AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

Amazon unveils the new Kindle Fire

September 29, 2011

It’s official. It’s out there. Amazon’s tablet was unveiled yesterday and yes, you guessed it: it was surrounded by great hype from the media. Several tech publications were live-blogging Jeff Bezos’ keynote with an anticipation usually reserved for Apple events. But this time there was no Steve Jobs on stage, and for once it didn’t matter. Everybody knew Amazon was about to pull a rabbit out of their hat. And that’s exactly what they did, in the form of the brand new Kindle Fire.

Amazon Kindle Fire - Image from the Official Amazon Website.

This thing looks good. It has all the strength of the Amazon ecosystem behind, perfectly integrated and ready to be used from the moment you take it out of the box. Amazon has taken everything they did right with the Kindle, and used it to build what will clearly be the best selling Android tablet on the planet. Not that it was difficult, but still. What’s funny about it is that, for the most part, people won’t even know it’s an Android tablet. Amazon has put their brand on every imaginable corner of this thing, and that’s a clever move. People will not buy the Fire for the Android part, they will buy it for the Amazon experience they already know and love. Just for fun, do you know how many times the “Android” word is mentioned in the official Amazon page for the Fire? Once. Just once in a whole page full of text. Clearly they don’t want you to focus on that.

Amazon wants people to think of the Fire as the Amazon tablet, not just another flavor of Android. For all we know, Android is just a commodity for them: if they had access to the Windows Phone or WebOS source code, they might as well have used one of those instead. And who’s to say they won’t do that tomorrow. What Amazon brings to the table is a consumer experience to rival Apple’s. Actually, they are the only company I can think of who has all the strategic components necessary to produce this type of device. It’s not about specs, it’s about covering the whole experience, end to end. And Amazon knows how to do that.

What does this mean for Google? Well, in a word, Amazon has screwed them big time. They have beaten them at their own game. Google has always used early access to the latest Android version as a negotiating tool to control their associated OEMs. They’ve used the rest of Google’s own services as leverage to make them play along with their rules, too. Access to GMail, Google Maps, etc. That’s what the OEMs get for free if they play nice with Google on the Android front. Take all those services away and the smartphone or tablet experience is significantly compromised.

However, enter Amazon: They have an entire ecosystem of services to rival Google’s, they don’t need their help to make this work, and they’ve made it perfectly clear that they don’t want them sticking their nose around, either: The Fire doesn’t include the official Android Market, but instead comes loaded with the Amazon appstore. That’s just one example. Amazon has taken the Android core and is running with it straight to the finish line. And they’re not looking back. Meanwhile, Google and the rest of the Android OEMs are still trying to tie their shoelaces.

In a market where trying to compete with the iPad playing to its strengths is pretty much a synonym for suicide, Amazon has made a genius move: they’re not trying to compete with the iPad at all. The price of the Fire alone tells you that: it’s just $199. As John Gruber pointed out, you could buy a Kindle Fire and a brand new top-of-the-line Kindle touch for less than the price of an iPad. And that’s just the entry-level iPad. It’s clear that this new device is aimed at a different segment of the market. At $199, it’s still within the impulse-buy range, specially with the holiday season getting closer. I’m convinced that if they manage to make them fast enough, they’re going to sell a gazillion of these during the holiday quarter.

Also, though the iPad and the Fire are very different, it will be interesting to see if the Fire cuts into the iPad’s sales this holiday quarter. The iPad is a great holiday gift, no doubt, but it is more expensive than most people typically think of spending on a gift. I bet that until now, some people ended up buying an iPad (and spending more than they would have liked) simply because there was no real alternative available that they knew about and that didn’t feel like a waste of their money. Now the Fire changes all that. I think many parents are going to choose to save some money and get their kids a Fire, thinking that it’s pretty much like an iPad (even though it’s not). Whatever happens, it may be difficult to judge, since both the iPad and the Fire are poised to have a terrific holiday quarter, but the question is out there: of the many million Kindle Fires Amazon will sell during the holidays, how many of those would have been iPads? It’s funny that the other way around is not so interesting: clearly when you buy an iPad you know what you want, so this may be a tricky comparison. We’ll see.

Truth be told, when all is said and done the Fire remains purely a content consumption device, although backed up by a huge content offering by Amazon. Now, some people may think of that as a critic, but it sounds pretty sweet to me. By the way, remember when they said the same thing about the iPad? It’s ridiculous. Who knows what kinds of apps people will come up with now, finally knowing that there is a device out there, selling well enough to turn a profit? Until know, Android development was hindered by too many devices, too many specs, too many screen sizes… developing an Android app had an extra degree of complexity when compared to developing an iOS app. The situation hasn’t changed dramatically overnight, of course, but now developers at least have a clear target when making a new Android app: make pretty damn sure that it runs spectacularly well on the Fire. Then, let’s see how it does on the rest of the Android tablets out there. If they’re still around, that is.

We have interesting months ahead. Let’s see how the rest of the industry reacts to this move. For Google and some Android OEMs, pulling their pants up might be a good way to start. For consumers, it’s clear that this is good news: it means more choice, more innovation, and a brighter future. For developers, it’s equally exciting. Now let’s sit back and watch how the holiday season plays out, and what the New Year brings.

Ready? Set? Go.

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Quote of the Day →

August 30, 2011 |

Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and take without forgetting.

Princess Elizabeth Bibesco (1897-1945)

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iTunes in the Cloud will support streaming | TechCrunch →

August 30, 2011 |

It looks like Apple had a trick up its sleeve:

Both [iOS 5 and iCloud] are in the process of being tested by that community [developers]. And that means things are starting to leak out. Tonight brought perhaps the biggest surprise revelation yet: iTunes in the Cloud will support streaming as well as downloading of music.

Apparently it will also support streaming of your previously purchased TV shows. This is great news. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was Apple’s response to the recent launch of Spotify in the US. Things just got a whole lot more interesting in the music streaming business, and customers now have at least two credible alternatives to choose from (I’m sorry but Google Music Beta and Amazon Cloud Player are not quite there yet).

Now, can we please get these mouth-watering features here on this side of the Atlantic ocean? Please?

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Beginnings

August 27, 2011

By the time you read this, my words will have become a digital stream of ones and zeroes that have somehow found their way to your screen across the Internet. But you must know, they weren’t always like this. In their original form they were not made of pixels and electrons, no. They were carefully formed by precise traces of blue ink, flowing through the tip of my pen onto the first page of a brand new Moleskine notebook. There’s something incredibly refreshing about a new notebook. That first empty page is very special. It represents a clean slate, a sea of possibilities. A new beginning.

Analog Writing

What is it about beginnings that we love so much? It may be the promise of what’s still to come. It may be the hope for better things as they inch closer, slowly but surely finding their way towards us. Each new beginning brings a unique feeling of anticipation that to me is very much like reading a good book.

There’s a part of you, the impulsive part, that wants to know how the story ends. It wants to know it so badly that you can almost feel a small twinge in your fingers, urging you to turn the page before your eyes can reach the bottom. The other part, the rational part, knows of course that this would be wrong. No matter how phenomenal the ending, getting to know it ahead of time will certainly destroy the experience way beyond the point where it could possibly be worth it.

And so, whenever a story is really special, this internal battle between the two sides of your mind is fought in every chapter, every page and every word until the very last one. However, the insightful, patient reader who loves reading every bit as much as he loves a good ending, can find the strength inside him to resist those urges. One page at a time, each one a small victory, he patiently makes his way through every twist and turn, carefully watching how the story unfolds before his eyes. It is this type of reader that is often rewarded in the end.

The same analogy applies to many other things in life. Take cinema, for instance. Would The Usual Suspects have been the same if you had known Kayser Soze’s identity all along? Or take sports. Do you feel the same way when you watch a nerve-wracking game of your favorite team from start to finish, than you do when you only watch a replay of the decisive moment that came at the very end? No, you don’t. Of course you don’t. You need to build up your emotions in order to care. You need to be aware of the context in which things have happened, otherwise you’re missing the best part. It’s not just the destination, it’s the journey that matters.

Everyone is writing and talking about endings these days. The one that we just had, and the next one that will inevitably come. Many are weighing in and predicting that it will come soon. Others, the sane ones, believe that it’s really far away. But all of them are feeling the urge to know exactly how and when it will be. Personally, I have never cared much for endings. I never felt that it was worth it to spend much of my time and energy going on about them, so this week’s news is not something I enjoy thinking about, and certainly not something I would enjoy writing about. Too many of the pieces I’ve read over the last few days feel way too much like eulogies. Rest assured, I won’t be adding to the pile.

Luckily, they say that every ending brings with it a new beginning. It has long been one of my favorite sayings, mostly because it’s very true. And now we find ourselves with an exciting new beginning ahead of us for the first time in fourteen years. This is a historic moment and as such it is a moment to savor. It’s a beginning full of promise, of new and exciting things to come. It is also one of uncertainty and fear for the unknown, just like every good beginning should be.

Whatever happens now, this book is far from over. And when your favorite author says that the best is yet to come, you could do a lot worse than believing him. Especially considering that up until now he was the one with the pen. So I suggest we all forget about the ending for now, find ourselves a nice, comfortable chair and get ready to continue reading because boy, it’s going to be one hell of a story.

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Quote of the Day →

August 25, 2011 |

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999), American filmmaker.

Words to live by.

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Thank You, Steve →

August 25, 2011 |

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

Steve Jobs announced earlier today via a press release on Apple.com that he is officially stepping down as CEO of Apple, effective immediately. As expected, Tim Cook has been named as the new CEO by the Board of Directors.

Now, the only thing I have to say about this for now is right there in the title. Everything else is just speculation and will have to wait.

So there it goes,

Thank You, Steve.

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Speaking of Minimal Mac... →

August 19, 2011 |

Speaking of Patrick and Minimal Mac, this is a great piece of advice to all the other companies hoping to compete with the iPad.

Dear Anyone Else Who Thinks They Have A Chance In The iPad Market, You don’t. The iPad is the fire that sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Apple zigged and you guys are still trying to figure out what a zag is.

This is in relation to HP’s recent announcement that they’re discontinuing operations related to WebOS devices as of Q4 of this year. That is just a nice way of saying that they’re killing the TouchPad, along with the rest of WebOS devices, pretty much effective immediately. Also, they’re looking to move out of the consumer PC business and into the enterprise. When you’re the biggest consumer PC maker in the world by revenue, this is big news. So much for Number One Plus.

But the truth is that this is not only about HP. Most tech companies don’t stand a chance of competing with the iPad, because they still think they’re playing the same old game, when in fact this is a whole different story. Patrick understands this. MG Siegler seems to agree with him. So does Horace Dediu. The rest of the traditional PC makers still seem oblivious to the fact that the game has changed. HP was the only company with the skill and resources necessary to replicate Apple’s model and produce an iPad-caliber product. They gave it their best shot, and they still fell short. Maybe they could have gotten there with time, but if this announcement is anything to go by, I’d say they looked at the future and they didn’t really like their chances.

Apple isn’t winning this war by being better at doing the same thing as the rest of the industry. They didn’t in 2001, they didn’t in 2007, and they’re certainly not doing it now. They’re winning it by doing something entirely different, something unique. Something disruptive.

That’s what Apple is all about. And the rest is just background noise.

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Become a Patron of Minimal Mac →

August 19, 2011 |

I know I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but I wouldn’t forgive myself if I missed it. As of a few days ago, you can become a patron of Minimal Mac, and support the amazing work that Patrick Rhone is doing over there.

In case you don’t know about it, Minimal Mac is a site that explores the concept of “enough” in our relationship with computers and technology in general, with a specific focus on the Mac platform and the rest of the Apple ecosystem. It has been a personal favorite of mine ever since it launched, about two years ago.

The pitch is really interesting as it is, but what I find most compelling about it is the unique feel that Patrick has managed to achieve with the site. You see, Minimal Mac doesn’t pretend to know it all and be a beacon of absolute truth. Instead, it aspires to be a light you can use to hopefully help you find your own particular brand of truth. What works for you may not be what works for Patrick, or for me. And that’s okay. Nobody has all the answers. When it comes to the relationship you choose to have with the technology around you, there is only one guru: you.

And so the search is the same for all of us, Patrick included. And trough his work on Minimal Mac we get a chance to explore these exciting ideas together, and hopefully find the balance that feels just right for us. The combination that is enough.

If, like me, you enjoy this concept, you should consider becoming a patron today. For just $5 a month you can subscribe to Patrick’s personal newsletter, and you will get special access to his work as it evolves in his head. Think of it as your personal little hole in Patrick’s wall, through which you’ll be able to get a peek of his creative process. As a patron you will not only be supporting his efforts, you will also be ensuring the continuity of Minimal Mac, and maybe helping to make it even better.

Of course, the problem in today’s world is that people don’t like to pay for what they can get elsewhere for free. Especially content. It is so devalued by today’s standards that it’s hard to find a compelling reason to justify the expense. But good content is always worth it, and Patrick’s content is as good as it gets. The way I see it is pretty simple. I just ask myself: Do I get $5 worth of value (a pint of beer) out of Patrick’s work every month? If it depended solely on me, would I pay that amount in order to ensure its continuity, support him and allow him to devote as much time to it as he feels comfortable with? The answer in both cases is ridiculously evident: a resounding yes.

Patrick is a terrific writer, and such a nice guy that he even goes out of his way to ease the concerns of the doubtful, making it crystal clear that it’s possible to unsubscribe at any time, no questions asked. But trust me, after a few weeks sharing the road with him, you’ll realize that this was one of the smartest decisions you ever made, and the only doubts you’ll have will be about what you can do to support him even more.

Good luck, my friend.

Onward!

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A peek at Steve Jobs' book jacket →

August 18, 2011 |

a peek at Steve Jobs' book jacket

“The cover,” writes Isaacson in private e-mail, “is the Albert Watson portrait taken for Fortune in 2009. The back is a Norman Seeff portrait of him in the lotus position holding the original Macintosh, which ran in Rolling Stone in January 1984. The title font is Helvetica. It will look as you see it, with no words on the back cover.”

I love the cover design. Simple, elegant and effective. Just enough. And the pictures they chose are perfect. I know I’m in line to get one the day it goes on sale (November 21, 2011).

Via MG Siegler.

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