Just about every news outlet in the world is buzzing about the launch of Amazon's new Kindle tablet, called the Fire. The real story is not the Fire, however. It's Amazon Silk, the new properietary browser created just for Kindle.
Make no mistake, Amazon is going mano a mano against Apple. But, it's not the Kindle tablet vs. the Apple iPad. This is about Amazon.com vs. iTunes.
Even beyond that, it's about data mining. The Kindle Fire is just the bait to get us in the Amazon tent.
What's unique about Silk is that it divides the online browsing chores between the device's hardware and Amazon's cloud (EC2). From the user's perspective, you browse the Web, surfing from site to site, downloading page after page of content. But in this case, the real processing work is actually being done in Amazon's cloud.
Here's how: Traditionally, tablets with their lesser processing speeds are challenged compared to regular computers. The page loading, along with rendering all those images and their various external scripts, can be clunky and slow. Amazon explains that with Silk, it can render all of that in its cloud with super-computing speed and then download a compressed version to the Kindle at much faster speeds than other tablets.
Anecdotally, reports seem to support Amazon's claims. However, it will take a some days before we start seeing the first results of independent testing clocking actual speeds.
It doesn't matter. It's just the cheese to set the trap, anyway.
As I wrote about in yesterday's post, I have reservations about the claim that the Kindle Fire is going to make its bones in the tablet market. But the Kindle line is another matter. Through the Kindle, Amazon is positioning itself to be the gateway to every move you make on the Internet. Amazon even brags it will give you the privacy to surf anonymously, because every site you visit will only leave behind Amazon's IP address as a footprint and not your own.
There's only one catch to that. Your every move may be anonymous to the sites you visit. But, it won't be anonymous to Amazon. Amazon is positioning itself to data-scrap every move a customer makes.
Back to iTunes
The media have become so obsessed with Apple's cash cows, the iPhone and iPad, it has taken its eye off the other cash cow: iTunes.
Over the past decade, Apple has brilliantly built a walled garden where the average customer invests hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars over time in buying media content (music, movies, apps, games, eBooks, etc.). From the customer's perspective, if you don't like the latest iPad or iPhone or iPod; what are you really going to do about it? Porting over all your files to another ecosystem is a pain, if not impossible for the not-so-tech savvy user.
Amazon wants its walled garden too. Just like Apple first did with the iPod and then the iPhone and now the iPad, Amazon wants to do the same using the Kindle.
It would be the vehicle to check you in, so you can never quite leave.
"We don't think of Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service."
Amazon CEO and founder, JefF Bezos, is not making much of a secret of all this. At yesterday's launch event he said the following: "We don't think of Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service."
Earlier this week, I wrote about the creepiness of OnStar's announcement that it plans to data-mine the movements of even its former subscribers with presumably inactive systems still in their cars.
This is worse, much worse. It doesn't bode well for personal privacy and it doesn't bode well for the online start-up that may soon find much of their potential online customer base already under the thumb of their larger, established online competitors.
Last updated: Sep 29, 2011
RENEE ORICCHIO is a technology writer and former supervising news producer for CNN Financial News. She has been covering the computer industry since 1987. @oricchio