Home Software Update May Not Be The Answer To the Kindle Fire’s Woes

Software Update May Not Be The Answer To the Kindle Fire’s Woes

The Kindle Fire is reportedly getting a software update within the next couple of weeks, according to the New York Times. It will be an over-the-air update intended to improve scrolling, poor browser performance, parental controls and security issues. According to the report, Amazon has had a plethora of user complaints on the reviews of the device and the press has been less than friendly to the Fire. The question becomes: can a software upgrade really heal what is failing in the Fire?

This was bound to happen for Amazon. The Fire is a device made on second-tier hardware trying to fork Android Gingerbread into a seven-inch form factor with a toned-down approach based off media consumption. The Fire is an ambitious project trying to work off a scaled-down approach.

Amazon’s problems are two-fold. First, it is running Gingerbread Android 2.3.5 that has been heavily customized. Android devices tend to have some lagging issues anyway and the more a manufacturer tweaks the original source code, the more problems tend to present themselves. For evidence, look to Motorola’s implementation of MotoBlur, that just about everyone blames for Motorola’s poor user interface problems. Tweaking Gingerbread for performance issues should help Amazon make the Fire more useable but it is not the only challenge the device faces.

As any heavy Android user will tell you, the platform needs a lot of power to work well. Powerful processors, robust wireless receptors etc. The Kindle Fire does not have any of these things. When we wrote our review of the Fire, we noted that the Fire’s hardware is what limits the ability of its software and the applications that can run on it. The only way that Amazon can truly fix the Fire is to make another one with a different form factor and better innards. A new Fire has been rumored to be in the works for sometime in the first half of 2012 with a larger screen.

Amazon was inherently handcuffed with the making of the Fire. Two things were working against the company during the device’s development cycle. Foremost was the fact that Google had not released the open source code of Honeycomb (and still has not though the documentation for Honeycomb is in the Ice Cream Sandwich release), which meant that Amazon did not have the native tablet UI and various app permissions inherent to work from. The second problem working against Amazon was the price point. To keep the device within a reasonable sum without losing too much money, hardware had to be cut back. As mentioned above, limited hardware for makes for a limited Android experience.

No matter how many OTA software upgrades Amazon gives the Fire, it is still going to be a sub-optimal device. Look at the closest corollary to the Fire on the market, the BlackBerry PlayBook. Since its release in April, the PlayBook has seen a plethora of updates. None of them have made the device discernibly better or attracted more consumers to buy it. Amazon has the hype for now, but if consumers feel that the company cannot hold it promise of dynamic and functional user interface, the Fire and its Android kindred will lose the popular mindshare to the next big product.

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