Amazon’s New Kindle Fire HD, Plus Ads

Yesterday, Amazon announced the arrival of six new additions to the Kindle family of e-readers and tablets. The first two are new versions of the Kindle “paperwhite” e-reader, which, according to the tech media blog “The Verge,” feature upgraded pixel density and contrast, a lower price and 3G capabilities.

Also released yesterday was an improved version of the seven-inch Kindle Fire, which includes a faster processor and twice as much RAM as the old version, and the new Kindle Fire HD line. The Kindle Fire HD comes in 7- and 8.9-inch versions as well as a version that features LTE connection capabilities.

Amazon’s new line of Kindle HD devices represents what could be an interesting change in the direction of the company.

Before Amazon was the catch-all e-commerce hub that it is today, it was, and continues to be, an online bookstore. It is for this reason that the original Kindle, other than being a pioneering technology in the burgeoning field of e-readers, never aroused much curiosity regarding the direction that Amazon was taking with its business. In fact, it seemed only natural that an online bookstore might also break into e-reader technology.

But the Kindle Fire, which runs an Android operating system, doesn’t seem much like an e-reader anymore. Instead, it looks and feels more like a tablet — something along the lines of Apple’s iPad.

In fact, it’s easy to tell which device Amazon’s designers were using to model the Kindle Fire — it looks a lot like the first generation iPad. Even on the seven-inch model, its screen is spacious and bright.

Given Apple’s recent legal tangle with Samsung, this ought to raise some concern at Amazon. Although it utilizes an entirely different operating system, the hardware’s design is strikingly similar to the iPad’s — it even features a forward-facing camera.

Amazon’s announcement of the Kindle Fire HD family means that it has fully committed to going the route of Barnes and Noble’s Nook — which is to say that Amazon will definitely continue making its e-readers with color screens and tablet-like functionality.

While this isn’t a problem — in fact, I suspect that the Kindle Fire HD will make lots of money for Amazon — it also suggests that Amazon may be taking a bigger step into the field of consumer electronics. It’s hard to argue that the Kindle Fire isn’t remarkably similar to the Apple iPad — or the B&N Nook, or Samsung’s line of Galaxy tablets. Is it possible that Amazon will make a little extra competition for these other companies?

I couldn’t tell you for sure — after all, I’m only a writer for a college newspaper.

However, something that did catch my eye was the announcement that all of the new Kindle Fire devices will feature advertisements and special offers from Amazon on their lock screens.

These advertisements serve two main purposes. The first, and most obvious, is to facilitate Amazon’s never-ending quest to sell more stuff to more people.

From a business standpoint, advertising on a device’s lock screen makes pretty good sense. For those of you with smartphones, think about your own lock screen. With the exception of a clock and maybe some music-related controls, the lock screen is essentially wasted space.

Capitalizing on this space is a great way for Amazon to generate more sales without sacrificing functional screen space. Whichever Kindle Fire designer came up with this idea deserves a big pat on the back.

The second purpose of advertising on the lock screen is to drive down the price of the Kindle Fire itself. If Amazon can incite consumers to buy other, Kindle-related goods, it can generate the money necessary to drop the price of the device. Consumers are always more inclined to buy products that cost less, so finding a way to make the Kindle Fire less expensive is a great way for Amazon to generate sales.

On the other hand, a device with advertising on the lock screen reeks of corporate mischief and could prove to be nothing but an inconvenience for consumers.

In this modern world, nothing is more frustrating than dealing with pesky advertising, especially where it isn’t wanted. Clever though it may be, advertising on the lock screen may prove to be just another frustration for Kindle users.

In the end, Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HD family looks promising. Will this new advertising on the lock screen be a detriment to the device’s sales? Will other tablet manufacturers start doing it, too? As before, there really isn’t any way of knowing — it’s just fun to think about.

Assistant Editorials Editor Nicholas Bradley is a College sophomore from Skillman, N.J.