As Kindle Fire Faces Critics, Remedies Are Promised
By DAVID STREITFELD December 11, 2011
The Kindle Fire, Amazon's heavily promoted tablet, is less than a blazing success with many of its early users. The most disgruntled are packing the device up and firing it back to the retailer.
A few of their many complaints: there is no external volume control. The off switch is easy to hit by accident. Web pages take a long time to load. There is no privacy on the device; a spouse or child who picks it up will instantly know everything you have been doing. The touch screen is frequently hesitant and sometimes downright balky.
All the individual grievances - recorded on Amazon's own Web site - received a measure of confirmation last week when Jakob Nielsen, a usability expert, denounced the Fire, saying it offered "a disappointingly poor" experience. For users whose fingers are not as slender as toothpicks, he warned, the screen could be particularly frustrating to manipulate.
"I feel the Fire is going to be a failure," Mr. Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm, said in an interview. "I can't recommend buying it."
All this would be enough to send some products directly to the graveyard where the Apple Newton, the Edsel, New Coke and McDonald's Arch Deluxe languish. But as a range of retailers and tech firms could tell you, it would be foolish to underestimate Amazon.
Amazon sees the Kindle line of devices as critical for its future as a virtual store, and is willing to lose money on the sale of each one for the sake of market share. Once dominance is achieved, it plans to make money on the movies, books and music that users download directly from Amazon.