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.