Monday, January 25, 2010

Apps for the Kindle

Amazon has announced that it will be soliciting applications for the Kindle from outside developers. The firm plans to sell these apps through an online store. Naturally, Amazon has taken this step as a preemptive move to address the enormous threat posed by Apple's new tablet-like device.

This article on Business Week's website focuses on the possibility of games being developed for the Kindle. While that may be promising, the device itself may need to be overhauled to make the platform amenable to high quality game development. Of course, one could imagine simple "brain" games such as crosswords and Sudoku working quite nicely on the Kindle. Beyond that, the opportunity, and perhaps necessity, exists for Kindle to make its device much more interactive with regard to book and periodical content. The article mentions the education market and the possibility of interactive content in that space. The potential of interactive content, I believe, stretches far beyond the education market.

The question is: Can Amazon court enough developers to cope with the Apple threat? Does Apple have too much of a head start with the developer community, based on the iPhone platform? Ultimately, Amazon has to decide what business it is in. If the fundamental purpose of the Kindle business is to drive book sales, then Amazon must take great strides to make it economically attractive for developers. More apps means more Kindle sales means more e-book revenue. That seems to be the equation. The revenue potential of the apps, as well as the hardware revenue of the Kindle, appears to mean far less than the huge opportunity to drive book sales through this platform.


Luke Bornheimer said...

Quotes from today's Apple's earnings call:

Peter Oppenheimer (When asked about the tablet): "Stay tuned"

Tim Cook: "I wouldn't want to take away your joy and surprise on Wednesday"

Steve Jobs: "The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we're really excited about."

Looks like Amazon is in trouble. I suppose their Kindle app could compete...?

When it comes down to it, let's call a spade a spade; The Kindle has ALWAYS been a single-use device and until now, its done it well and led the market. But with Apple entering the scene with their new device, anyone looking for an ebook reader that does MORE than just read books, they will be looking at the shiny new Apple device.

Sorry Amazon, the party is over! Make room for Apple and the mythical "tablet".

Michael Roberto said...

Luke, I think you are right. It's certainly the case that Apple will have a huge head start if all the iPhone apps also will play on the tablet. Even if not, they have a huge developer community read to go to work for them, plus a core base of loyal fans who are dying to try the device, offer them feedback, and help them make it even better.

Daniel Peiser said...

I think that Amazon should focus on what the Kindle was made for: Ebooks.
The new apps should revolve around reading and they could make the Kindle community grow if developers put the social networking aspect as a priority.
I wrote a blog post on with some ideas about "E-Bookcrossing" or multiplayer gamebooks (I loved reading-playing them!), and in the end I think that giving Kindle users the ability to create quizzes or competitions and to share their ebooks with friends would be a smart move from Amazon.

Luke Bornheimer said...

Dan, I agree that Amazon should focus on ebooks and ebooks only. Apps that revolve around reading would be interesting and I think they might add value to the device and those who are interested in it.

With that said, the reality of times is that the trends are moving away from reading books and towards online content. For the Kindle, due to its black and white screen, it stands NO chance to compete with other devices in these categories.

For people who want a dedicated ebook reader and nothing more, the Kindle is PERFECT (though the Nook is a good challenger), but if you can't rationalize paying $259 for an ebook reader (which MANY people cannot), then you will never buy the device.

On the other hand, a device that offers media-rich content, intuitive browsing/email, ebook content, and an App Store with more than 130,000 apps, is A LOT more appealing despite costing more. People don't like being locked into one use and that's exactly what the Kindle represents, even with their efforts to create "apps".

Daniel Peiser said...

Yes, the price is a big issue. Most people wouldn't pay more than $50-100 for an ebook reader ( ), and they would expect to access to free content as they do on the internet.

Luke Bornheimer said...

To me, the "tablet" represents Apple's forward-looking approach and attack on the netbook/mass media-device market.

As Apple has stated in the past, they refuse to make a product with "a cramped keyboard, a bad/compromised OS, and a cramped screen." Furthermore, with Google entering the market later this year with ChromeOS, the focus on mass consumer-tech seems to be focused at offering devices that optimize the experience of accessing the internet and content that is at your finger tips and isn't necessarily a "traditional" computer.

With the "tablet", Apple will provide consumers a device that can do everything a consumer would want out of a computer (sans typing papers or spreadsheets) without a physical keyboard. When a keyboard is necessary or convenient, a dock and wireless keyboard would provide the user with an optimal solution.

With the iPhone, Steve Jobs pointed out something that made sense, but done prior (in an intuitive way): removing the physical keyboard. It was something that MOST OF THE TIME didn't get used and that space could be better used to create an awesome user experience and interface. With the "tablet", I believe Apple will aim to do the same thing: remove the physical keyboard, something that normally is just a nuisance and can be supplemented when necessary.

Other times when Apple took away things that weren't necessarily ALWAYS needed: the floppy disk drive, the optical drive (Macbook Air).