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!