Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rekindling the Kindle… With An App Store

kindle_app Amazon adds apps to the Kindle:

Amazon has announced that it will open up the Kindle e-reader to third party developers, allowing applications, or what Amazon calls “active content”, to run on the device.

What kind of apps could run in the low-fi Kindle? Well, you won’t be getting Monkey Ball, but interactive books, travel guides with locations data, RSS readers and anything that brings text to the device would be a good candidate. This could even include magazine and newspaper subscriptions…

“Active content” will certainly make the Kindle more compelling, especially against other e-readers, although it will also make the Kindle more distracting. One of the nice things about an e-reader is that you can’t use it to check your email every five minutes. Or perhaps you can. The KDK allows the use of the wireless 3G connection. If the application uses less than 100KB per month, the bandwidth comes for free. If it uses more, there is a charge of $0.15 per MB which can (and surely will) be passed on to the customer as a monthly charge.

This model could, interestingly, also make its way into Apple’s tablet. Instead of trying to sell us yet another data plan, the tablet could have a Kindle-style free 3G connection used only for buying iTunes Store content, with the bandwidth price built in to the purchase. That is just speculation, however.

This is undoubtedly in response to Apple’s expected announcement of their new tablet next week.  Many people speculate that Apple’s tablet will take a lot of air out of Amazon’s sales sails.  I’m not so sure I agree:

  1. Apple’s tablet will almost certainly cost more than the Kindle.  Probably several times more.
  2. There will almost certainly be a Kindle app for Apple’s tablet.  Even if it sells like hotcakes, it will still be a platform for Amazon to sell more Kindle books.  (Although if rumors that Apple is in negotiations with many publishers, this should have Amazon a bit concerned.)
  3. Kindle owners buy large numbers of books.  This means they read a lot.  This means most of them would likely value the advantages of e-ink over staring at a large-scale iPhone screen for extended periods of time.
  4. People who read a lot would also appreciate the long battery life of the Kindle.
  5. With the ability to sync Kindle books between iPhone, Kindle, PC, and (presumably) the Apple tablet, the Kindle and tablet would be considered to be compliments rather than substitutes by many people.

I’m excited to see what Apple announces next week and, as a Kindle owner, am also excited to get expanded capabilities on my Kindle.  (Although they may provide tempting distractions on a formerly dedicated device.)

Did I ever mention that I love the wonders of competition?

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