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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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Can the iPad Mini Give the Kindle Fire a Run for its Money?

In Steve Jobs’ biography, he repeatedly stressed the importance of creating fewer, top of the line products, rather than a slew of mediocre ones.  Apple has always thrived on branding and staying ahead of the game.

It surprised me that the iPad Mini is not only real, but it is named exactly what rumors called it.  Is Apple getting too predictable?  Now we have a big variety of sizes for tablets and smartphones in the Apple lineup.  Most people can reconcile having both an iPad and an iPhone, but can you do that for the iPad Mini and the iPhone?

I don’t see it taking the hold of the 7″ tablet market like the original 10″ iPad currently has on the larger tablet market.  Obviously, price is one factor.  The iPad mini is $329, whereas the Kindle Fire HD, Nook Tablet, and Nexus 7 are all $199.  So, they will attract different types of consumers.

For thee moment, I don’t think the Kindle Fire HD has too much to worry about from that end.  The Nexus 7 is proving to be a solid competitor, but competition is good because it make the devices strive to get better and better with each generation.

It used to be that the major tech giants excelled in different areas.  Google held the monopoly on search engines, Amazon was the pioneer for ebooks, Microsoft reigned over the PC market, and Apple took control over computers, and later music.

Now, they’re all trying to one up each other by creating competing products.  This can be quite overwhelming for the consumer!  Maybe it is best to just let them duul it out, and see what the winners are.

As far as choices go, longevity is a good thing to consider.  The Kindle Fire is in its second generation, and has ironed out some issues that the first generation had. The new Kindle Fire family includes better display, better designed hardware, and a camera.  Amazon also has a good sized marketplace with a free app every day.

For the 10″ inch tablets, the iPad still dominates that market, and has had a couple of years to improve.  Apple of course has a huge appstore, and includes a number of business apps.

Only time will tell what the winners will be in the tablet market.  It is sure to be a wild ride.

State of the Kindle Wrap-Up Before Anticipated Sep 6th Hardware Upgrade Announcement

Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination.  The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.”  It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.  That’s really not much to go on.  Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.

About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles.  The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch.  The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there.  It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.

The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success.  The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark.  That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however.  The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.

The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand.  Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.

FCC Filings

Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader.  This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.

On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire.  It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered.  Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders.  It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.

The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st.  A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”.  While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.

This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle.  The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements.  All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting.  Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.

State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?

There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences.  We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).

The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases.  The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays.  Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime.  Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.

Firedock Trademark

In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock.  That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.

The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories.  An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that.  The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it.  Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.

Nexus 7 and Nook Competition

With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition.  Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.

Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity.  Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.

On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well.  While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard.  Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.

Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two.  Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue.  At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device.  It just didn’t impress by comparison.  Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree.  Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.

iPad Mini Competition

The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon.  While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market.  The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.

At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable.  Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply.  The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch.  They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve.  This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.

Wrap-up

Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by.  The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock.  You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access.  The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.

Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire.  Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.

We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available.  This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations.  It’s going to be an interesting announcement.

New Kindle Lineup to Debut September 6?

Amazon has a big media even scheduled for September 6th.  Speculation points to the debut of this year’s Kindle refresh.  The new lineup could include a larger Kindle Fire, and updated version of the current model, and backlit e-ink Kindles.

The Kindle Fire has some serious competition now from Google’s Nexus 7,  the rumored iPad Mini, and the Nook Color and Nook Tablet.  One of the keys to the Kindle Fire’s success last year was price, and the competitors have recognized that.  So, what will be this year’s big idea that will cause the Fire to leapfrog over its competitors?

A larger Kindle Fire can undercut the iPad in price, and Amazon has the means to make a good quality tablet.  We’ve seen a lot of attempts to dethrone the iPad, but no one has really come close, yet.

Amazon has a robust collection of books, apps and videos, plus the Prime perks, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, Prime Instant Video, and a free app a day from the appstore.  Good covers could be key: one with a keyboard built in, or one that can help boost battery life.

Moving on to the e-ink Kindles.  The biggest upgrade this year will be the backlight.  This is pretty much a given because of the release of the backlit Nook earlier this year.  I am really excited about this development because I will be able to read comfortably in all lighting conditions.  No need to worry about carrying around external light attachments.  Preserving the long lasting battery life will pose a challenge, however.

The Kindle Touch is currently available to purchase from Amazon directly.  So, that is a clue that something new is coming.  The Kindle Touch should see an update in touch interface quality.  By that I mean smoother navigation and page turns without previous page remnants.

So, the lineup should look like this:

Kindle Fire: 7 inch and 10 inch models, which older version at reduced price

E-ink Kindles: Lighted version of the Kindle Touch and basic model.

Older models: Selling at a reduced price until inventory runs out.

There will most likely be 3G and wi-fi only options, as well as models with or without special offers. This lineup should appeal to the broadest audience possible, remain competitive across the board price wise, and stay on top of the competition in terms of features and accessories.

Stay tuned.  It will be a wild couple of weeks.

 

 

Nook Simple Touch and Color go on sale for Mother’s Day

The ranks are closing in on Amazon and the Kindle.  Barnes & Noble is currently holding a Mother”s Day Sale on the Nook Simple Touch basic model, and the Nook Color.  This is apparently a push on its the less popular models.  The sale ends May 12.

Most e-reader fans are more intrigued by the new Nook GlowLight and the Nook Tablet.  The GlowLight includes a cool, more readable light that enables readers to still read at night comfortably.  It doesn’t cause eye strain or suck up battery life like the LCD tablets do.

So the sale brings the Nook Simple Touch down to $79, and the Nook Color down to $149.  Both $20 less than they are normally.

I don’t really see these models as a huge threat to their Kindle counterparts, however, I do think that the Nook Simple Touch at $79 is a better deal than the $79 Kindle, which is not touch screen.

The Kindle Fire is also in more direct competition with the Nook Tablet than the Nook Color.  Refurbished Kindle Fires go for $139 occasionally.  These offers go quickly, so you have to watch closely, or you’ll miss them.

So, in short, if you’re looking for a bargain and a good gift idea for Mother’s Day, this is a good option to consider.

Barnes & Noble has really ramped up the competition with a backing from Microsoft and with the introduction of a Nook with a built in light.  So, it will be interesting to see how Amazon responds.

The leapfrogging between Amazon and its competitors is likely to happen again this year.  Usually the Kindle competitors start the new trend of the year, and Amazon picks up on it, and makes an even better product with it.  Amazon will come up with its own GlowLight Kindle, and I’m sure this year’s refresh of the whole Kindle line up will go at the price to beat.

 

Last Minute iPad 3 vs Kindle Fire Thoughts

I am writing this on the eve of the launch of the next generation iPad. So speculations on what new features the iPad 3 will offer  and what it means for tablet competition is definitely on my mind.  As anyone who keeps up with tech news knows, the rumors get pretty wild in the days leading up to big announcements like these.

Aside from the new launch, there are two speculations that might have a more direct implication for the Kindle Fire.  The first is the possibility of a 7.85 inch iPad Mini.  Honestly, I can’t really see this fitting into the scope of Apple’s products.  I could be wrong, but right now, there is a big enough gulf between the iPad 2 and the iPhone that consumers can reconcile having both.  They serve different functions.

An iPad Mini would blur the lines a bit and give consumers less of a reason to have both.  So it would cause internal competition for Apple.  However, it would add some worthy competition to the smaller tablet market.

The other option is a budget version of the iPad 2.  This assumption seems more viable because Apple has done this in the past with the iPhone, and has had good success with it.  This would be an 8GB version as opposed to 16 or 32GB.

It depends on how much cheaper the iPad 2  is, but this is what could really give the Kindle Fire a run for its money.  Right now, Amazon’s bestselling tablet’s biggest asset is that it packs a lot of features for a rock bottom price.  Competitors certainly recognize that.  Just look at the recent price drop on the Nook Tablet.

In the next few years, I would love to see a tablet emerge that has computing power comparable to the PC.  Apple has that ability to to that with the iPad, but isn’t quite there yet.  That leaves room for the smaller tablets to serve consumers who want something more portable, inexpensive and multipurpose without too much processing power.

So, I don’t really think the iPad 3 will have too much effect on the Kindle Fire competition wise.  It serves a different market.  The thing to watch will be the introduction of either a budget iPad or a less probable iPad Mini.  So, all we can do at this point is sit back and see what happens.

 

 

To Match Kindle Fire, B&N Releases Cheaper $200 Nook Tablet

There has been some question about the importance of pricing in the Kindle Fire’s dominance over the seemingly superior Nook Tablet.  On paper the Barnes & Noble tablet is definitely the slightly better device with more storage, expandable memory, twice the RAM, and otherwise similar hardware, which means it makes sense to pick out the one aspect of the comparison (in this case the price) that goes against it when determining why the Nook Tablet hasn’t done better.  Barnes & Noble obviously thought so, and has decided to start offering a version of the Nook Tablet at $200 that sacrifices nothing but its superior onboard storage.  Surely they are hoping this will be enough to at least start to draw even with the Kindle Fire.

The big question we have to ask now is whether or not this is a reasonable expectation from such a small change.  Have people really been choosing the Kindle Fire just to get 20% off the competition’s price?  This is definitely a possibility for some buyers, but overall there are other factors that we have to consider.  What you buy when you get one of these tablets is more than just the physical device at this point; it’s an entire content ecosystem.

Many, myself included, are of the opinion that the real strength of the Kindle Fire stems from its deep integration with Amazon’s systems.  It is undoubtedly a mixed blessing thanks to the associated lack of access to the main Google App Marketplace among other things, but this integration does allow for some impressive features.  The on-device storage is practically irrelevant when a decent WiFi network is in range, for example, thanks to the streaming media options Amazon has made available.  There is also more than enough space at any given time for several dozen apps, a couple hundred eBooks, and assorted music and video files.  Will you be carrying around entire seasons of your favorite television show?  Probably not.  You can expect to have several hours worth of viewing on hand for when wireless connectivity is unavailable, though.

Barnes & Noble simply isn’t offering the same amount of service, which is why it makes sense for them to be trying to make up the difference with somewhat superior hardware at the same price as the Kindle Fire.  The new Nook Tablet is, if anything, an even better option than the 16GB model for those looking into the possibility of rooting their new tablet, but if you’re keeping the stock firmware then it is a decision that should be carefully considered.  Nothing has changed or improved here, when it comes right down to it, besides dropping the price.

If you are a fan of the Nook, or dislike the idea of Amazon’s having a hold on your tablet, this is a great deal.  If you really want a color LCD device for reading on, the Nook Tablet is also still your best option.  If these situations don’t apply to you, however, the $200 Kindle Fire vs $200 Nook Tablet competition is still pretty heavily weighted in favor of Amazon.

Nook Situation Improves In Face of Kindle Competition

The past few months have been interesting for both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  While the former has been enjoying record success in both their eReading efforts and the new Kindle Fire tablet sales however, B&N seems to be having some trouble keeping up with things related to their Nook line.  There has even been talk of them spinning off the whole Nook endeavor into its own company due to the high expense of keeping pace in a competitive market.  Despite all of this though, and regardless of how it plays out in the larger scheme of things, a lot has been happening that should keep the Nook line a definite consideration for consumers.

Probably the most important factor would be what’s new with the Nook Tablet.  While it was always somewhat superior to the Kindle Fire on paper, the experience of using it has generally failed to impress by comparison and certain restrictions on how the end user could manage their data caused a great deal of upset.  Recently this has all changed with the announcement of a simple method for rooting the tablet and gaining much greater control over it as a result.  All you need now is a MicroSD Card and some freely available software from the guys over at XDA.  While for most people’s general uses this still will not necessarily make the Nook Tablet superior to its Kindle competition, it does open up the possibility of finally making the use of the better hardware for those who want to get maximum performance for their money.

The eReader side of things has hardly been left to sit around unnoticed either, of course.  There are currently two major bits of information going around specific to this.  First, word is out that Barnes & Noble will shortly be announcing the release of their eReaders outside the US for the first time.  Most likely this will be in a partnership with UK bookseller Waterstones, if the rumors are to be believed.  Some might remember the same company expressing interest in creating its own eReader to compete with the Kindle some months back, so this partnership would be completely in character.

There is also word of a new generation of the Nook already getting set to hit the shelves.  It would be difficult to imagine what significant improvements they could have planned over the Nook Simple Touch already given how well it stacks up against the competition (I would argue that if you ignore the differences in integrated stores it is noticeably superior to any of the latest Kindles), but could be an effort to either reduce prices or spring something entirely new on the market.  Either way, for the most part these rumors are tied up in claims regarding the Waterstones partnership and should both come to fruition they will likely appear on a similar timeline.

Possibly not the best time in the world to be the company that runs the Nook line, given how heavily Amazon is investing in making the Kindle Fire and Kindle eReaders successful.  They’ve done a great job of stepping up to the plate and providing good products despite this, however, and offering superior hardware for the money is always going to serve to draw the attention.

Barnes & Noble Considering A Nook Spin Off

After reporting less than stellar stock returns, Barnes & Noble is seriously considering spinning off, or even selling its expensive, but popular Nook business to allow the Nook to ramp up its competition with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Right now, the tech world is weighing three options with the pros and cons of each.  This article does a good job of breaking all of it down.  Barnes & Noble can keep an active role in the business as it is now, which is not likely, it can take a backseat, yet still hold the reigns, or it can sell the business entirely.

Sales of all Nook e-readers combined were up 70% during the 2011 holiday shopping season, compared to a mere 2.5% growth of regular book sales.  That definitely goes to show that something needs to change, or the retailer will end up with the same fate as Borders, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

I think that Barnes & Noble’s best bet would be to stay invested somewhat in the business because the e-book is the way of the future.  Despite the lackluster reception of the Nook Touch, the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet have been doing very well.  I am not saying that print is dying out by any means, but e-books are definitely going to take an increasingly larger role over the next few years.  Consumers are already flocking to Amazon for both print and e-books because the prices are better.  So, the Nook would be a lifeline in case the print side of the business suffers.

Barnes & Noble recognizes that there is work to do to catch up with the Kindle, so the competition is going to get much more intense if the Nook gets more attention via a spinoff or separate company.

It will be interesting to see what this potential new development means for the Kindle.  Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales in 2011 because of the much anticipated Kindle Fire and by offering the prices to beat,  All three members of the Kindle Family took the top selling spots on Amazon. The Kindle will most likely remain firmly on top of the e-reader market for the time being.

 

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet: Amazon Winning, Sales Looking Great All Around

It’s undeniable that the release of the Kindle Fire, and along with it the competing Nook Tablet, has shaken up the Tablet PC market.  Since launch Amazon has already firmly taken second place next to the Apple iPad, selling as many as 5 million units in the 4th quarter of 2011 alone.  Barnes & Noble is also doing pretty well, having moved more than a million of their own tablet in the same time period.  The way things are going with these two, there has even been some speculation that there is no room for dedicated hardware manufacturers with this kind of competition.

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are selling their tablets at near, or possibly even below, the cost of production.  The goal is to get people hooked into the platform and make ongoing profits based on media sales.  Effectively, the hardware has become secondary now that it can be treated as a conduit for consumption rather than an end in and of itself. Amazon is doing a better job on this side of things than Barnes & Noble so far.

The Nook Tablet has the technically superior hardware, with double the RAM and double the storage space among other things, but doesn’t make very good use of it.  The storage is restricted and the interface doesn’t seem to run significantly smoother than the Kindle Fire‘s.  There is an SD slot to expand the available memory of the device, but to get a sufficiently large one to make a difference you can expect to add a significant percentage onto the already comparatively more expensive price.  None of this means that it is a bad tablet, it’s actually quite excellent and highly recommended, but it is worth noting that B&N has a way to go before they are really making the best use out of their device’s potential.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, lacks some of the power of the Nook.  What it does have is a deeper integration with Amazon.com’s storefront and content.  Unlike B&N, Amazon has their own source of video and music for customers to take advantage of, as well as a robust cloud storage service that makes up for a lot of the seeming shortcomings of the hardware.  The lower price certainly doesn’t hurt sales numbers either, especially given the inevitable comparison of both products to each other and the iPad.

We can expect sales for both tablets to be improving even more through the next year.  The Kindle line, and the Kindle Fire in particular, is one of Amazon’s biggest marketing priorities, while the Nook line is pretty much the only thing B&N has going for it right now in terms of profitability.  What remains to be seen is what effect the next iteration of the Kindle tablet line brings.  A larger tablet could cement Amazon’s place on top of tablets for the foreseeable future, second only to Apple, but it could also severely damage the company’s reputation if something goes wrong and open the door to a big push by Barnes & Noble.

Either way we have good products to work with, but both Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are built for content consumption and that means active ongoing support.  The more popular each one becomes, the more incentive the associated company has to expand the platform, and the more valuable the tablet in question becomes for owners.  It will be interesting to see the back and forth as the competition heats up in months to come.

Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet: Intentions To Root Change The Equation

Despite the relative technical differences between the new Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet and the Amazon Kindle Fire, I think that it is fair to say that Amazon’s product offers more right out of the box.  For the layman user, somebody with no stake in a particular platform and no desire to have to jump through hoops to pull the greatest possible performance out of their electronics, the available content and overall experience of the Fire is immediately superior.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that you are not that user.  Even more, let’s assume that you are considering buying one of the new $200 Tablet PCs being released by these eReading giants with the sole intention of rooting it and making it into an all purpose generic Android Tablet.  It doesn’t take huge amounts of work under most circumstances.  Andrei already posted instructions to this Blog on how to root the Kindle Fire and there is a great deal of headway being made on the Nook Tablet.  Custom Android ROMs are sure to follow in the near future.  In the end, chances are good that the only prerequisite will be a willingness to spend the time and effort to go through a list of instructions.

Under these circumstances, the most important factor is the hardware.  Here, the Nook Tablet is the way to go.  It has twice the RAM of the Kindle Fire, as well as twice the internal storage space.  The expandable memory slot is a big incentive as well, of course.  Other than those bits, the processors, screens, size, and weight are all either exactly equivalent or so close that it won’t factor in much.  Probably the only other relevant difference is the fact that the Nook has some external volume controls that come in handy from time to time.  Before making any real decisions on this matter, however, I recommend taking both devices for a test drive.

While the Nook Tablet‘s initial setup has some major flaws, from locking up the majority of the storage space to simply lacking a halfway decent app store, it is still pretty smooth and comes equipped to take on most third-party video purchases.  You also get the added advantage of easily accessible support at every Barnes & Noble location nationwide.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, offers deep Amazon integration.  At a glance this is troublesome and a blatant attempt to lock customers in, but they have gone out of their way to keep the platform pretty open.  Competitor apps are in their Appstore (itself less well populated than the Google Marketplace but far better policed) and it isn’t hard to install things acquired elsewhere.  Even the Nook reader app has no trouble.  The interface is smooth, looks good, and performs better than most people would expect.  Really the only complaint here is the lack of video format compatibility, which is why it was worth mentioning for the Nook.

Either way you’re getting a good device, but keep in mind what is being bought.  These are not really intended to be all purpose tablets the way the iPad is and to treat them as such will likely disappoint.  If you do decide to break away from the cultivated experiences provided then the minimal hardware might be more apparent than it otherwise would be.  Personally, I had intended to ditch the Amazon firmware on the Kindle Fire after testing it out just enough to write about it knowledgeably.  It was good enough to change my mind and might do the same for you.