With updates being promised, is the Kindle Fire another failed ‘iPad Killer’?

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Facing a slew of complaints from early adopters, Amazon is promising an update for its much hyped Kindle Fire tablet, the New York Times reports. The question remains, however, what does this mean for the much-vaunted device’s future?

“In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire,” a company spokesman is quoted as saying by the newspaper.

As the company presents reviews of the Fire on the website, one would understandably believe them to be overarchingly positive.

“The Fire gives me the features I want at a price point that’s less than half of the iPad 2,” and “The Fire is a marvellous device” Amazon quotes Gizmodo and the Chicago Sun Times, respectively, as saying front and centre on its page advertising the device.

As the Times, however, notes — what individuals have been saying about the Kindle Fire in the Customer review section, after a lot of scrolling down and a click-through to another page, has been less complementary.

“Pros: Cheap, small, easy to use Mediocre Touchpad, may be good for kids.
Cons : No Camera, I really think a camera could make it a competitive device,” said one customer review, giving the product a one out of five-star rating.

According to the Times, common complaints were that the tablet had no external volume control, the off switch was easily triggered by accident, web pages took a long time to load, there’s no privacy settings to the device and the touchscreen was unwieldy. The newspaper notes that, “slightly more than a third of the 4 500 reviewers of the Fire on Amazon have given it mixed to negative reviews, three stars or fewer”.

While customer reviews pointed these issues out, a more credible blow to the Fire’s prospects in being a true contender to the iPad 2 — as pointed out by the Times — came from Jakob Nielsen, a usability expert. Nielsen found the tablet, Amazon’s first full foray into the US$100-billion global tablet market, to be “disappointingly poor”. Nielsen added that, “I feel the Fire is going to be a failure;” and that he would not “recommend buying it”.

Amazon, which made its name as an online book selling outlet (before branching out into being a general sales online outlet) with millions of dollars in marketing and PR, has pinned the Fire as its hope for the future in the digital sales sphere.

As many, including Memeburn contributor Martin Carstens, note, a free Kindle Fire may not be that far-fetched an idea. With the aims of “sucking users into” other cloud-based services, ZDNet muses, it may make business sense.

With Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos not outright rejecting the myriad articles pontificating on what the Kindle Fire represents for his company’s future — these multitude negative reviews, followed by quick promises of an update lead to fair questions about the future of a tablet which was vaunted to be an “iPad killer”.

In the Fire’s defence, however, for anyone to definitively state it is yet another failed iPad Killer, in the face of key soaring pre-Christmas sales, may prove to be premature.

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