Amazon Has To Do Better

december 8, 2013

Amazon released this glib ad comparing their Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 with the Apple iPad Air. They fire off all sorts of specs and prices comparisons. I won't buy another Kindle Fire -- until Amazon shows that they can do better with their software support.

I was an early adopter of the Kindle Fire line of devices. I bought the original Kindle Fire which shipped with Fire OS 1.0 (forked from Android 2.3.3). The original Kindle Fire shipped in November of 2011. A short ten months later, Amazon ships the 2nd Generation Kindle Fire using the same CPU as the original, but with double the RAM. It ships with Fire OS 2.0 (forked from Android 4.0.3). Amazon doesn't bother to provide an update for the original Kindle Fire -- a device that is at most ten months old.

A year after the 2nd Generation Kindle Fire ships, the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HDX ship. These get Fire OS 3.0 (forked from Android 4.2.2). All previous Kindle Fire devices? They don't get an update and are left as-is.

The iPad 2, which was released in March of 2011 (seven months before the original Kindle Fire) came with iOS 4.3. Since its release, it has gotten upgraded to iOS 5, 6 and most recently 7. That is three major iOS releases that the iPad 2 has received since its release 2.5 years ago. All iPads since the iPad 2 have gotten all major iOS releases.

The Nexus 7 (2012 edition) was released in October of 2012. It was released with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Since its release, it has gotten every single point release: 4.2, 4.3 and the latest 4.4 (Kit Kat). The Nexus 7 (2013) and Nexus 10 have both also been receiving updates.

The original Kindle Fire? No major updates. The second generation Kindle Fire? No major updates. I am expecting that Amazon will continue this arbitrary obsolescence of hardware via lack of software updates to continue with the current Kindle HD and Kindle HDX devices.

A look at their ereader line shows the same lack of updates from Amazon. Have the first Paperwhite and want the Goodreads integration that was just released for the second generation Paperwhite? Sorry, Amazon doesn't want to port it over. If you want new software features, Amazon wants you to ditch the old hardware and buy new hardware.

If this is the case, why invest in Amazon hardware at all? Buying a Kindle Fire HDX maybe cheaper to start off with, but if you want new features, you'll have to invest in hardware again.

There is also the issue of dealing with Amazon's ecosystem of apps. Google Play has a wider selection of apps -- and apps bought on Google Play cannot be installed on Fire devices. The Amazon Appstore easily installs on any Android device and Android users get the benefits of both Google Play and Amazon Appstore. Though, the only real benefit of the Amazon Appstore is the free app of the day, which is not that great given the quality of apps that are given away. Amazon's Kindle reading app is available for both Android and iOS. Amazon's subpar Cloudplayer is also available on both Android and iOS. Amazon's Prime Instant Video is available only on iOS.

There is no reason to limit oneself to a Kindle Fire device. The hardware is barely supported by Amazon. The app selection via Amazon Appstore is subpar compared to Google Play. And most of Amazon's other apps (Kindle, Cloudplayer, Prime Instant Video) are available on other platforms.

So, Amazon (and Mr. Bezos), it is great you have these cheeky ads. And it is nice that you have cheap (ad-supported) hardware. But, you have to understand that supporting your customers with updates is important. Forcing your customers to buy new hardware in order to get new features? That is not good. Do better Amazon.

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