Amazon is slowly stirring itself into action by improving its Kindle e-reader, just as I suggested it ought to if it’s going to compete with the iPad and other tablet PCs. The first move: Improving the shoddy Web-browsing experience on the device.
We know Amazon is working on this thanks to a job opening in the company’s Kindle division Lab126 seeking an engineer to develop an “innovative embedded Web browser.” The engineer in question must have expertise in Java software development, experience working with Linux-based embedded devices, experience working with Browser Engines, and (score one for cross-platform compatibility) “familiarity with current Web standards.” The job will be to develop and implement new features on the browser, support and improve existing browser versions and all the back-office documentation issues that go behind software projects like this.
Three things can be inferred from this job posting. First, Amazon is aware its current “experimental” Kindle browser is an embarrassing piece of naffness that barely functions even for static Web pages (and fails at displaying fast-updating content thanks to e-ink’s slow refresh rate). Second, that old browser on older Kindles will remain, indicating Amazon may not be updating it and instead crafting a new browser for a newer Kindle–perhaps with features like speedier-updating that can’t be supported on older hardware. Finally, and this is speculative but exciting, Amazon may be pushing to get this new gear on the shelves sooner rather than later. This comes from the text asking the job applicant to deliver “high quality work on tight schedules,” which is seen pretty commonly…but with such seemingly long development cycles for the previous Kindle editions, you have to wonder if a “tight schedule” means Kindle 3 is on its way pretty soon.
So, congratulations to Amazon for making the first move to turning Kindle into a seriously useful cross-purpose device: This is absolutely vital for the future success of the Kindle as a hardware platform. And before naysayers chime in with a “dedicated devices will always have a place. I love my Kindle!” I know… I know. But Joe Public is going to look at the Kindle, with its relatively high price and mono-purpose skills, and compare it to the iPad and the host of tablet PCs en route and think twice, particularly when you’ll likely get a Kindle app for iPad. Amazon could, of course, call it a day on the hardware (since e-readers may have but a brief time in the limelight) and pursue a software-only model for Kindle. But it would seem keen to play in the hardware game for at least one generation more of Kindle.
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