Monday, September 12, 2011

How "Open" Will Kindle Tablet Be?

I recently got into a fun Twitter debate with Andrew Rhomberg. He wanted to know if I thought the much-anticipated Amazon Kindle tablet will be open, with no restrictions onwebsite access or Android app support. I stubbornly said yes, it's got to be or it won't be successful. Andrew then pointed out that everyone's not as "geeky" as me, that he doubts it will be as open as I suggest and that the mainstream market doesn't need it to be.

Gulp. You know what? I'm afraid he's right...sort of.

Most people probably don't care that today's Kindle web browser is awful. They're using the device to buy and read content. I think that changes when you go to a tablet. Of course, what we don't know is whether Amazon will market this device as a tablet or simply a color reader. If it's the former they better support any and all websites. After all, what if Barnes & Noble comes up with a cloud-based reader just like Amazon did? That should be usable from every device.

The same goes for apps, but I realize this is more than wishful thinking on my part. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize Amazon built their own Appstore for Android because they want a cut of every app bought for their device. I'm sure they'll also configure their Android Kindle so that you're only able to install apps from their app store on it. I figure there will be no support for the broader Android Market.

That would be a shame and it would prove that Amazon isn't confident enough in their own content ecosystem to offer a completely open device. What I want is a Kindle tablet that lets me install apps from any Android storefront. Sure, there's a nook app for Android. Let me run it on the Kindle tablet. More importantly, Amazon, make your reader app and content so irresistible that I don't even want to consider other apps. But don't lock them out. Besides, if Amazon doesn't offer a completely open device they'll only invite hackers to unlock it. I'd prefer not voiding the warranty but I'll seriously consider it if the tablet is too closed. You should too.


Dick Hartzell said...

You had me thinking Amazon would make their Kindle tablet platform open until you brought up hacking it. I've thought occasionally about hacking my Nook, thought occasionally about hacking my LG Optimus V android phone, but then I think back to when I tried to hack my Linksys WRT45G router and bricked it. Upshot: your average Kindle book reader doesn't want to hack anything. And even if hacking it were foolproof (maybe I should say brickproof), it's a tedious extra step most mere mortals don't want to be bothered with. Consider Apple's old slogan: It just works. That's what most of us want from these devices. Bottom line, I don't think Amazon is going to be influenced by the prospect of hackers in deciding how open or closed their tablet should be.