Marco Arment joined Ben and I this week to talk about the new Amazon Kindles. And of course, Marco and I hijacked the last part of the show to talk about coffee, home roasting, brewing, and etc. I’m not sure, but I think Ben took a nap during that portion.
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Yesterday I wrote that the only two Kindles which matter are the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire. Michael Laccheo argues that there is a place for the “plain” Kindle, and he put his money where his mouth is by ordering one already.
Laccheo bought the plain Kindle because he wanted the smallest, lightest, cheapest, model possible:
I’m looking for a throw away device. […]
The Kindle will let me have a cheap device that won’t heat up in the blistering summer sun, is light enough to hold and read one handed, won’t be affected by glare from the sun, and I won’t mind reading while standing in the pool because for 80 bucks it’s relatively replaceable.
I think Laccheo’s point is completely fair and valid — there is a market for the plain Kindle. And likewise, I would say there is also a market for the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX. But the size of the market for these other three devices is significantly smaller than the two new flagship Kindles.
Think about this: if someone were to ask you what has changed about the new Kindles, would you say they ditched the keyboard, or would you say it now has a touch screen?
So how would you design a piece of hardware that is only used for reading? One where people do a very specific thing — turn a book’s page — hundreds of times a day? Would you remove the physical button for turning the page?
I was also a bit surprised to see the page-turning buttons removed from the Kindle Touch. It seems to me that those two buttons would still be quite useful even though the screen now accepts touch input.
There are five models of Kindle: The Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Kindle DX, and Kindle Fire.
Only 2 of them matter: the Touch and the Fire.
So why the other models?
The Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX
I think these are still for sale because they are still in stock.
That family-of-Kindles banner that is on top of all the Kindle pages does not list the DX.
And if you go to the Kindle DX’s product page it is now outdated. The page doesn’t have the top banner showing the other Kindles, and in the table comparing all the Kindles only the past models are shown with their old names.
Surely it’s only a matter of time until the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle DX are discontinued altogether. (Perhaps once the Kindle Touch or Kindle Fire start shipping?)
The plain Kindle
I think the “plain” Kindle — one with the 5-way controller — is in the product lineup primarily to help boost sales of the Kindle Touch.
If you’ve ever read about the paradox of choice, you’ve probably heard the wine theory. The idea is that someone is ordering wine at a restaurant and there are three options — an $8 glass, a $10 glass, and a $20 glass — they will most-likely pick the middle option.
The $8 glass causes the $10 glass to seem like a much better value.
Likewise with the Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The plain Kindle causes the Kindle Touch to seem like a much better value.
Why buy a Kindle that has a shorter battery life, less storage, and no touch screen, when you can upgrade to something with double the battery, double the storage, and a multi-touch screen for just $20 bucks?
Marco Arment articulates much better than I did on why the Kindle Fire likely won’t affect iPad sales:
What we’ll see with the iPad depends on why people buy iPads. My theory is that there’s an iPad market, not a “tablet market” — that people want the iPad and specifically seek it out without comparing it to other tablets.
A “tablet market” suggests that people first decide they want a tablet, then they comparison-shop and choose the one that best fits their needs and budget, like buying a dishwasher. I don’t think we’ve seen any plausible evidence that a meaningful number of customers think of tablets generically like that.
But if anything’s going to prove me wrong, it’s the Kindle Fire.
At $199 the Kindle Fire is a killer product. Amazon is going to sell a ton of these. (Though I think the $99 Kindle Touch will be the most popular Kindle.)
The Fire is pretty much what we expected: a device that plays to the strengths of Amazon’s content library as well as many of the strengths that the e-ink Kindles have been known for.
For starters, just look at the main product image: it’s a lady holding the Kindle Fire by its bottom corner with just one hand. There’s no way you can hold the iPad like that.
The Kindle Fire is clearly positioned as a device intended for “consuming content” (ugh). Looking at the product page, Amazon brags on the fact that you can watch movies and TV shows, read magazines and books, listen to music, surf the Web, and download apps.
Towards the bottom of the list of things you can do with the Kindle Fire you’ll see that you can also check email and read PDFs. I guess my point isn’t that email and PDF viewing is something Amazon threw in just because, but that they are not emphasizing these some of the main features of the Fire.
The Fire is a portable media center, not a portable computer.
And that is why the Fire is not an iPad killer. Just because it’s a color tablet doesn’t mean it is competing directly against the iPad. Sure, on a sterile feature check-list there are a lot of similarities between the two devices (both have multi-touch color screens, both are tablets, you can use both to read books and watch movies), but the Kindle Fire is built as a different product with a different purpose than the iPad. The price alone tells you that.
Level-headed financial advice from The Art of Manliness.
Writing lesson of the day. (Via Coudal.)
Speaking of the Thunderbolt Display, Stephen Hackett just posted this great piece reminding us about Apple’s first laptop docks from the 1990s.
Thomas Brand on Apple’s Thunderbolt Display:
If I sat down with Apple’s Thunderbolt Display earlier I would have never bought a 13 inch MacBook Pro instead of a MacBook Air. I compromised and got the Pro because it was the lightest laptop available with all of the ports my job required. With a MacBook Air and a Thunderbolt Display I could have had the lightest Mac ever made, with all of the ports I need, and zero compromises. The Thunderbolt Display lets you have the best of both worlds. A fully connected large screen desktop, and a ultraportable laptop.
The whole concept behind the Thunderbolt Display — a device that is basically a one-cable connector dock that turns your laptop into a desktop — reminds me a lot of Tim Van Damme’s pre-iPad concept of a dockable tablet.
And so now I’m wondering if one day we’ll see some sort of Thunderbolt connection for our iPad and/or iPhone that would turn our iDevices into full-fledged laptops or desktops.
In a sense I suppose that is what iCloud is doing by cutting the cord and allowing our documents and media to sync over the air across our devices. But I wonder if one day there will be a hardware-type unification similar to the software-type unification that iCloud will be bringing. A way to buy one single device (an iPad) that can be used as-is, and also amplified by connecting it to additional hardware. Just a thought…
Seth Godin on how to cure writer’s block:
Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.
Don’t give Justin Lin any new ideas.
My bet is that the next iPhone will be much more substantial than an “iPhone 4 S”-type of release.