When Amazon unveiled its refreshed Kindle Fire line up yesterday, it was greeted with cheers, as the online retailer demoed some really decent tablets. The Kindle Fire HD, features a clean design, a high-resolution display, a refined Amazon interface—on top of Android 4.0—and most of all, an attractive price. When Amazon announced that a new 8.9-inch tablet, with a HD display, 16GB of storage, improved Wifi (two antennas), and price tag of only $299, the audience and those reading the live transcripts were left wondering how in the world can they sell a tablet with those specs at that price? We know with the last Kindle Fire, Amazon was content on selling the device at a loss, so it could gain marketshare, which it did, but the money would be made up on software, books and services. However, the last Kindle Fire was made with sub-par specs, meaning the loss per-unit wasn’t that great, this time, Amazon has upped the ante on the quality of the hardware, but are still offering it at a rock bottom price.
So how can they do it?
Amazon has decided to follow the “PC Method.” PC’s for years have become cheaper and cheaper because companies like Norton and Symantec, even AOL back in the day, all paid for their programs or applications to be placed on the computer’s desktop. By accepting money from these companies, per device, PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer and others could sell their computers at a much lower price, than say Apple, who only installs their own applications. The only difference with PCs and Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, is that users can simply delete the pre-installed applications on a PC, in fact, they can even re-install a factory version of Windows without violating any type of warranty. Amazon has stated that the ads on the Kindle Fire HD cannot be removed, but insists that they won’t get in the way. Ads will be placed on the device’s lock screen, which may not bother some, but many others may not like turning on their device and seeing an ad for a movie instead of a beautiful wallpaper they picked out. Once the device is unlocked, other ads will appear in the lower left hand corner of the device when in use.
I don’t know about many of you, but I really don’t like the idea of being constantly targeted with advertisements when using a device I’ve already paid for, no matter the price. While I’m sure it’s a great way to lower the price on the tablets and will undoubtedly make Amazon tons of money, for me, it’s a deal breaker. For me, the tablet will never really feel like it’s mine, it will feels as though I’m renting something that is constantly trying to sell me something. I also find it a bit misleading that Jeff Bezos failed to mention this highly controversial feature during the unveiling, because I’m sure many of those cheers would have turned to jeers.
Thanks for the cheap tablets Jeff, but like I do with my computers, I’ll pony up the extra cash to get a clean version of my OS, without ads, applications or other software I don’t want or need. You may have created some great hardware, but your method of making money stinks and may come back to bite you in the ass, especially when consumers find it obtrusive or retail clerks point the out the fact that your tablet features constant ads, with no way to remove them, while competitors like the iPad and Nexus 7 do not.
You almost had me Bezos, I almost wanted a Kindle Fire HD, but I’ll just stick with my new iPad and Nexus 7, I prefer their “clean” OS, sans the ads.
Second update: It appears that the statement that Engadget received was wrong. It now looks like an Amazon spokesperson spoke with CNET and confirmed, there is absolutely “no way” to remove the ads.
(*Note* It was pointed out that after all this went down, a customer wrote Amazon upset and wanted to opt out of those ads. The representative from Amazon said that “in the future” a method to opt out would be discussed, but that was all. Who knows how long it will take, whatever the case may be, customers won’t be able to opt out when the tablet goes on sale and if Amazon does allow users to opt out, they’ll surely have to “pay” to do so. I still stand by my post, that Amazon was no fully truthful on stage when they announced the Kindle Fire HD.
Here is the response from Amazon, originally posted at Engadget:
“Special Offers appear directly on your Kindle Fire. Offers appear on your lock screen, and you can also view offers from the Home screen by tapping Offers. By delivering these offers to your Kindle Fire, Amazon is able to sell it for a lower price.
“I understand that you would like to opt out of the special offer and willing to pay extra for opting out special offer. Options for unsubscribing special offer will be announced soon.
“To ensure the utmost attention, I’ve also passed your message on to the appropriate people in our company. We value customer feedback such as yours as it helps us continue to improve the service and selection we provide.”
When you pick up a Kindle Fire HD on November 20, don’t expect to be able to turn those ads off, don’t expect it for a while, as long as Amazon continues to make more money from them, than they would if you’d pay to opt out.)