Just a few days ago, Amazon announced the release of their new Kindle Fire tablet. Before I delve into a few features of the new tablet, I must say that this is a bold step by Amazon, if not necessary, and one that will attempt to disrupt the tablet market while challenging the Apple iPad at the same time.
It's no secret that the iPad, from Apple, rules the tablet market today. At the keynote that was held today for the new iPhone 4S release, some statistics were also released about the iPad. The iPad (both current models) have sold more than a quarter billion units world wide. Yes, that is Billion with a 'B,' and it was all done in 18 months. That is absolutely insane considering that most tech pundits wrote off the iPad as a flash-in-the-pan that was simply an over-sized iPod touch. Now the iPad is in testing or deployment in every single state in the US (for educational purposes), in most large Healthcare organizations and in 92% of Fortune 500 companies.
What does all this mean for Amazon? It essentially means the same thing that it means for all other tablet manufacturers: you will need to disrupt the industry in order to stand a chance of success. While most attempts by the Android tablet makers has been mediocre at best (just like the smart phone market), the Kindle Fire seems to be the first tablet I see that actually delivers value that Apple has not. One of these features is the new Amazon Silk browser.
The Amazon Silk browser is unique in that, unlike Safari, it can operate on the tablet and in Amazon's Cloud (EC2) at the same time. Amazon calls this split-architecture. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is pretty awesome in reality. What it does is analyze several aspects of how the user is trying to access the web such as the connection speed and type, what website the user is going to, whether or not there is video, etc. The Silk browser then dynamically decides which pieces to run on the tablet and which to offload to the Cloud for faster performance. For example, if the user is trying to access a video, the Silk browser can allow the EC2 Cloud to re-encode video and compress it before sending it to the tablet, all on-the-fly, without the user seeing a delay. As a matter of fact, the user will see a performance boost. This is a slick way to solve issues with slow connections or slow loading websites with a lot of content.
Another feature that the Amazon Fire will bring is the ability to store all of your Amazon purchased content in their cloud - for free. The Fire only has 8GB of storage space, so it stands to reason that you can't store tons of music and video on it. The Cloud, however, can store as much as you can purchase and throw in it and make it all available instantly to all devices that utilize Whispersync technology. By leveraging the Cloud for storage and throwing less hardware at the tablet, the cost is drastically reduced. The official price for the Fire will be only $199. Now that is an awesome piece of tech for a very reasonable price!
I'm sure that Amazon will continue to offer much more in terms of capabilities by leveraging the Cloud. One example that comes to mind is OnLive gaming. They are a company that uses the Cloud to run and render games and then only streams the video output to end users who can run the newest games on older more modest hardware. This is a perfect fit for a tablet like the Fire. Make some awesome games that offload all of the processing power to the Cloud and just use the Fire as a video output and control input device. There are many other areas Amazon could also leverage their back-end Cloud such as heavy number crunching applications, Finance applications, social media integration, etc.
What would seem a simple and obvious move (leveraging the Cloud to boost the capability of a tablet) could cause some serious disruption in the market as iCloud from Apple is really just a glorified syncing and storage platform. It does, technically, reside in the cloud, but it is not really leveraging Cloud technology to do something innovative like the Amazon Fire and Silk browser are. I'm looking forward to what Amazon will be releasing in the future with this platform and this Apple guy will definitely be getting a Fire to complement my iPad. I'm even more interested to start tying the Fire into existing businesses and helping them leverage the power of tablets and the Amazon Cloud to grow their business and shrink costs.