Launch hype and hysteria in mind, this week we asked the Mavens:
What do you think about Kindle Fire and Amazon's role in the Android ecosystem, and will it only impact on sales of other Android tablets rather than iPad?
The first thing the Mavens agreed on was that not many of the elements that appealed from the Kindle had translated to the Fire, but that the original Kindle itself was a great device.
Matt Meads of Herocraft argued that lengthy R&D and Amazon's position in the book trade meant that "they were certainly the first to get it right from the eReader hardware usability and comfortable reading perspective...I would liken the original Kindle to the iPad, the first viable mass market device of its type."
James Scalpello agreed that the Kindle was a "brilliant book reader using E-ink... better than anyone else." Mills of ustwo weighed in; "I love the normal Kindle. It's clear message is 'it's for reading in all weather' and I love the low-fi nature."
Brian Baglow moved the discussion on. He pointed out that iOS devices success comes not just from the solid hardware, but from the iTunes and App Store integration and ease, and because it was aspirational.
The Kindle had done the same. "It's why the Kindle has done so well." he said "Same convenience. The fact you're locked into ONE shop means nothing to most consumers, compared to the fact it's simple to buy and convenient to use."
Fires of Damnation
From this Baglow moved on to argue that the rest of the tablet market was still 'hobbyist', where only the hardcore would persist with devices.
"You can do all the same things, but you need to work at it. It's the end-to-end experience, not the specifications that sells the Apple products." PocketGamer.biz's own Keith Andrew thought he was right; "a lot of Android OEMs serve up smart tablets specification-wise, and then watch in wonder as they fail to sell."
Meads felt that the Fire itself wasnt right yet; "It doesn't have a clear message - is it an eReader plus? Amazon's Android App Store isn't global and isn't the best designed store; and it certainly isn't the first mass market appeal tablet computer."
Mills agreed, saying "At the end of the day it's still just another Android device with content that is always going to be better on the iPad. That said, I've never actually held it so I have no idea what I am talking about."
World on Fire
Tim Harrison half-disputed Matt's claims, agreeing with his criticisms, but positing that the Kindle's "form factor, easy access to a rich selection of great content through a logical and attractive UI, and a strong design identity are going to be critical factors as to which tablets win in 2012.
"And certainly from a branding perspective, Amazon's customer trust and Kindle heritage will help. That, allied to their aggressive pricing, may open up the tablet market to new segments that the early Android tablets were not able to reach."
Despite this, he made sure we were aware that an e-book buyer was a different demographic to a tablet customer - and left his worries there.
Andreas Vahsen of Machineworks also thought the Fire will be "a runaway hit".
He has been using a 7-inch 3G Android tablet for the past year. "It's awesome - big enough to read docs/books and play games, does Flash, small enough fit almost anywhere without the clumsiness of an iPad. With a BT headset I can even make regular phone calls."
Despite this praise, Vasen thought that current tablets are "way overpriced and have a lot of weird, braindead UI junk in their guts instead of a streamlined UI."
He continued, "That's where the Fire will shine; UI and price." PocketGamer.biz's news ed Andrew agreed, arguing it would also give the Android tablet market a device to rally around, though it wouldnt affect iPad sales. "People who want an iPad want an iPad - they want to buy into the iOS ecosystem and, as such, an Android tablet, however cheap, won't tempt them away."
Andrew wasnt so impressed with the device itself - "a bit of a rush job" - but he was aware that the strong Amazon and Kindle marketing brands were going to support it well.
"Amazon, as a non hardware firm traditionally, is probably best placed to realise Apple's strength lies in the ecosystem, not the hardware itself." Despite this latent positivism, he pointed out that "the wider issue about Kindle Fire is that it highlights that no current Android tablets can combat iPad. If we're being honest..."
Fire Across The Bows
Slightly tangentially, Tower Studio's Jon Hare was irate about the content delivery systems on all mobile devices, including tablets, and called for industry technical and UI standards to enforce basic rules across platforms, so that "our World isnt clogged up with so much unwieldy and flaky content."
He didn't want choice - he just wanted games to work on all platforms and was happy sacrificing the market for that.
Thankfully, Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative was on hand to propose a tongue-in-cheek solution; "Apple does the best job at this, so use iOS as the standard. Samsung is already using Apple as a standard when it comes to hardware design, we just need to get Google on board with the software part. I wonder if its too late for Microsoft and Nokia to ditch Windows Phone 7?"