Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon's Kindle Fire: Sneaky Faster

Okay, I'll make this short -- I can't compete with the 80 bazillion other tech blogs that are spilling plenty of digital ink right now about all the new Amazon Kindle tablets that Jeff Bezos announced this morning.

First, you'll notice that of the four devices Amazon rolled out today, only one, the $149 Kindle Touch 3G, offers cellular access to Amazon's Kindle store and your Kindle library.  The high-end $199 Kindle Fire, a tablet that promises to allow bandwidth-intensive video streaming, sticks to WiFi -- which is hardly surprising.  I doubt any cellular carrier would give Amazon a contract to carry its customers' Kindle Fire traffic without demanding a huge premium.  There's an enormous difference between downloading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice.

Still, I'm a little disappointed Amazon hasn't made a deal with a carrier to offer pay-as-you-go 3G data service for the Kindle Fire the way Apple does with the iPad.

Second, the Kindle Fire browser, Amazon Silk, is both an acknowledgment that color tablets are data hogs and a brilliant move to make the Fire both faster and more Amazon-centric.  Essentially Silk has been designed to do all its browsing via Amazon's EC2 servers, which act as a kind of enormous browser cache in the sky.  There's more to it than that -- if you watch Amazon's video about Silk there's some predictive hocus-pocus that seems to claim the browser will adjust itself to your browsing habits and, anticipating where you'll go next, pull those pages onto the EC2 servers, ready to deliver before you even ask for them.  Whether or not this strategy works consistently (and if it does Kindle Fire owners will definitely be expecting 99.999% uptime from those EC2 servers ... even though Amazon promises only "99.95% availability for each Amazon EC2 Region" in its service level agreement for third-party subscribers), it locks Amazon's customers just as firmly into Amazon's content universe as the older Kindles' proprietary ebook format did for the company's legions of readers.

Because you can expect those EC2 servers to be especially fast at serving up Amazon's own web pages -- including video, music, books, magazines, and whatever else Amazon can think to stream.  (And any other browser you install will obviously not benefit from the EC2 turbo boost.)

Come to think of it, Jeff Bezos may be thinking this innovative streaming strategy may be just as effective at keeping customers hanging around Amazon as Mark Zuckerberg's social media strategy is at keeping his members hanging around Facebook.

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