was hammering on about how it was the “best tablet at any price” – I bemoaned

Like I said, I jumped the gun; later that night, Amazon put up pre-orders for the Kindle Fire + Kindle Fire HD on Amazon UK. However…

  • We’re only getting the 7-inch models. No 8.9-inch, and certainly no 8.9-4G.
  • The Amazon Prime content which makes the Fire/Fire HD an especially attractive option in the US are totally missing.

Let me get one thing out-of-the-way: the prices are amazing. £129/£159/£199 for these specifications and build quality is a very aggressive move by Amazon. Purely because of the price and brand, Amazon will sell a tonne of Kindle Fires1.

It is the content which is the biggest let-down for me. I’m a Prime customer, and have been for as long as it’s been available in the UK. The free shipping is nice, but I’m starting to get a bit disenfranchised by seeing all these new content features (Instant Video and Kindle Lending Library to name two) spring up in the US, but never make it to the UK. Instead we’re encouraged to take out a separate LoveFilm subscription for streaming video. Last time I had an account (about a year ago), LoveFilm’s streaming service was very poor. I know licensing deals are hard, but if Apple can do it, why can’t Amazon with all their retail clout? Even Google offers more than Amazon.

One of the major features touted during the announcement was X-Ray – tap on an actor in a video and get IMDB information about them, such as other films they’ve been in. Will this work in the UK if I’m using LoveFilm? Somehow I doubt it. The book-related X-Ray features should work at least.

This may all sound like nitpicking over something which is only part of the wider story. Surely having a high-quality tablet at this low a price is an amazing achievement in itself? Well, yes. I wouldn’t take that away from Amazon. I still can’t believe the price. But at the end of the day, the reason the Kindle Fire exists is to sell content. The hardware is so cheap because Amazon can make up the lost margins with the sale of content. The Kindle Fire is a fancy store front on top of Amazon’s services. It’s a strategy which could work… but I can’t help but feel it would be more of a “sure thing” if there was a consistent content strategy across all markets they’re selling the Kindle Fire. As it stands, the only reason to buy the Kindle Fire in the UK is because it is cheap… and experience has taught me you get what you pay for.

  1. Personally I think they’ll sell more of the old Kindle Fires than the HD, purely because it’s so similar, and cheaper. I see similar behaviour with the Kindle eReader. By far, the most common one I see on my commute is the cheapest model. 
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