The rumor mill had been rife with talk of an Amazon for months. And no wonder: Amazon is the only company whose shopping services could create an integrated tablet experience that gives Apple a run for its money. What Amazon announced today with the Fire is less of a ready-to-use tablet and more of a targeted companion for Amazon's content and cloud services.
The Kindle Fire is limited in several meaningful ways. For starters, it ships with just . That isn't a lot of space for the kind of content I can easily envision consumers clamoring to use with the tablet. Surprisingly I got multiple different answers from Amazon execs when I asked them how much space a typical 2-hour movie takes up: The most intelligible of the answers suggested that up to 20 movies could reside on the device at once, but the reply clearly means that, as you amass your digital media collection, you'll need to make hard decisions about what you want to have on your Kindle Fire and when you should have it--not unlike the quandary over what should stay on your DVR. Forget taking the whole five seasons of Babylon 5 with you wherever you go, let alone carrying lots of video if your device is also packed with music. Yes, device media management has the potential to become quite tiresome over time--though just how tiresome is impossible to say until we have working devices in our hands.
You can sideload content of your own, but you'll also have to shop for your own apps to play that content. The video player is solely for Amazon purchased or streamed content, and the device has no image gallery for showcasing your favorite snaps.
Another limitation may be apps. The Kindle Fire uses a variation of Android 2.3, with its own mostly unique interface; I say "mostly" because every so often, in the Web browser or in messages that popped up, I saw hints of the Kindle Fire's Android roots. Apps for the device will come from the Amazon Appstore, but Amazon stocks a fraction of the total number of Android apps available now--just 10,000 of the 200,000 in the Android Market.