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The Kindle Fire could burn developers

by Scott Bicheno on 30 September 2011, 13:46

Tags: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Mubaloo

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Further fragmentation

This opinion piece was written by Scott Bown, senior Android developer at Mubaloo (pictured below), who we invited to offer a developer perspective on the big Amazon tablet launch.

 

Innovation is good. Innovation helps to drive the market forward. It creates opportunities, ecosystems and changes the way in which we access content. It changes business models. It challenges convention.

Take the Amazon Kindle Fire. In the same way Amazon revolutionised the book retail ecosystem, online shopping and, recently e-book industry, this is likely to add a new dimension to the way consumers access media content. The change here has already been done by Apple and Google of course, but by making the Fire accessible to the masses and releasing in the run up to Christmas, it will likely blaze off the shelves.

A lot of this is possible by the way in which Amazon have chosen to do data storage. By utilising the cloud and Amazon's (and only Amazon's if you want the best experience) extensive collection of digital content, consumers get their favourite content streamed (only over Wi-Fi) to their devices. 

For on-the-go movement, there is the 8GB of storage to keep the most recent TV shows, movies, books, magazines and music. Amazon knows that, even if they lose money on hardware costs, they will make up for it in revenue from content. Why would you buy your music and films from anywhere other than Amazon when this means you can store your data in the cloud and access it online through numerous other devices?

Everything is burning brightly then yes? Well, there are some caveats to this. Consumers have grown accustomed to apps. They love the design, the ease and speed of getting content, games, news and information onto devices from their touchable, usable screens. It is here that the Fire starts to flicker.

Because the Fire runs a heavily customised version of Android, apps will need to be programmed and tested specially for it. While this isn't uncommon with development (coding for Internet Explore/Safari/Chrome; iPhone/iPad; Xbox/PS3 etc) it does add to the already fragmented nature of Android, making it essential that developers have to code for Honeycomb, Amazon and soon Ice Cream Sandwich.

Further to this, all apps that are coded for the Fire need to be put through an approval process with Amazon. While good for alleviating some of the malicious content to make it onto the Marketplace, it adds to the time of development further. Android developers won't be used to the processes Amazon will put in place which could make them question whether they target it or not.

To add to the complexity, as the Fire doesn't appear to map to a current Android API version and doesn't have a required Google account, some of the features Android developers currently take for granted, such as Google's free push notifications, won't be available. 

Of course, this isn't being billed in the same category as Android tablets. It is a media consumption device so some of these issues may not be important. It is just whether consumers unfamiliar with the differences will purchase a Fire expecting to gain access to Android apps.

The Silk browser does add some promise here by speeding up web pages, and thus reducing a big advantage that native apps have. As fragmentation continues, it certainly adds extra weight to the argument to develop cross-platform web-apps which are becoming more advanced as tools are developed.

It remains to be seen how brightly the Fire can shine. One thing that is evident is that Android developers across the world will have extra work on their hands if they want a piece of the Amazon pie.

 

 



HEXUS Forums :: 15 Comments

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Because the Fire runs a heavily customised version of Android, apps will need to be programmed and tested specially for it. While this isn't uncommon with development (coding for Internet Explore/Safari/Chrome; iPhone/iPad; Xbox/PS3 etc) it does add to the already fragmented nature of Android, making it essential that developers have to code for Honeycomb, Amazon and soon Ice Cream Sandwich.

Further to this, all apps that are coded for the Fire need to be put through an approval process with Amazon. While good for alleviating some of the malicious content to make it onto the Marketplace, it adds to the time of development further. Android developers won't be used to the processes Amazon will put in place which could make them question whether they target it or not.
Well, assuming that's true (and I've no reason to doubt it), it's exactly what I was afraid of, and the Fire just got crossed off my list. A shame but not a surprise.
Cheap Android tablet, that will probably succeed because Amazon are behind it, but will be under used because who would choose it over a full fat Android tablet if they wanted to use 100% of it's potential.
Less technical might love it however…

Close, but no cigar is my verdict!
Because the Fire runs a heavily customised version of Android, apps will need to be programmed and tested specially for it. While this isn't uncommon with development (coding for Internet Explore/Safari/Chrome; iPhone/iPad; Xbox/PS3 etc) it does add to the already fragmented nature of Android, making it essential that developers have to code for Honeycomb, Amazon and soon Ice Cream Sandwich.
Argh :crazy: then maybe it's not an Android tablet, any more than an Android tablet is a Linux one. Really unhappy that Amazon have decided to fork Android - silly, silly, silly in my book. Surely they realise that this'd make it more difficult/costly for developers to put stuff on Fire? In which case, if I was in that position I'd say “to hell with it” and just develop for those “few” non-Fire Android devices out there in the wild.

I was going to give a thumbs up to Amazon, but if what the author says is true then Amazon are out of their collective minds. :'( …

… and they should have shown more sense and tried to buy webOS (for a song) from HP rather than do “something like Android”!
I really hope this isn't true. Who in their right mind decided not to make it a standard android API version. That would make development a nightmare. Makes we think apps on this are really an after thought and its really just about selling books, films and music…
Seems I'm not alone in my view. I remember when I said, a few days ago when the news story of the details surfaced, that I was very nervous about remarks about tight integration' with cloud services'. This is exactly what I had in mind.

Amazon rate quite highly on my “who to deal with” list because good products and excellent customer service has been my experience, and that includes the Kindle 3. But if they have tied it down like that, then I too think they're idiots because they'll have (IMHO) killed the golden goose before it laid any eggs at all.