There’s been a lot of talk about the Kindle’s potential death at the hands of the near-mythical Apple Tablet. But it looks like the real threat may not be what people were expecting. Microsoft has just unveiled the Courier, which is essentially their version of a tablet PC.
I have to say that, at the very least, it looks very cool. Whether or not it will be part of a wave of change that destroys the eReader industry is yet to be seen. As much as you may want to get your hands on one (I suggest you check out the video at the link above), the device only exists in prototype. By time there’s a version of the Courier that you can actually buy, Apple will have probably gotten a foothold with their tablet. Also, the technology Microsoft is demoing won’t be as whiz-bang amazing in the year or so it will probably take Microsoft to go to production. By then all devices will be a little more fantastic then now, including eReaders. This is like if Amazon demoed prototypes for a full color Kindle 3 before they could actually manufacture them at a feasible low cost.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s demo does demonstrate the idea that a multipurpose device would make an excellent eReader. While the Courier is hardly designed to specifically read books, it does replace manage to replace lots of book like media. The video shows the use of ‘journals’ you would write in and a daily planner analogy that somewhat mimics a traditional book planner. The device is even shaped like a book, with two screens and a hinge in the middle. It’s every pen and paper organizational tool you’ve ever used, only better. This includes double screened eReading that very much resembles a traditional book.
Either Jobs is right, and eReaders will be replaced by devices like this, or eReaders will find a way to innovate and stay alive. My guess is that the Kindle won’t die so easily. Each generation will slowly pile on new features and at a price cheaper than a tablet. This won’t work forever, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kindle someday evolves into some sort of Amazon owned tablet computer itself.
WildCharge for Kindle
By the looks of it, WildCharge products are going to be a hit. As reported by netbook-expert.com, wireless inductive charging soon is going to be available for over 500,000 products of all sorts and shapes.
It works like this: WildCharge pad is connected by wire to a power outlet and acts as power transmitter. There are several power receivers available that when placed on the charge pad will provide power for the devices they are connected to. For phones (including iPhone and iPod Touch) everything is nice and simple – there are neat thin sleeves that have the power receiver integrated in them and also protect your phone from scratches.
For other devices there is PowerDisc with PowerLinks that allows system to be used with a wide range of devices with standard connectors. Kindle (except for first generation) is one of such devices as it uses micro-USB connector for charging. Unfortunately this has little advantage over plugging it into AC outlet or PC since you are unlikely to carry around Kindle with this thing dangling from it. However the fact that they chose Kindle as an example device allows me to hope that they will come up with sleek Kindle sleeve soon enough. The moment it hits the market I’m buying it.
Just placing the Kindle on a mat would be some much easier than plugging it in twice a week. It would also help me develop a habit of piling up all my electronic gadgets in one place so that I don’t have to look for them all over the house.
The Kindle is great for what it does, but it is by design somewhat limited to Amazon’s vision. I’ve written on this blog before about allowing third party developers on the Kindle. It looks like with the upcoming holiday season, talk over whether Amazon should release an SDK has started again.
New York Times makes the argument that since Amazon won’t likely release any new hardware (Both the Kindle 2 and DX are new enough that they’ve never been holiday gifts), it may be beneficial for them to find some new way to innovate before the holidays. Creating an SDK where anyone could make and sell applications would not only increase the Kindle’s possibilities, but also give it a sort of iPhone recognition for innovation.
Of course, Amazon hasn’t already done this for a reason. Perhaps over the worries of the publishers, or fears of piracy that could result from opening up the ecosystem, Amazon has not allowed third parties into the Kindle. But here is where the iPhone example really applies. iPhone apps undergo a nearly draconian review process, yet the iPhone and its apps continue to be a commercial success. Amazon could easily decide to create a Kindle app marketplace where they vetoed any programs that, say, abused the wireless or allowed ePub on the device. Some people would definitely gripe about the restrictions, but the sdk would still be an overall success. Like the NYTimes article suggests, apps could be created for medical or other specialized niches. The apps would be in high enough demand and would still be okay with Amazon.
One easy entry into Kindle apps could be board games like chess, go, checkers, monopoly, etc. These can be computationally light, especially if you are playing against the Internet server or another human, cause minimal wireless traffic and look well on Kindle’s eInk display. Right now there are two games on Kindle DX – minesweeper and Gomoku. More can be easily added – either free or for a charge. The ecosystem need not be as open as iPhone from the start and can still bring Kindle success. Lets not forget that even for iPhone it took a year for App store to materialize.
Will this really happen? In my opinion it’s a coin toss. Amazon has to come up with something to generate some Kindle buzz this holiday season when competition is stepping on it’s heels. And I’m pretty sure they will. But it might not be an app store.
Also, just wanted to say thanks to the New York Times for linking to Blog Kindle. Hello any new readers!
Here’s some bad news for Amazon and the Kindle. Best Buy is planning on selling the iRex and Sony Reader in their stores. Now not only will customers be able to see the eReaders physically on display, but many people will just come upon them out of happenstance.
This blog has made the point before that Amazon should sell the Kindle in more places. Best Buy is the perfect kind of place to sell eReaders to people who would normally not even think about them. Best Buy, after all, is not generally thought of as a destination for tech-savvy people. Their bread and butter customer is someone who comes in wanting a computer/tv/etc, but doesn’t know a lot about it. Now with the iRex and Sony Reader, people who would never normally be early adopters will hold the devices and have a sales rep walk them through the features. I wouldn’t be surprised if eReaders become a big holiday gift this year, even among those with no interest in gadgets.
According to the article, the iRex’s wireless will also be entirely paid for in the cost of the device. But, in a followup to Andry’s comments, it turns out that the iRex will not include web browsing functionality. So when they say the cost of wireless is included, they really mean the cost of downloading books that you are already paying for.
As of 26th of September 2009, the Kindle version of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is no longer outselling the hardcover on Amazon. Perhaps all of the Kindle crowd who wanted it purchased the book and already have it so the sales peaked and the dropped while folks who read paper books are still generating the steady demand for the hardcover.
Amazon Kindle 1
After being sold out since September 21st, refurbished first generation Kindles is back in stock again. You can it for $149 .00 while supplies last. Last batch of refurbished Kindle 1s lasted around one week.
It looks like Amazon is reconditioning these in batches but they seem to sell faster than they are being reconditioned. Which is no wonder given the low price point. Here’s why refurbished Kindle 1 may be a good idea to buy. I have one as a loaner to give to friends who don’t have a Kindle but I want to share books with. While this has the limitation that I can only share books with one friend at a time, the upside is that we can both read the book at the same time and share notes.
I’ll be monitoring stock status of refurbished Kindles from now on as frequently as I can and will keep you updated.
iRex’s latest attempt to best the Kindle just got a little more legitimate. While early specs on the latest iRex Reader promised 3G wireless capabilities, actual plans for a carrier were up in the air. That’s all changed with the announcement that iRex will be the first eReader to use the Verizon network.
The reader has now managed to duplicate many of the important features the Kindle offers. Not only can it download books wirelessly from anywhere with cell reception, but it also is connected to the Barnes & Noble store. Of all of Amazon’s competitors, I have to say that Barnes & Noble seems to do the best at challenging the entire Kindle experience. In the future, buying and reading books from either company should be fairly similar. Amazon’s strength lies in early dominance, but B&N may be able to make up for this through brand recognition and their ubiquitous brick and mortar stores. For people who are reluctant to switch to an eReader, being able to associate with a familiar, non-cyberspace chain is going to go a long way.
But one question I have is how much customers will need to pay for data transfer. On the Kindle, Amazon pays Sprint for all the bandwidth their customers use. As far as I can tell, this isn’t going to happen with the Barnes & Noble store. Not only is their store compatible with eReaders from two different companies (iRex and Plastic Logic), but both companies use different wireless providers (Verizon and AT&T, respectively). This seems to suggest that business surrounding the wireless faculty of the readers will be handled completely separate from the B&N store. Does this mean that wireless costs will be different for either reader? Or that customers will need to sign contracts for service agreements? In general, cell phone companies aren’t very well liked by consumers. If customers are made to sign up for a data plan when buying an eReader, I think they will be more likely to consider the Kindle instead.
If you are new to eBook industry and would like to catch up on all of the relationships between different Amazon Kindle and other different devices and companies in the e-Book universe. This picture created by techflash.com is just the right thing for you. There is also PDF version available that has every arrow linking a related story on techflash.com. You can download it by clicking on the picture below. It will really be worth your time.
eBook Universe by techflash.com
I guess this picture really is worth a thousand words… Great work, TechFlash!
Sony Reader Touch
Sony’s latest competition against the Kindle are the Sony Reader Touch and Sony Reader Pocket. Here’s a quick roundup of various reviews of these new products from around the net.
- Gizmodo – Glare ruins the Reader Touch, Pocket is short on features but cheap price.
- ZDNet – The Reader Touch works great, glare isn’t much of an issue.
- CNET – Reader Touch get 3 out of 5. Better to get Kindle at this price.
- CNET – Reader Pocket gets 3.5 out of 5. Good deal for the price.
- Financial Times – Touch screen more natural to use than Kindle controls, but misses wireless. Reviewer likes free Kindle iPhone app over Reader Pocket.
- Mobile Tech Review – Reader Touch has caught up with Amazon and may even get some Kindle defectors.
- iReaderReview – Reader Touch gets 7.75 out of 10. Doesn’t quite beat the Kindle but Sony is getting really close.
- iReaderReview – Reader Pocket vs. similarly priced Kindle 2 refurb. Pocket is better for basic reading, but Kindle 2 has better additional features.
Theory Of Nothing By Russell K. Standish
“Theory of Nothing” by dr. Russel K. Standish is a tour into many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics as opposed to Copenhagen interpretation. This book came up in one of the discussions I’ve had with my friend. I’ve looked around and although Amazon only sells the paperback version, there is freely available PDF on the authors website that can be read on Kindle DX or any other device that supports PDF.
I’ve paged though the section on Quantum Theory Of Immortality (QTI) and, personally, found the ideas too wild to believe but interesting. I’ve put this book in my reading list. Here’s what the author himself has to say about it:
The Theory of Nothing was a book I published in 2006, in which I explored the consequences of assuming:
- Everything exists, and
- The reality we observe must be compatible with our existence within that reality.
The title “Theory of Nothing” came from the observation that the more inclusive a scientific theory, the less specific its predictions can be without additional ad hoc assumptions. The ultimate theory of everything is just a theory of nothing. Yet surprisingly, the theory in Theory of Nothing does have some explanatory and predictive properties, which follow from the second assumption, which links the laws of physics to the laws of psychology.
Most of the ideas I discuss in that book were discussed on the Everything List, an internet forum inhabited by some of the brightest minds I know. Since the list discussions tended to be quite technical, and often refer to previous discussions, there is a need for some kind of summary, like a FAQ of the list discussion. The trouble is, nobody seems to have time to write one. As part of my book project, I attempted to summarise and make accessible the everything-list discussion, as well as position the topic within the broader philosophical literature.
If you have enjoyed “The Elegant Universe” and “A Briefer History Of Time” that I mentioned before, Theory Of Nothing should also interest you.