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Fire! Amazon Ships its Latest Kindles Ahead of Schedule

Note: This is my first post to MOMconnected. Please be gentle. What better day to start my MOMconnected blog than a day when the industry is polarized by yet another connected device?

Just as the hands-on reviews are beginning to trickle in today, Amazon announced this morning that it will begin shipping its long-awaited Kindle Fire today, one day ahead of schedule, and said the Kindle Touch will begin shipping tomorrow, six days ahead of schedule.

Courtesy of Amazon

While the Kindle Fire has ignited consumer excitement and demand, largely due to its price point and convenience in accessing Amazon content and services, reviews are mixed. Leading device enthusiasts and reviewers (I’m not one of them, though, and didn’t get an early look) are either loving it or hating it. Here’s a sample of what some of these smart folks are saying:

Praised for its size and portability, the 7-inch Kindle Fire gets accolades from Wilson Rothman at MSNBC, noting that it works well enough to compete with the iPad and cautions that it “spells trouble” for Apple. Wilson acknowledges the tradeoffs in storage capacity, lack of 3G functionality and design nuances, but the real “potency” is the $199 price tag. “The Kindle Fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price. And much of what’s missing won’t be missing for long.”

Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle gives it a thumbs up,too, though dings Android pretty good in the process: “If you like what Amazon Prime has going on in the kitchen, the Fire is a terrific seat. It’s not as powerful or capable as an iPad, but it’s also a sliver of the price—and that $200 will let you jack into the Prime catalog (and the rest of your media collection) easily and comfortably. Simply, the Fire is a wonderful IRL compliment to Amazon’s digital abundance. It’s a terrific, compact little friend, and—is this even saying anything?—the best Android tablet to date.”

On the flip side, not everyone is impressed by Amazon’s new tablet.

Courtesy of Amazon

David Pogue at The New York Times thinks the cons out weigh the prosand that the Kindle Fire needs some work. “The Fire deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force — it’s a cross between a Kindle and an iPad, a more compact Internet and video viewer at a great price. But at the moment, it needs a lot more polish; if you’re used to an iPad or “real” Android tablet, its software gremlins will drive you nuts.”

Wired’s Jon Philips is pretty negative, arguing that the 7-inch screen is too small to get a good experience. “At the end of the day, the Fire must be judged by how well it executes in terms of its Newsstand, Books, Video, Apps and Web features. It does nothing very well, save video playback, running various Android apps, and making the business of Amazon shopping alarmingly fun and  easy. If you already have $200 in your high-tech hardware slush fund, and you’re not willing to splurge one cent more, I suggest you wait longer before pulling the trigger on a tablet.

My Point of View

Naturally, some are comparing the Kindle Fire to Apple’s iPad and trying to juxtaposition it against the long list of failed Android-based tablets. But taken at face value, this is a consumer-focused device aimed at the Amazon loyalists, a vehicle to get to Amazon’s prized content and services. It is not an iPad killer, but when dollars are short and tablet desire is high, consumers may be making decisions with their wallets.

In spite of the polarized reviews surfacing today, the average consumer with pent-up demand for a light and portable consumption device will be delighted that they can get a tablet for under $200 that enables them to search the web, listen to music, watch a movie and read a book from nearly anywhere. Donald Bell at CNET gets it right. He argues that the device isn’t an iPad killer, but great at what it’s intended to do. As Bell says, “The Kindle Fire’s sole objective is to deliver entertainment with zero friction and zero complications. For $199, I’d say that’s enough. If you need more from your tablet, you’ve got plenty of options.”

I predict that holiday sales for the Kindle Fire will take a pretty good bite out of Apple’s iPad, getting folks closer to the tablet experience that users yearn for without breaking the bank. The real test will come once consumers get their hands on them, and more than one million pre-ordered Kindle devices will soon arrive on the front stoop of households everywhere this week.

Donald Bell over at CNET said it best: “This isn’t a tablet for us geeks.”

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