Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things we've recently learned about any coming additional Kindle Fire tablet and e-readers

Back in July, All Things Digital's John Paczkowski mentioned that Amazon had been "approaching developers to bring them up to speed on the new hardware."

1. From "talking to sources who have been briefed" (these would be fairly good sources), they heard what we've heard from others so far, repeated endlessly -- but of interest to me was that the developers mentioned they'd "been instructed to build their apps for a display with a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, which is a bit different" from "the 1024 x 600 display of the current Kindle Fire."

We'd heard this already and also read reports of the change in aspect ratio (the vertical mode would be not as long -- although the length had been good for wide-screen movies w/o letterboxing bars) but we'd not heard, generally, that this info came from instructions to developers.

2. I mentioned, in the blog article on the US State Department Request for Information on E-Readers and centralized management that may be needed for these in connection with their global needs, that the State Dept is now requesting this vendor/manager information from all and Amazon would not now be the sole source as had been planned.

  a. The vendor must be able to manage "multiple Kindle models" which would include replacing any broken ones (whether accidental or not) and providing free shipping and would require a 24/7 HelpDesk globally and a separate cloud-based documents store.

  b. 3G wireless for these is a requirement. (No one else is including that on current e-readers.)

  c. The required document formats include Mobi and Prc files -- these are Amazon Kindle formats, and ePub is not included in the list of formats.

  d. New wrinkle -- the battery life was to be fairly substantial and a matter of weeks had been mentioned.  Now the preference is that the battery life shall be no less than 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback.  And the light, compact portable device should be no more than 15 ounces and could be 8" x 5" by 0.5" (larger than current e-Ink devices).

    Since no one else can support multiple Kindle devices with a 24/7 helpdesk internationally and replace the Kindles as needed -- no questions asked -- we are talking about a future Kindle Fire tablet.  Again, the file formats for the documents will include Kindle formats but not ePub.
"DOC(X)" format files will also need to be supported, something Amazon's done for some time.

  d. While the Request for Information (RFI) does not mean a contract will take place, because they are just taking information here, they asked for this almost immediately after cancelling the earlier contract proposal, which had focused on e-Ink type devices.

What the new Kindle Fire would have to include to meet the proposed requirements
  .  Text to Speech. This is included in e-Ink Kindles but not in the current Kindle Fire.
  .  3G Wireless capability.

  Also, the information disseminated world-wide requires downloads via 3G in many of those areas (known to be expensive)  This kind of thing is already done by Amazon but not by others, internationally.

  So, we are seeing a new set of requirements that would include a device that has less battery life than e-Ink readers and can do video playback.

While the coming Kindle Fire 2 might not include these two features needed for that contract -- eventually, it would have to include them if this contract is negotiated successfully.

Other indications
I mentioned that Nate Hoffelder's articles on FCC papers from front companies for Amazon point to a new Kindle Fire and possibly to another e-Ink device though none of this is that clear.  But they'd be for new devices.

  In addition to that, he discovered something else:
  For some time, there has been an expensive 'dock' made by a third party for the Kindle Fire: the Grace Digital MatchStick Charging Speaker Dock for Kindle Fire.
  The maker named it FireDock when Nate reported on it in late March.  It's fairly expensive but has been getting good reviews and this week has more good word of mouth in the Amazon Kindle forums.

  Since that time, Nate reports, Grace Digital Audio doesn't use that name and Amazon owns the trademark for "Firedock" which might get some bonus attention if they announce one when launching the coming Kindle Fire 2.  "Kindle Fire 2" is not necessarily a name for a new device but one that describes what it would be, essentially, with the hope it would be a Kindle Fire on steroids.  It would almost have to be at this point.

The new filing was in addition to one which seemed to be for a larger tablet, reported by Nate earlier last week, and may describe a new e-Ink model.  There's no testing of a front light but maybe testing would not be needed for the filing.

We've seen that Amazon is currently out of Kindle Touch models and won't be able to ship any, per their current product pages for 1 to 2 weeks (the info on which could change entirely at any time, the way it's been going!), which indicates a lack of sufficient energy to keep either the Touch WiFi-Only or the Touch 3G in stock.

I was most intrigued by the constantly shifting status reports and missing sales-boxes last night and today though, and then the re-appearance of one on the 3G model, twice today.

I think it's hard to conclude nothing's coming down the pike, and most of us hope it's sooner than later, as it's all too confusing at this point.

In connection with all this, Amazon is still running the 40% off select devices and accessories when using their Amazon Rewards Visa Card.  This normally precedes changes in or additions to the current lineup.

Current Kindle Models for reference, plus free-ebook search links
Kindle Fire  7" tablet - $199
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $79/$109
Kindle Touch, WiFi
- $99/$139
Kindle Touch, 3G/WiFi - $149/$189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189, Free, slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £89
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi, UK - £169
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $109
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Touch 3G/WiFi - $189
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. RFI might not be quite as much a lock fpr Amazon as you suggest. Once we open up the thinking to include tablets as well as e-ink readers, you have to consider features that could be added as pre-loaded apps. Mobi readers and text-to-speech spring immediately to mind. 3G is available on many models (though requiring a separate contract).
    Most importantly, an RFI is not a contract. It's not even a call for bids. The terms of any competitive bidding will commonly be changed to a least common denominator among the companies responses to the RFI.

    1. sjz,
      The vendor has to support 'multiple Kindle e-reader models' (not Nook, not Kobo).

      Helpdesk 24/7 - accept Kindle returns and send a new Kindle for broken ones globally and pay shipping in both directions.

      The contract clearly says that the vendor must pay ALL the 3G costs globally. So it doesn't matter about 3G on tablets requiring a separate contract. They wouldn't want to fuss with that. They want management of all this and someone else paying for it (with the money they may make available if any of this goes).

      "Most importantly," I wrote a paragraph specifically saying that the RFI is not a contract and that nothing may come of it.

      But do read the entire RFI. You'll see why even maybe Amazon would not really want to tackle this. The cloud support, 24/7 HelpDesk, and separate store for DoS documents + all 3G paid by the vendor is very costly and very labor-intensive.

      My question for you: What vendor (after you read all the requirements) would be able to or want to do this?


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