As sick as I am of hearing about the underwhelming Wolfram Alpha, I’m even more sick of hearing about the product-that-shouldn’t-be, Amazon’s Kindle. This machine is destined to be obsolete within a year, so Amazon should quick-like get back to ecommerce and leave hardware to companies that know something about it.
Here’s my problem with the Kindle: when I look at it, I think “that’d be cool if I could also browse the web on it, watch movies on it, play music on it, or use it as a digital picture frame,” but despite it being essentially a small computer, it won’t do any of those things. A netbook can do all of these things, and it costs less.
For a few laughs, let’s look at Amazon’s pitch for their latest model, the Kindle DX:
- Holds up to 3,500 books, periodicals, and documents – Amazon downplays the fact that this is only 4GB of storage, a pathetic number for any modern netbook.
- Beautiful Large Display: 9.7″ diagonal e-ink screen reads like real paper; boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and sharp images – Are you kidding me? 16 shades of gray? Sure, that’s better than the Newton, but this isn’t 1992, guys. Any modern netbook offers 32 bit color, giving millions of colors. If I want to read a text book or a blog post on my Kindle DX, you better believe I want color.
- Auto-Rotating Screen: Display auto-rotates from portrait to landscape as you turn the device so you can view full-width maps, graphs, tables, and Web pages – We’re only down to the third bullet point, and this is the best you can do? This is truly trivial, and easy to do on a netbook.
- Built-In PDF Reader: Native PDF support allows you to carry and read all of your personal and professional documents on the go – PDF readers are free to download on any PC. Just because this is better than the original Kindle doesn’t make it cool.
- Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle DX, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, no annual contracts, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots – if you really need to download a book while you’re outside of wi-fi range, apparently this is the device for you. If you don’t have a Kindle, just download the book to your smartphone, then transfer it to your PC.
- Books In Under 60 Seconds: You get free wireless delivery of books in less than 60 seconds; no PC required – You can also download an ebook to your netbook in less than 60 seconds, no Kindle required. Fail.
- Long Battery Life: Read for days without recharging – Who reads for more than a couple hours at a time, anyway? Non-problem solved.
- Read-to-Me: With the text-to-speech feature, Kindle DX can read newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books out loud to you, unless the book’s rights holder made the feature unavailable – Now you can have A Brief History of Time read to you in the author’s own voice. Awesome!
- Big Selection, Low Prices: Over 275,000 books; New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are only $9.99, unless marked otherwise – This has nothing to do with the device and will surely be available on any PC very soon.
- More Than Books: U.S. and international newspapers including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, magazines including The New Yorker and Time, plus popular blogs, all auto-delivered wirelessly – Again, I have a PC and a cool new thing called a “web browser” for this.
- It’s lightweight with a super-compact form factor
- Um…that’s about it. I guess this isn’t much of a bulleted list.
And Amazon wants $489 for this piece of…technology. For that kind of money I can almost get two netbooks, each of which have 9″ full color screens, 1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, built-in webcams and mics, wifi, memory card slots, 3 USB ports, and weigh in at 2.5 lbs (2 times the weight of the Kindle DX.) With the Kindle, I can read an ebook. With two netbooks, my wife and I could video conference with the in-laws, watch movies (chick flick for her, dude flick for me), organize our photos, play online games against each other, or…we could read ebooks. Where to spend the money is pretty obvious to me.
So, I’m calling it: within one year, someone else will have an ebook platform that will be far more robust and versatile, and it will be cheaper, and Amazon will exit the game to focus on selling ebooks. Perhaps the Kindle-killer will be Apple’s rumored iPad, perhaps Microsoft will get their Tablet PC act together, or perhaps Asus will mate their Eee PC with their Top PC to create a Kindle-beating love child. I don’t know who’s going to do it, but the PC industry is going to put the Kindle out of our misery, and the sooner the better.