Bruce Eckel gives up on the Kindle Fire
So when the Fire was announced, I was already primed. I really liked the Kindle experience, and here was a tablet computer for only $199! It seemed like it was time to take the leap.
This was my first tablet computer so I assumed I'd have to compensate and adapt. The 7" screen makes selecting and typing a hit-and-miss affair; perhaps younger and nimbler fingers were having a better time of it.
Then I tried transferring an AVI video file to the device. No go; it simply didn't see the file. Also, there's no way to add memory so even if video files did work I wouldn't be able to put very many of them in (I found one or two blogs that said you had to translate them into MP4 format first, but following those instructions produced no joy. Apparently you also need to use a tool that will translate them and create a special profile file before the Fire will recognize it but I never got that far).
Then a really big surprise. I've been creating a tool to memorize lines for an upcoming play, and it creates a .mobi file (the Kindle format) so I can upload it to the Kindle and use it to prompt myself. This has been terrifically useful, and it's also pushed me through the process of learning how to create this Kindle-specific format.
Or so I thought.
It turns out the Fire doesn't read .mobi format. This completely stuns me -- Amazon has invested so much in having their own format which goes against the apparently more powerful EPUB format that I can't see how they wouldn't have built-in support for it in the Fire. But sure enough, I uploaded my .mobi files to the "books" directory of the Fire and they didn't show up. I understand that there's probably some way to manage all this stuff and get what you want but it seems like an uphill battle.
The more I used the Fire, the more it felt like I was looking through the wrong end of a spyglass and all I could see was Amazon. I had read that the Fire is designed as a consumption device for Amazon products but I hadn't believed that they would go to so much trouble to hobble what should be a general purpose computer. This is an unfortunate sign for the company; it means that the people who are running it are salesmen and bean counters who are more concerned about what a product does for the company and its bottom line than what it actually does for the customer.
Still, I was determined to try to make a go of the Fire because its $199 price tag seemed to be a breakthrough for tablets and could motivate a lot of people to get one, so I should know about them.
Then I went to Costco. There, I saw a $189 Vizio Android tablet which was not only 8" (vs. 7" for the Fire) but also had things like a camera and expandable memory. So there went the price advantage. Next to it was a 10.1" Acer Iconia Tab A500 for $319, sporting the very latest Android as well as things like a GPS and front and back cameras. The size alone drove me to this one.
The feel between the Acer and the Fire is nothing short of totally different. From the first moment, the Acer feels like a real computer, one which is trying to enable you rather than restrict you.