Like the smartphone, the tablet computer is shifting how we interact with business applications. The Kindle Fire from Amazon offers business owners a way to get more done with a small portable computer at a very affordable price point.
Amazon provided a Kindle Fire loaner unit for this review so I could integrate it into my workflow over four weeks. If you are a business owner who needs more computing power from your mobile device, this review is for you.
Last year the Kindle Fire was all the rage for the consumer Holiday season, but many small business owners bought one with dual purpose in mind: personal use and testing for business. Why would a business consider this small tablet computer?
There are loads of reasons to use this device in a business, but here are two that come to mind:
1.) It is powerful and functional for basic web tasks. You can check email, visit websites, and I could see them in training environments to share educational videos.
2.) You could use it as a presentation device out in the field as the screen is big enough to see most details (compared to that smartphone you may be carrying and squinting at). At least three point of sale (POS) vendors have Kindle Fire apps. I’ve read short mentions of owners using it for bookkeeping and expense logging. I was able to download an app from Duct Tape Marketing guru John Jantsch, too.
While the Kindle Fire has limited capabilities for business owners, at this point, it will do several things to help. It raises the bar for other Android-based tablet makers to keep prices more affordable. I was tempted to “root” this device and see how it worked with a full-on version of Android, but it is, after all, just a loaned device.
What I like:
- It is very fast and just the right size to hold with one hand. Most wouldn’t use it as a phone, but I like the form factor more than the iPad for mobile use in a work setting.
- There are lots of business owners who want a more open source platform like Android and there are plenty of apps (not as many as the iOS platform) in development or in use today.
What I’d like to see:
- A way to access the full Android platform. Amazon is building on Android, but it is not a full-fledged Android device and there are probably more affordable tablets out there if you want to build your own applications. Not all Android apps will work on the Kindle.
- Cameras. There is no front or rear-facing camera. In fact, the Fire does not have some of the more commonly available tablet options: No GPS capabilities or Bluetooth. But, it comes in about half the price of most mainstream tablets. It offers value as an economy tablet. But there are some limitations due to the Kindle version of Android. If you are interested in a good discussion around the Android platform and using the Kindle Fire in future development work, this is a worthwhile read by Tony Bradley at PC World: Kindle Fire Creates Dilemma for Android.
Tablets will continue to change how we engage with the brands and companies we love. Amazon’s entry offers an affordable way to test it out. Analysts estimate that 5-6 million Kindle Fires have been sold. Again, those are mostly consumer numbers, however, when a platform picks up speed with consumers there is often an opportunity for small business. Please share how you are using the Kindle Fire in your business in the comments or by email. I’d love to hear your ideas.
Learn more about the Kindle Fire from Amazon.
I got this for Christmas and kept it for 2 days before sending back. Hardware is fine by operating system is a ruined version of android. If you just want to consume Amazon media fine, but overall, what a disappointment.
hey Jeff, thanks for the comment. I don’t know that I’d say its a “ruined” version, but I see your point.
What I will say from here out is not directed at you Jeff. I value that you shared your thoughts, but you raise a point that I think many will want to hear about. I mention it, more or less, in the review. Amazon has built on top of Android, created a fork in the road. That’s good and not-so-good. I won’t go as far as “bad” because they built it for exactly what you allude to — consuming Amazon media. I can’t fault them for that, really.
It does some things my iPad2 won’t do like let NetFlix run. Flash battles prevent that with iOS devices (for now). I’m working on a review of the Barnes & Noble Nook and its pretty impressive, too. But again, similar situation — its built on top of Android, not Android in a pure sense. Stay tuned.
For anyone technical or really wanting the best of all worlds, it will take some effort. You’ll have to “root” your Kindle Fire system, which does take time, effort, and can change how things look and feel. This is one of the best articles I’ve found for opening up your Kindle Fire: http://liliputing.com/2011/11/how-to-sideload-apps-even-the-android-market-on-the-amazon-kindle-fire.html | Again, its technical and incurs some risk. Buyer/reader beware. Read carefully and think about what you’re doing. Don’t flame me with comments about how you blew out your system, please. The point is – you can get control of just about any device, no matter what OS its running, if you’re willing to do it.
To close, what many people, including me, have come to is this — if you want an open tablet don’t buy the Kindle Fire. Buy something else. Just like Apple, there are millions of very, very happy and loyal Amazon customers and this $199 device gives them a lot for the money.
“There is no front or rear-facing camera. In fact, the Fire does not have some of the more commonly available tablet options: No GPS capabilities or Bluetooth.”
GPS and bluetooth are two of the things people find very useful today. I hope these left out features will be released with second generation kindle fire.
As for the OS, I hear it is a forked version of Android. I personally think that the interface and the browser both look nice. And on the whole I enjoy Amazon Prime. It’s a matter of personal preference I guess. Im not sure if its ideal for business though. But you make very good points.
Thanks TJ for sharing the wonderful post.. It was an interesting read.. Good to see about usage of tablet computer is useful for business activites…
Sowrabh Sharma “Sab”
thanks for the comment. That link i provide in the post will help explain the “forked” nature of Amazon’s Android efforts.
I have the same thoughts — I’m not sure if it is ideal for business, yet. However, what I see in the SMB market is a slower adoption in most cases. Tablet adoption is not my opinion, but fact. Mobile computing via smartphones and tablets is the future. The sooner a small biz owner looks for ideas and ways to make a tablet experience work for his or her customer, the better.
If nothing else, you understand what your website looks like on a tablet and more importantly how it works. If you run an ecommerce store, you absolutely need a Kindle Fire, a Nook, an iPad so that you can see how it works for your customer. Of course, not every business has this need, but my hope is that people will get creative with these platforms rather than treating it as an afterthought.
I am a small company zealot. It is pretty much my entire focus. And I say this with love — Walmart, Amazon, and a host of others are not eating the SMB owner’s lunch without permission, despite our rants and complaints. We have to take control if we want our business to grow and prosper. Getting a tablet isn’t going to solve that, of course, but being aware of the big trends and changes (why I’m here on SmallBizTrends because of Anita’s vision) that are impacting small business.
I just wrote a review (sort of) about Chris Meyer and Julia Kirby’s new book: Standing on the Sun: How the Explosion of Capitalism Abroad Will Change Business Everywhere. Here is the non-affiliate link to Amazon. It’s a heavy read but a lot of it can help small biz get ahead of the curve.
Is this a dramatic improvement on previous devices though?
hi Timmy, thanks for writing. Elaborate a bit on what you are asking, please. The Fire is a new, more robust device than previous Kindles if that’s what you mean.