Amazon launches Kindle Fire tablet but experts doubt its use as a business device

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Amazon launches Kindle Fire tablet but experts doubt its use as a business device

Jenny Williams

Amazon has confirmed its much-anticipated entry into the tablet market with the US launch of its Kindle Fire device.

But the initial impressions from IT analysts suggest that Amazon's foray into tablets is unlikely to appeal to corporate IT buyers.

Amazon has launched a new range of Kindle devices, including new touch-screen e-reader devices and the Amazon Fire tablet priced well below most tablets currently available, at $199. The seven-inch Fire tablet utilises Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud storage, features a new web browser called Amazon Silk and runs on a version of Google's Android operating system.

The Wi-Fi-only Fire features only 8GB of storage, relying instead on Amazon's cloud services for further capacity, and will run the majority of Android apps, as well as integrating with Amazon's Instant Video store to stream video content.

Adam Leach, analyst at Ovum, said Amazon's Fire device will boost the tablet market, providing much-needed competition against Apple's iPad. However, he doesn't think its lower price point will tempt IT managers to deploy the devices over iPads.

"There's no point a tablet being cheaper if it doesn't serve the right purpose. It's still unclear how much the operating system is open to running other apps [outside Amazon's ecosystem]. I don't see IT managers rushing to use these," he said.

Roberta Cozza, principal analyst at Gartner, believes the seven-inch display limits the device to users of content rather than a tool for productivity.

"I don't see this as a business device. It's about consumption of content. Unless there's a specific application within the enterprise where this makes sense, it has less appeal than an Apple iPad. It's really not optimised for any productivity compared to the 10-inch iPad," he said.

Cozza also questioned the Amazon device's lack of 3G broadband support and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as lack of camera and microphone.

She added that the tablet is a viable competitor to Apple but also makes it difficult for other Android players to come to market with a value proposition to rival it.

Neil Mawston, director at Strategy Analytics, said the launch of Amazon's Android tablet and ecosystem would further fragment the market, potentially making it more difficult for IT departments to support the platform.

"Increasing fragmentation means various user interfaces, for example, that companies have to deal with," said Mawston.

He added that the e-reader functions may be useful for business users. However, the consumer focus of the device means the tablet lacks any significant business-centric features.

The Amazon Silk browser software is stored on both the Kindle Fire device and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers. Amazon says its "split browser architecture" speeds up web browsing by sharing computing power between the device and the cloud, taking into consideration network conditions, page complexity and cached content.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, said, "We refactored and rebuilt the browser software stack and now push pieces of the computation into the AWS cloud. When you use Silk you're calling on the raw computational horsepower of Amazon EC2 to accelerate your web browsing."

The new Kindle and Kindle Touch will be available from $79 to $149 and will be shipped in the US in November 2011. UK release dates and prices have yet to be announced.


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