It’s not difficult to understand why Amazon would want its own tablet. The company’s list of services is just as long as Apple’s. The garden is there, and now, Amazon has a device that can help build a wall around it. Digitimes has been speculating that this is the wave of the future, and that companies which only build hardware will soon (as in, within a few years) find themselves without a way to fight in the tablet market.

Perhaps. Amazon’s Kindle Fire, however, is not a great argument in favor of that. While companies like Amazon might be able to reproduce Apple’s array of services, they don’t have Apple’s considerable experience building hardware and software – and it shows. The Fire has a number of annoyances. Why are the speakers located in a position that cause them to be covered by the user’s hands while in landscape mode? Why are long-taps required in some parts of the interface, but not others? Why is the browser slower with Amazon’s special cloud rendering feature turned on? Why isn’t the screen bright enough for comfortable outdoor viewing? Why is battery life so poor? Why does the tablet omit so much connectivity, such as GPS, Bluetooth, HDMI and a SDcard slot?

One answer – price. But price can’t be used as an excuse for every flaw, particularly not in a 7-inch $200 tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7-inch is $314 and offers a number of additional features. The Nook Tablet is $249 and beats the Kindle Fire on a number of important hardware specs, like RAM and storage capacity, and it also includes expandable storage via SDcard. Acer’s Iconia 7-inch can be had for as little as $330. All of these are options are certainly more money, but they seem to offer features that make them a better value. 

That’s not to say the Fire isn’t without its appeal. While the Fire feels lacking as a tablet, it works fine as a beefed up color Kindle, and $200 is a decent price when approached from that perspective. You can access a lot of content in Amazon’s garden, and if you’re already a fan of ebooks and digital movie rentals, the Fire makes a lot of sense. Current satisfied Kindle owners will enjoy this device.

Overall, the Fire strikes me as a tablet for people who don’t like tablets. It’s for the person who would never think of connecting an external keyboard. It’s for the person who doesn’t see the point of holding up a screen and swiping around to navigate the web when they can plop down in front of a PC. It’s for the person who wouldn’t touch Android gaming with a ten-foot pole. For this user, most of the Fire’s downsides are irrelevant, and it all comes down to watching movies, listening to music and reading books. My only question is – how many consumers fit this niche? I guess we’ll find out. 


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