Sunday, 24 April 2016

For & Against the Kindle Oasis

Generally the Kindle Oasis brought what was predicted, with incremental updates, including premium design features and a charging case, though not solar powered, that is more than an accessory. Surprisingly, there is no Bluetooth or waterproof features. Some complaints and objections came with the Oasis’s release, with its unjustified high price for little relative improvement. Overall, the Oasis, in my opinion, does not offer sufficiently substantial improvements to warrant its ‘premium’ tag or its price difference to the Kindle Paperwhite, let alone the Kindle Voyage. Below are arguments for and against the Kindle Oasis:

For the Kindle Oasis 

The Kindle Oasis offers an improved front-light and a case that is more than an accessory. In regards to front light improvements, we have ten LEDs, rather than the eight on the Voyage, resulting in a more evenly lit display. In this improvement Amazon aims to mimic the feel of ink on paper and we have what is better than anything on Amazon’s own Kindle range or available from other manufacturers. On the other hand, the bundled case is advertised to buttresses battery life to up to nine weeks. If we Consider the Oasis’s super lightweight (131 grams), better front-light, intuitive ergonomics and a bundled case that significantly prolongs battery life, then we could arguably justify an increase of £100 compared to the Voyage.

Further, regarding pricing, premium end smartphones retail considerably higher; the question arises if premium smartphone pricing, for example an Apple iPhone or Samsung S7, are more worthy for their cost. Further, many websites viewed the Kindle Oasis to be “crazy expensive” but this points to a broader issue with technology publications in how they often carry the bias of individual reviewers and what they envisage as use case scenarios for consumer devices. Thus e-readers are considered secondary devices, while smartphones would be primary ones, and some do not comprehend a ‘premium’ single-use device. Other technology writers seem to believe that many e-readers do the same thing and it would be frivolous to justify upgrades similar to upgrade cycles with smartphones. The point here is that the Kindle Oasis is intended for dedicated e-readers and, accordingly, they would want the best possible reading experience. For this intended segment of users an e-reader could be a primary device and the Kindle Oasis is a reading tool that beats anything out there for its size and features.

Against the Kindle Oasis 

Overall, the case is stronger against the Kindle Oasis. The main problem is in a device that maintains the same display size, e-ink technology (Carta), 300 dpi and even slightly worse contrast ratio to other Kindle models. These are hardware features on the substantive side of any e-reader; considering this, there is little reason to upgrade to or choose this Kindle over the Kindle Paperwhite (a similar argument could be made against the Voyage compared to the Paperwhite). In regards to a case prolonging battery life than e-ink e-readers offer more than enough battery. The same can be said with an improved front-light, mimicking the feel of printed paper - the Paperwhite’s front light is bright and even enough to make little difference.

What could make the Oasis worthy of its inflated price would be something that significantly improves the end-user’s reading experience with upgraded hardware, due to the near identical firmware features across Kindle devices. Hence this means either a larger display, e.g. an eight inch one, or Liquavista colour to complement a larger display. For the end-user hardware differentiation means better functionality with PDF files and text immersion with e-books. However, this would likely go against Amazon’s ethos of selling hardware as a gateway to their content. The point of the Oasis is not to just provide the best possible e-reader, at the moment, but to specifically provide the best possible e-reader to access Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem. For Amazon, It may not be effective to develop firmware to make use of hardware differentials, as the Kindle is primarily viewed as a device to access Amazon e-books, rather than a multi-functional e-reading hardware platform. The same may be stated with Kobo’s strategy, after exiting the tablet segment and concentrating on e-readers.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The new premium Kindle will bring incremental updates

Since Jeff Bezos announced an " all-new, top of the line Kindle almost ready. 8th generation" there has been speculation if this device will bring something different. Will it finally come with a Liquavista display? Is this a larger e-reader? Judging from Amazon's history with e-readers, I believe this will be an incremental update to their premium Kindle Voyage. Amazon tends react to what exists and then release a better end-product (similar to Apple). For example, Amazon reacted to touch and front-light after their introduction by Kobo and Barnes & Noble. Also, the pixel density of the mid-range Kindle Paperwhite was bumped to 300 ppi, after Kobo introduced the same resolution with its own mid-range Kobo Glo HD.

It is likely that Amazon will continue this trend with their upcoming premium device; instead of a Liquavista display or a larger e-reader (greater than 7 inches), we will likely see incremental updates to the Kindle Voyage. This means a likely 6/6.8 inch device, with a better processor, enhanced e-ink display, improved front-light, water-proofing, Bluetooth for content integration with Audible and Echo devices and a possible solar powered self-charging case. Amazon excels in content integration, across devices, and this update should emphasise better integration between this Kindle and the recent release of the Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap (adding to the range of Alexa supported devices).