notes on interaction design

December 08, 2011

Kindle Fire: Premature Predictions?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire has been getting a lot of heat this week (couldn’t resist the pun). The 7 inch tablet has been speculated to be a potential iPad killer, but some critics think it may not deserve all the hype due to usability and technical issues. It seems like we’re forgetting about how real customers may use this product.

Earlier this week, usability guru Jakob Nielsen wrote a rather harsh critique of the Kindle Fire based on a study of 4 users. He admits that this is not quantitative by any means, but feels that it is certainly indicative of behavior. It seems to be more indicative of first-time usage behavior. There is always a learning curve when someone uses a product for the first time. The goal is to mitigate this learning curve by following existing usage patterns. Nielsen’s test participants were iPhone and Android phone users, so they did have experience with similar OS’s and touchscreen interactions. However, there is still some learning and becoming accustomed to the device in their hands. We don’t know what these users’ experiences would be like the second, third, or fourth time they used the product.

Moreover, real customers may be willing to put up with some usability issues and technical glitches for the $199 price tag (compared to the $500 entry price of other tablets). They may be motivated to overcome some initial hurdles to have an affordable tablet experience. Or users may not even think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet, but instead think of it as an eBook with extras. Looked at in that way, users may give the Kindle Fire a pass. You can take a look at readers’ comments debating how it should be considered in this article commenting on a potential dip in Kindle usage.

It’s natural for there to be a lot of speculation about a new gadget that a large company just launched. We just shouldn’t lose sight of how users will use this product over time. Nielsen’s study is great for gathering some initial usage findings, but a little premature in making sweeping predictions. In fact, CNET Blogger Brooke Crothers disagrees with some of his findings. Everyone has an opinion right now, but let’s see what the data show early next year when there are more users in the market.

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One Response to Kindle Fire: Premature Predictions?

  1. Gerard Lagana says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you said, “…real customers may be willing to put up with some usability issues and technical glitches for the $199 price tag (compared to the $500 entry price of other tablets).” This is the market that Amazon is targeting. Amazon won’t publicly acknowledge that Android is the OS running the Fire, nor are they calling it a tablet. The Fire is a consumption device. Is it slow? Is it heavy? Yes to both questions, but to someone who has never used a tablet none of these things are even a factor. Would I call the Fire an iPad killer? No I would not. I would say that the Fire is a nice compliment to the iPad. Amazon is following Apple’s model here and it will serve them well.

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