Kindle Fire Faces Firestorm of Criticism

by Matt Klassen on December 14, 2011

In the pre-launch marketing campaign for its new Kindle Fire e-reader/tablet its clear that someone at Amazon had paid attention to Apple’s own marketing machine, as the Amazon tablet was the focus of a media blitz, a veritable firestorm of positive vibes and over-hyped expectations. The result, as we’ve seen so many times with Apple, was an early surge in sales from a consumer base practically salivating to get its collective hands on the device.

Unfortunately for Amazon its marketing team forgot to read Chapter Two in Apple’s How-To-Sell-Technology manual, the one titled, “Maintaining the Momentum.” Had Amazon read that chapter it would have seen the invaluable contribution Steve Jobs brought to Apple, build a device that people want, build a device that works. It looks like Amazon has done neither.

In fact following strong initial sales, the Amazon Fire, initially touted as the only real affordable alternative to the iPad, has seen consumer interest turn to anger and unfettered praise from market analysts turn into unbridled criticism. So is this the end of the Kindle Fire?

The firestorm of resentment towards Amazon’s Kindle Fire began last week when influential usability expert Jakob Nielsen lambasted the Fire, stating that it offered “a disappointingly poor” user experience, warning that many consumers would be frustrated by the poor touchscreen interface and slow processing speed. Since then, as is so often the case with product reviews, the tide has turned against the Fire, with many in the media changing their tune entirely.

Negative media hype aside, however, and there remain some serious issues with Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Complaints on Amazon’s site, where many of the device’s ratings are poor, range from the absence of external volume control, a poorly located off switch, slow processor speeds, and a distinct lack of privacy and security.

The latter point, it seems, is one that will likely have many worried, as Amazon’s quick one-touch purchase feature has made it remarkably easy for anyone, say children or thieves, to purchase whatever they want with the touch of a button and easy for anyone, say noisy spouses, to see what you’ve been up to.

These complaints coupled with Mr. Nielsen’s recommendation to not purchase the Kindle Fire has many consigning the affordable tablet to the bin of product failures, the dreaded garbage pail, “where the Apple Newton, the Edsel, New Coke and McDonald’s Arch Deluxe languish.”

In fact, should the Fire fail it would have some notable tablet friends there as well, as HP’s TouchPad has already been damned while RIM’s Playbook sits in tech purgatory awaiting its eternal fate.

While such failures often doom products, I wouldn’t count the Kindle Fire dead just yet. Despite the fact that criticism abounds, Amazon steadfastly maintains that the Kindle Fire is doing very well and is, in fact, the company’s best selling product to date. Obvious propaganda aside, I would take that to mean sales remain robust.

For its part Amazon has promised a significant software upgrade in the next two weeks, one that will address many of the interface and usability complaints. Of course the upgrade won’t do anything for the ill-designed form factor of the Kindle Fire, as those changes will have to wait for the Kindle Fire 2, that is if the product survives that long.

Beyond that I don’t think anyone should ever underestimate the lure of affordable technology, a feature that will still draw many to the Kindle Fire this Christmas.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JC December 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

According to Amazon’s site, ratings on the Kindle Fire level off (at least when I last checked) at a flat four stars out of five. That’s out of nearly 6,000 customer reviews, so the response on Amazon is mostly positive thus far – hardly a “firestorm of criticism.”

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