Kindle Fire

Earlier reports of the device now known as the Kindle Fire have varied wildly and with speculation rampant about what Amazon might announce the finished product appears to fall nicely in between the greatest device ever and a serious disappointment. We'll begin with pricing. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, repeated one line more than any other during the event today, "premium products at non-premium prices." By pegging the Fire at $199 he certainly is following through on the latter claim. This undercuts even the Barnes and Noble Nook Color, while providing specifications that match devices more than twice it's price. So, bargain? You bet.

 

And what you get for that $199 is a stylish black device with a 7" IPS 1024 x 600 screen, and a 1 GHz dual-core ARM processor. At 11.4mm the Fire is thicker than other slates, but as we've discussed before, a thicker device can still be pleasant to hold, so long as the form factor works. Reports from gdgt's Ryan Block indicate that Quanta Computers, who designed the BlackBerry PlayBook, were responsible for the design of the Kindle Fire, and by all accounts they seem to have not strayed far from that design. Holding to that design may include using the same TI OMAP 4430 SoC, though we have yet to confirm that. What we can confirm is that at 413 grams, this is one of the lightest weight tablets we've seen. 

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Amazon Kindle Fire Apple iPad 2 BlackBerry PlayBook Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Dimensions 190 x 120 x 11.4mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm 194 x 130 x 10mm 230.9 x 157.8 x 8.6mm
Display 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 IPS 7-inch 1024 x 600 8.9-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 413g 601g 425g 447g
Processor 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz Apple A5 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory ? 512MB 1GB 1GB
Storage 8GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
Pricing $199 $499 $499 $469

Hardware isn't the whole store with the Fire, though. Amazon is selling a platform from which to experience it's various Amazon services, and it is leaving none of them from this party. Obviously, and this is the last mention of Android you'll find in this piece and their PR. For third party apps there's the Amazon Appstore. This will be the only official means by which buyers will be able to load their apps onto the device, though intrepid hackers will no doubt make quick work of the device. Amazon's MP3 store is on hand as well as Amazon's Kindle app and e-book store. This brings us up to apps, music, magazines and books. The addition of Amazon Prime Instant Videos rounds out the offerings with over 100,000 movies and TV shows from the likes of Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal. Buyers will be treated with an expanded WhisperSync service that now allows users to mark their place in movies and TV shows, as they already do with books and magazines. Amazon is even leveraging EC2, their web services provider to enhance the browsing experience with Amazon Silk.

Amazon Silk Browser

 
The Kindle Fire is the first device to ship with Amazon's Silk browser. According to Amazon, Silk is a split-browser that leverages the company's EC2 cloud. The idea is simple: rather than simply going out and maintaining connections with all of the various servers that supply content for a single web page, Amazon will deliver as much of that as possible via its own cloud. The benefit of delivering content via Amazon's cloud is it minimizes the number of independent DNS lookups and handshakes the browser has to perform to load a single webpage, not to mention that Amazon's cloud should hopefully deliver more consistent performance due to the scale of its deployment.
 
Amazon is also doing some prediction in Silk. As Amazon's EC2 cloud aggregates usage data from Silk users, it can develop models for web page access patterns. The browser is then capable of prefetching what it thinks will be the next web page you click on based on historical data from a number of other users. I've always thought browser prefetching makes a lot of sense and it appears that Amazon is going to try to do some of that here with Silk.
 
 
Amazon's cloud can also deliver size optimized content depending on the device you're using. The example Amazon gives is a 3MB jpg that can be compressed to 50KB without you being able to tell the difference on a Kindle Fire. Silk will work with EC2 to determine the appropriate size of the image that it should send down to you. 
 
Given that the Kindle Fire is WiFi only, I wonder how much of an impact Silk's network optimizations are really going to have on the overall experience - particularly on fast WiFi connections. Web browsing on mobile devices is still largely CPU bound and with the Kindle Fire shipping with (presumably) the same CPU power as a number of other Android tablets that bottleneck shouldn't really change because of Silk.
 
We also don't know anything about Silk's underlying parsing and rendering engines. As Google has shown us, web page rendering performance depends just as much on software as it does hardware. Amazon is addressing the network part of the problem with Silk but there are also CPU and software issues that are either unchanged or big unknowns at this point.
A $79 Kindle! And Wrap-up
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  • synaesthetic - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    root it and use a different browser. :) Reply
  • MetroBodyWork - Sunday, October 02, 2011 - link

    I have it on very good authority that Amazon has a VERY strict policy about NEVER sharing ANY of the data they collect from users with any other company. But, believe what you will. :) Reply
  • spigzone - Thursday, September 29, 2011 - link

    Who would Amazon sell the information to?

    Selling the information could only help a competitor as Amazon competes with EVERYONE in the retail and entertainment delivery space.

    They are going to use the data strictly in house to continue to expand and fine tune their hegemony.

    With the Kindle Fire mainly by providing an immediate and instant Amazon buying opportunity for anything sellable the user shows in interest in.
    Reply
  • MetroBodyWork - Sunday, October 02, 2011 - link

    Exactly :) There is no benefit to them to every sell that data. It would ruin their business like no other. Reply
  • NCM - Thursday, September 29, 2011 - link

    slashbinslashbash writes:
    "All that said, as a long-term Apple fan, user and shareholder, this tablet does concern me to a certain degree. 7" is half the screen area of 10", and there are other apparent flaws, but selling at a 60% discount to the cheapest iPad can make up for a whole lot of flaws. I think that Apple will have to drop pricing to compete, maybe by keeping the iPad 2 in the lineup at a reduced price when they introduce the iPad 3."

    I don't think so. Apple has 29 million unit sales, and counting, to say that the iPad is well priced. Although still very interesting, the Fire is a much lower spec (storage, screen size, connectivity) device than the iPad 2,. These aren't "flaws"—they're differences. The Fire doesn't so much compete with the iPad as extend the tablet market. I suspect that the Fire may offer enough to create a viable 7" mobile device market, one that has so far has suffered from being too big for the pocket and too small compared to the iPad.

    Oh sure, there will certainly be some buyers who might have stretched for a $500 iPad but will now happily choose a $200 Fire instead, but I doubt that the demand overlap is very consequential.

    On the other hand, if I were B&N, I'd be really worried about where the Nook fits in.
    Reply
  • taltamir - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    "Web browsing on mobile devices is still largely CPU bound"
    Talking as someone who travels a lot for business, this is absolutely not the case. Most hotels and motels provide a very poor internet connection with ridiculously low speeds. Even airport wifi is often very very slow.
    Performance gains/slowdowns based on CPU speed that look impressive in my home with 25/25mbps fios become totally irrelevant when it takes minutes to load a page due to ISP being slow. And if whispersync compressess that 3MB jpg image to 50kb and looks indistinguishable on the kindle fire then it would be a wonderful thing for people on the move.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Services like Silk are more about eliminating round trips than saving bandwidth, and it also saves CPU time by pre-processing and rendering this stuff.

    Silk sounds much like Opera's acceleration service, offloading chunks of the work to the cloud to ensure expensive processing and round-trips happen on a fast server, except much more sophisticated.
    Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, September 29, 2011 - link

    taltamir is correct, and the statement in the article is foolish.

    This sort of things already exists today. People have mentioned Opera, but other ways of doing the same thing are to route URLs through either Google Reader or Instapaper. Both of these rewrite the page, remove all the extraneous crap, render JS on their proxy, etc, and give both a substantial speed boost to a page AND make it look better on a small screen. For example most blogs provide a column of content, along with one or two side columns of filler that are best stripped for small screens.
    The difference is really obvious for 3G, but it is noticeable even on home wifi because the CPU load has been transferred to a much powerful server --- all the mobile is doing is rendering a simple HTML page.

    Part of the issue is that "web page" is a vague concept. For some of us, our primary web pages are blogs and news sites, which tend to have a particular data and CPU profile, while for others of us, our primary web pages are things like Google Docs, or Facebook, which have very different profiles. Tools that work well for some people are useless for others --- but that doesn't mean the tool as a whole is useless, just that it is useless for that particular web page.

    Amazon has not mentioned this in their PR so far, presumably because they don't want to raise even more antagonism. But I would not be at all surprised to learn that, in time, they offer the same sort of functionality with Silk (likely on an opt-in basis) --- the ability to provide rewritten, reflowed pages, like Instapaper or Safari Reader, which can be delivered a lot faster to the device, AND, for many pages, provide a more usable experience.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Hardwarewise this sounds similar to the new Archos tablets, only with more lock-in and less Video playback capabilities and external ports.

    Why is there no mention of the Archos launch on Anandtech anyway?
    The device as usual is launching with some issues, but spec-wise it looks quite solid, and the HD-video playback is going to be unrivaled - and only the Kindle Fire will compete on cost.
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Not sure which Archos you're referring to, their most impressive tablets, the G9, have been covered in Pipeline and we hope to get our hands on the 1.5 GHz variants when they're released next month. Is there another Archos tablet we haven't heard about that merits coverage? Reply

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