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The Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet as an E-Viewer

The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet is an intriguing product -- a 7-inch color touchscreen Android tablet for only $199! (Kindle the fire, get it?)

What Amazon has done is to create what I would call a spectacularly adequate tablet -- It adequately performs general tablet functions like e-mail and web browsing on the paperback-size display, but is clearly focused on delivering (and selling) media and entertainment. The result is a spectacularly great deal at, did I mention, $199.

The Fire is cost-reduced by stripping away all the nice-to-have but ultimately non-critical features, including Bluetooth and 3G wireless, cameras and microphone, GPS and sensors, physical home and volume controls, expansion memory (with only 8 GB of memory built in), and common apps like calendar and chat.

If you think of the Kindle and other e-readers as stripped down tablets focused only on downloading and reading books for people who like to read, you can see the Kindle Fire as a similar device focused tightly on serving as the gateway to consuming a broader range of media -- It's an e-viewer, for people who are interested in viewing.

You can see this focus in the design of the home screen of the Fire. In other tablets, all functions are performed through apps, and all apps are (mostly) equal -- you access video or music or books or e-mail or web or any other app in the same way, by tapping on the icon. And you customize your home screens by re-arranging the icons as you want them.

Instead, on the Fire the media consumption elements are placed front and center, to dominate the home screen and relegate everything else to second rank.

The home screen has a horizontal menu of the key built-in media types across the top -- Newsstand, Books, Music, and Video, plus Docs, Apps, and Web. These are not apps listed on the Apps page, these are hard-coded built-in functions, which link directly to the associated Amazon stores and cloud services.

Everything else (the non-Amazon and non-monetized stuff, from e-mail to photos), is then relegated to access via apps.

The Kindle Fire really is spectacularly adequate, smartly designed to fit its purpose as an e-viewer for Amazon-supplied content, with some nods to more general tablet functions like web and e-mail.

If you want the flexibility of a more general tablet, then you should step up to the Apple iPad, or consider some of the other Android tablets, including the Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet.

Find the Amazon Kindle Fire on Amazon.com

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This entry posted on November 24, 2011.

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