3 traits that make the Kindle Fire competitive

Low price, Amazon Silk browser and promising ecosystem of movies, apps and books make the Fire stand out in a crowd

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"Also, you can't compare the 7-in. Kindle Fire with the [9.7-in.] iPad," Weiner said. "Magazines will look better on the iPad mostly because of real estate. You can do wonders with a 7-inch screen, but you can't make it bigger."

"I think Kindle Fire is about Amazon saying, 'This is the market we created and we want to take it back and own it,'" Weiner said.

On the split browser

Amazon called Silk "a revolutionary, cloud-accelerated browser that uses a 'split browser' architecture to leverage the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services cloud."

Many analysts compared what Amazon is doing by splitting browsing between the Fire device and the cloud to what happens with the Opera Mini browser. Amazon will rely on the computing speed of its Amazon Web Services cloud, which is basically a massive server fleet also called the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

The biggest question about Silk is how much faster browsing will be, analysts said. "The Silk browser conceptually looks good, but the real question is: Does it work?" O'Donnell said.

Gold said the split browser uses a traditional phone-type Web browser methodology by rendering the websites in the cloud and then only pushing webpages to the devices. "It should make the user browsing experience fast," he said.

Weiner said the Kindle Fire and its cloud browsing, as well as its highly customized Amazon version of Android, could raise concerns from some users that tablet makers are further creating silos of data and devices that don't interact with other clouds and devices on the market. He explained that a different Android device won't touch a user's data in the Amazon cloud or do many of the things Amazon is doing in the Fire.

On the Amazon app ecosystem

Amazon's online marketing channels will give Kindle Fire users access to music, movies, books and apps. The concept sounds impressive, partly because Amazon has had years of experience selling merchandise online and has become the biggest bookseller in the world, Weiner noted.

Gold said the entire Amazon ecosystem of products could also be attractive to content developers, but only if Amazon "doesn't have the heavy-handed approach of Apple."

In fact, Weiner said Amazon's approach to marketing books, magazines and other printed materials could be the biggest advantage that the Kindle Fire has over the iPad. "Apple can't compete with Amazon on publishing," Weiner said. "Publishing is the iPad's Achilles' heel."

Weiner predicted Amazon won't charge publishers the 30% cut that Apple charges publishers. "Apple really turned off the magazine publishers by insisting on 30% of revenue," he said. "Amazon wants to really play nice with the magazine publishers, and it won't take much below 30% to do better than Apple."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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