Amazon answers to Kindle Fire's memory shortcoming
Often at big product launches, the devil's in the details, and companies sometimes conveniently forget to mention some features that may be perceived as negatives.
In launching the Kindle Fire, the big headline for Amazon was the tablet's impressively affordable $199 price tag. As Jeff Bezos said multiple times, "We are building premium products and offering them at nonpremium prices," and it's hard to argue with him when it comes to both the Kindle Fire and the new e-ink Kindles. But now that some of the euphoria over the launch has ebbed, folks are starting to look more closely at some of the potential shortcomings of the device.
Big on my list is the limited 8GB of storage, with only 6GB usable (and no expansion slot) and the apparent lack of Bluetooth (Amazon does not list it in the specs).
Others have mentioned the fact that there's no camera or GPS. Those feature may be important to some, but you just wouldn't expect them to be there in a product at this price point. After all, the $249 Nook Color also left off the camera and Bluetooth. Interestingly, that device apparently has a Bluetooth chip, but Barnes & Noble has chosen not to activate it, so who knows, maybe Amazon is hiding one, too.
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Aside from the cost savings, limiting the Kindle Fire to 8GB is actually part of Amazon's strategy to get you to use its cloud-based Web services, which include e-books, MP3 audio, Netflix-like video streaming (Prime members can stream thousands of videos at no extra charge), and its Amazon Appstore for Android. Using Amazon's Whispersync wireless syncing technology, you're supposed to move content on and off the device. (For instance, you can own dozens--or hundreds, or thousands--of books, but you only need to have a handful on the device at any given time.) Oh, and while you're at it, maybe you'll do a little shopping on Amazon, too (as Amazon says, the Fire has no system requirements, "because it's wireless and doesn't require a computer," which is an appealing trait, especially to technophobes).
This is all a great business strategy and makes a lot of sense. Amazon cuts you a break on the device, you reward it by becoming an even more loyal customer.
Of course, that kind of thinking isn't for everyone. As one CNET reader said, "I don't do the cloud," and if you're someone who likes to store a lot of content on your device (including several movies) and don't have ready access to a Wi-Fi connection, the 8GB of memory will seem very limiting. And as far as we know--though Amazon hasn't confirmed--there's no ability to cache videos, so you're out of luck if you're in a low-bandwidth or no-Wi-Fi zone.
As far as the potential lack of Bluetooth goes, this presents some different limitations. First and foremost, you won't be able to stream to a Bluetooth speaker or headset. Presumably, you'll be able to use wired headphones with a built-in mic, so some will say that's not a huge deal. But having wireless audio capabilities seems important for a device like this (right now Skype isn't available in the Appstore for Android but other VoIP calling apps are). You also won't be able to turn the Kindle Fire into a GPS navigation device by connecting it via Bluetooth to your cell phone.
As I said, for some people, these possible shortcomings will seem minor or not an issue at all. (Our Molly Wood shrugged them off.) But for others, they might be deal breakers.
For a look at how Amazon views the Fire's limited storage space, check out the video above with Russ Grandinetti, Amazon's vice president for Kindle content.