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Kindle 2 more competitive with smartphones but not yet available on them


08/02/2009

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos today held a press conference in New York City to introduce the Kindle 2, a 0.36-inch-thick device with a minimal grid keyboard, new button placement and seven times more storage than the original. The device, images of which were leaked before the launch, is thinner than the iPhone 3G and includes Whispersync, a feature that will automatically sync the original Kindle to the second version.

The Kindle has been up against substantial pressure from smartphones offering similar functionality, particularly the iPhone 3G and its Stanza app, at one time thought to be more popular than Amazon’s e-reader. The company did not announce immediate smartphone compatibility for the Kindle, as was rumored, but said that the Whispersync technology would eventually be applied to other mobile devices as well. Whispersync is supported by Sprint’s EV-DO network for 3G CDMA connectivity to keep track of the page a reader is on and open to that page on whichever device the reader picks up next.

Bezos told press conference attendees that Amazon has been selling e-books for years, but it never worked until 14 months ago. Now, more than 10% of the units sold at Amazon.com are Kindle book sales, driven by an increase in selection, bringing the total to more than 230,000 options. Author Stephen King also made an appearance at the press conference to read from his new story, written specifically for the device.

“Our vision is every book ever printed in any language,” Bezos said at the press conference.

Through a five-way controller, the Kindle 2 will let users skip to different sections, preview stories and search for words by moving the cursor through the on-screen document. With built-in text-to-speech capability, stories can be read aloud to users. Also among the updates are 25% more battery life, good for two weeks of charge; a 16-level e-ink display to turn pages 20% faster than the original; and storage of 1500 books backed up on Amazon.com.

The Kindle is leading the charge for connected devices offering wireless connectivity but lacking a service contract or carrier relationship visible to the end consumer. Both the original and second device cost $359 plus a fee for any e-books or online materials downloaded directly to it. The cost of connectivity is built into each download, and Sprint receives a share of the profit. While the Kindle lacks a Web browser and, therefore, wouldn’t be considered in the emerging class of mobile Internet devices (MIDs), Ian Lao, senior analyst of emerging devices forIn-Stat, said the device is paving the way for others for which an Internet connection is just as important as the hardware and software involved.



 

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