Will Kindle’s Fire Burn the iPad?

September 29, 2011

The hotly anticipated Kindle tablet was finally announced by Amazon yesterday. In case you missed it, Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a 7″ tablet capable of books, pictures, movies, apps and the web. But how much of an impact can the Fire really hope to make in a market which is dominated by Apple’s ‘magical device’ the iPad?

I think quite alot. Amazon have done the smart thing and not targeted the Kindle Fire directly at the iPad. Instead the Fire has been positioned much more as a tablet for people on a budget. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles the iPad boasts about. There’s no camera here, no microphone, no 3G, less on board space and a much smaller display. But you start to ask yourself, do you really need all of that?

What the Kindle does give you is access to Amazon’s library of content (and initially this will be absolutely free for a 30 day period). That’s millions of movies, music and books all at your fingertips through the device. Amazon’s content library is more than a rival for iTunes and because all of this will be living in the cloud, your smaller space constraints won’t really be much of an issue at all.

Kindle Fire also provides you with connectivity and compatibility that the iPad has so far failed to do. A USB port isn’t exactly an unusual port these days, yet due to Apple’s insistence that we should all be using their dock, it has yet to make it onto an iPad – Kindle Fire already has one. Apple continually have arguments, fall outs and disputes with Adobe meaning that Flash is yet to make it’s way to any iOS device – Kindle Fire has this out of the box.

Combine that with compatibility with a large variety of file types from documents to movies and music, and you can see how the Kindle Fire does actually have quite a few advantages over it’s iOS rival.

Rather than use Android’s native look or apps, Amazon have made their own which I personally love. Instead of the usual screen full of square blocks representing apps, you are presented with bookshelves full of apps that you can quickly flip through. A nice, unique and very Amazon approach to an interface.

Kindle Fire also comes with it’s own e-mail app and Amazon’s new web browser, Silk. Amazon claim that this browser cuts speed by by splitting the work between the tablet and Amazon’s servers in the cloud. Clever. It’ll also predict the sites you’ll visit next, although I’m not entirely sure how well this will work!

But back to the burning (sorry) question, is the Kindle Fire an iPad beater? Many have tried and failed, Samsung have had limited success and several legal cases, HP ended up discontinuing their short lived touch pads and Blackberry… well the less said about the Playbook the better.

This time however, I think that Apple may have a battle on their hands. Kindle Fire is basically a streamlined iPad, with some new clever thinking and a few ideas better than the iPad itself. And the real reason this will cause market disruption, is because this will only cost $199.99 (£127.00). The cheapest iPad by comparison is $499 (£399) – quite a price difference and one that I think Apple might find hard to justify.

By offering so much for such a little price, Amazon could really change the market and hurt the iPad significantly. I doubt however that Kindle Fire has the power to take the iPad down completely, it is still the best tablet on the market and has the best software available in iOS. But what it will do is force Apple to really rethink their product, the iPad 3 is going to have to tackle the Kindle Fire threat and that’s going to mean a lot of innovation from the guys in Cupertino.

The Kindle Fire will be released on November 15th in the states, there’s currently no date for the rest of the world, but I’m certain that when it does make it around the globe, it’ll be the best received Android tablet so far – but admittedly we are still a long way off the perfect tablet computer from any company…


The Fast Lane – Supreme Singapore Vettel, But No Championship Yet!

September 25, 2011

It was with an air of anticipation that the Formula One World moved to Singapore for the fourth time racing in the night. Through a series of complicated and convoluted calculations, Sebastien Vettel has the chance to win the world championship today, six races before the end.

And Vettel started as he meant to go on. Pole position in Saturday’s qualifying was followed by a storming start to the Grand Prix, leaving everyone (especially his team-mate) standing. For Mark Webber it was the same old story. Another poor launch saw both Button and the fast-starting Alonso make their way through. It also caused an early charge from Lewis Hamilton to be blocked. As he became stuck behind the Australian, Hamilton lost momentum and ended up in a disappointing eighth place after the first lap.

With Vettel commanding the field with a lead over 5 seconds after just two laps, all eyes were on Lewis Hamilton who was really fired up for this weekend. After easily dispatching Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, the Brit lined-up Felipe Massa in his cross-hares. There’s no doubt the McLaren was working well – Hamilton eased up on the Ferrari driver and drew up side-by-side in the DRS zone.

But this was where the charge was to halt. Around the tight turn seven, Hamilton turned too close to Massa and the pair collided – Hamilton losing his front wing and Massa stuck with a punctured tyre. This later resulted in Hamilton being given a drive-through penalty and dropping the Brit to 19th place.

I feel I have to state this every race and it is a shame. Lewis Hamilton is a fantastic racer, he is probably the most entertaining one out there, but he seems to make reckless, needless mistakes which can ruin a race. It’s telling that this incident was a near carbon-copy of the crash that knocked Hamilton out last year. There’s always a risk in opportunistic racing, but Hamilton always seems to be on the wrong end of it.

It doesn’t help that a few times this season, it’s been against Felipe Massa that these incidents have occurred and it seems the Singapore heat did get to Felipe a little who ‘congratulated’ Lewis for his drive after the race… But of course Lewis bounces back and did so today with a dedicated comeback drive.

Back to the race. There’s no doubt that Singapore, despite the stunning sights of the cars under the lights, can be a little bit of a procession. Luckily the 2011 regulations did help to ease this. It was enjoyable to see several moves up and down the field. Mark Webber was certainly on form finding an crafty way past Fernando Alonso not once, but twice!

But despite the increased action in comparison to previous years, it was still a welcome sight to see the safety car bunch things up on lap 29. What wasn’t nice to see was Michael Schumacher’s rather scary crash that cause the race suspension. The German mis-timed a move up the inside of Sergio Perez and ended up flying into a barrier, literally!

The safety car helped keep some action coming up to the end of the race (things had got a bit stale before hand), but I do think it’s a shame that Jenson Button wasn’t able to have a go at the leader Vettel at the restsart. Four backmarkers stood between him and the race leader. Personally I see no reason why, in a safety car period, lapped cars shouldn’t be able to pass around the track and unlap themselves. This way we get a clearer and potentially more exciting restart without Jarno Trulli getting in everyone’s way  –  isn’t this what Bernie ‘DRS’ Ecclestone wants? Sort it out… please!

The second part of the race saw most positions remain status-quo. Hamilton was the main mover after working his way up to fifth position, twice! The tyre degredation clearly affected the teams heavily here with all top-runners pitting three times. However, some mid team drivers gambled and only pitted twice helping the likes of di Resta, Rosberg and Sutil into 6th, 7th and 8th (another solid performance from rookie di Resta)

The closing laps of the race gave us one final push from Jenson Button. The Brit had sat in second place for  the whole race protecting his tyres, but now it was time to throw caution to the wind and go after Vettel. It was a valiant drive from Button, the gap was clearly tumbling and with backmarkers, Vettel was forced to push a little to ensure his lead.

But in the end it was little more than an annoyance for Vettel who finished yet another supreme drive from start to finish. This man is unbelievably dominant and thoroughly deserves this World Championship, regardless of how annoying that finger is.

But despite all the hype, the championship is still not Vettel’s yet. That’s right, Sebastien Vettel has got only five races left to make… one point! That means that Jenson Button has to win every single other race this year with Vettel failing to score a single point… hmmm

As David Coulthard said ‘It’ll take some doing…’

REM split up – It’s been a bad day, please don’t take a picture!

September 21, 2011

After 31 years of some alternative rock, fantastic guitar riffs, indie and a little bit of mandolin, REM have decided today that it’s time to hang up the guitars and microphone and leave their music behind them.

I can’t deny that I’m more than a little sad at this news, REM have been one of my favourite bands for as long as I can remember. I grew up with tracks such as ‘End Of The World’, ‘Losing My Religion’ and ‘Imitation of Life’. They were the soundtrack to my teen years and still feature very prominently on my iPod today, so it’s sad to hear there will be no more.

There’s no doubt that REM were at their best when rocking out to a high powered, fast paced tune. Mike Stipe’s almost wailing voice is a joy to behold on tracks such as ‘Orange Crush’ and ‘So Fast, So Numb’. You can’t beat a good shout-out chorus.

But there was always more than just the alternative rock classics. Many will remember REM for the slow, soothing and beautiful ‘Everybody Hurts’, which no doubt many a fan is playing right now. There were also ventures into different sounds and styles, ‘At My Most Beautiful’, ‘Leaving New York’ and the incredible Mandolin based ‘Losing My Religion’.

I’m sure many would argue that REM’s best was behind them before todays announcement and perhaps they are right – it can’t be easy recording 16 albums of original content. But the point is I have enjoyed every one of REM’s releases, with their recent ‘Collapse Into Now’ providing another anthology of catchy guitar based tunes.

But maybe it was time for it all to end, the band members have today openly discussed that they were starting to run out of inspiration and question where next. I am sad to think that I won’t get to see the guys live again, the one time I did was definitely one the best gigs I’ve ever been to with a sensational atmosphere throughout.

I’ll also miss the videos, look them up on YouTube if you haven’t, some of the most beautiful, creative, clever and funny music videos I’ve ever watched.

But tonight we say goodbye and thank you to Messers Stipe, Mills, Buck and Berry – REM.

3DS Right Slide Pad – Worst Idea Ever?

September 15, 2011

Below is a picture of the Nintendo 3DS, a solid and well made handheld console with the special ability to show 3D without glasses.

And here we have this rather nice design ruined with the introduction of Nintendo’s new slide pad…

This was announced earlier this week as Nintendo hope to salvage their struggling handheld. The idea here is that most gamers are used to the two analogue control sticks sported on the Xbox and Playstation controllers. By adding this new thumbstick, it’ll add literally endless new opportunities…  only it wont.

Nintendo’s new monstrosity will surely help enhance certain games, but it’s hardly a necessity. Heck, we managed the last five years of handheld gaming on the DS without it and even longer before then with the Gameboy.

Then there’s the fact that the thumbpad is extremely cumbersome in it’s cradle like design, killing the symmetrical look and feel of the 3DS (and no doubt being harder to play, why exactly is it parallel with the main face buttons). The thumbpad will also need external power through an AAA battery, yeah not even the more common AA ones! And Nintendo will expect you to pay around £20.00 for the ‘privilege’ of using this new device…

The upcoming Playstation Vita has dual analogue controls and was no doubt the driving force behind this bizarre addition. But when did Nintendo stop being the innovators and turn into the followers. If they thought the console needed a second analogue control, this surely should have been added as part of the original design rather than a knee-jerk decision to upcoming events.

And knee-jerk is exactly what this was. The media have been suggesting the 3DS has failed, despite sales being only a little behind the original DS at this point. The actual launch of the 3DS was actually far bigger than the DS six years prior.

But with news of Nintendo’s first ever loss, they were leapt on by the media, suggesting that the console was dead in the water. Since that time, Nintendo have slashed the 3DS price to the much more reasonable price of around £130.00 (I picked one up for £115.00) and sales seem to have significantly picked up. Yet still people suggested the hardware was flawed and this appears to have led to the ugly and pointless add-on which I do not want to buy for my handheld.

It is of course an almost certainty that Nintendo are currently prepping a 3DSi (or whatever they want to call the next revision) which will have this new thumbpad included without the bulky add on. And perhaps that will do well, but I have a 3DS and I was happy with it. I don’t want this new thumbpad (which despite Nintendo saying is optional, will probably become a required element of some games) and I don’t see how it will boost sales.

So how, you might ask, do sales increase and why exactly is the 3DS (marginally) underperforming. You can band about all sorts of theories about the control layout, mobile phones eating into the handheld market, 3D not being as good as it’s hyped to be – but the truth is as it has always been with games consoles, it needs more good games. I love the hardware, but there has been a severe lack of games since launch – sort that out and this system will fly off the shelves.

And it deserves to, it’s the best Nintendo hardware to date (and by a long way), it has no need of a dodgy add on thumbstick, it needs some damn good games and maybe, just maybe, a certain plumber may be sorting that before the year is out…