The Amazon World Domination Tour Continues…Now with $50 Tablets
What’s the magic number for today? $50. That’s the price of Amazon‘s newest Fire tablet that is aptly called: Fire. That’s it. No special numbers or anything of the sort. Just Fire. And, in fact, if you buy six of them, you get one of them free (as it only costs $250 for a 6-pack of Fire tablets)! Why exactly, Amazon ever chose the name “Fire” for its hardware line and the name of its Android-based OS–Fire OS–I’ve never really been sure (“fire of the mind”, or the result of “kindling”/Kindles?), but regardless, Amazon did some potential game-changing today in the space which the Dark Android Project resides, so I thought it important to cover it here.
The $50 Fire Tablet
First off, if some intrepid coders can get AOSP or CyanogenMod to run on that $50 Fire tablet…well…for the price, Dark Android enthusiasts have a real winner on their hands. $50 is well worth any degree of experimentation, and just at the software level, but perhaps also at the hardware level. Admittedly, I don’t think the Fire tablet has GPS built-in, but some may see that as an advantage, and if you’re in a more urban setting you could just have map apps use WiFi geo-location if you really want to (or you can just purchase a separate GPS device entirely, which I recommend). Either way, if an open-source operating system can get put on this, it becomes a real option for people that want a quick, disposable anonymous device like we try to achieve with Dark Android. And obviously, keep in mind that a device at a $50 price point is EXTREMELY low-spec’d. EXTREMELY (as in, 1GB RAM, 1.3Ghz dual-core processor, 7″ non-HD screen, and 8GB onboard storage with a MicroSD slot).
Also, I think that while this tablet won’t meet the needs of the average person, it will certainly be huge with kids, and it’s target demographic may be none other than: schools! $50 a tablet? Move over iPad and Chromeook. That’s just theory on my part, but I could see it happening (and as I’ll mention throughout this article, almost everything Amazon does these days is about getting the next generation–children–into the Amazon ecosystem.)
The Fire HD8 and FireHD10
With that out of the way, I think it’s important to cover what else Amazon has going on with its new product line up that it just unleashed upon the world with little warning. The Fire HD8 and Fire HD10 are Amazon’s premiere tablets, and they both received upgrades in various forms that make them comparable to just about any other tablet made by other companies. Specifications aren’t important because I don’t recommend buying these at all. As far as I know, no one has bothered to try and make alternative operating system ROMs functional on these devices in years, and Fire OS openly admits to sending the data and metadata of everything you do back to Amazon’s home base. This factoid is also true for the Kindle line, which its web browser sends all browsing data back to Bezos & Co., and then likely to the NSA. So unless someone develops AOSP or CyanogenMod for these devices, I don’t recommend touching them.
That’s not to say they aren’t quality devices. The Fire HD line has actually delivered some of the best tablets possible, sometimes with higher specifications that best iPads at that. And you can get them on no-credit payment plans, which goes to show how far Amazon is willing to go to get people into their ecosystem, which is what this is really all about: getting people hooked on Amazon. And while some may say that Fire HD tablets have never done well market-wise, there is a somewhat new product by Amazon that could change all of this, which we will get into later.
Fire Kids Edition
And here is where Amazon is blatant that their business model is all about getting people hooked on Amazon’s ecosystem of products (Amazon Prime TV/Movies, Amazon Underground, Kindle Unlimited, etc.): the Fire Kids Edition tablet. For only $100, its specifications aren’t that much better than the $50 Fire tablet, but it has two distinct advantages. One, it is heavily ruggedized, which makes it “great for kids” because they can beat the Hell out of it and it keeps on ticking. Two, Amazon will replace the device for free if something happens to it. Talk about enticing to parents! When combined with the Amazon Underground app (which I’ve talked about before as a kind of Trojan Horse) that gives away thousands of totally free premium games and apps, the Fire Kids Edition is something that many parents–cash-strapped or not–will likely take even more seriously. But all of that “goodness” is, again, just a sneaky way to get children to grow up heavily invested in Amazon’s app and services ecosystem, so that when they start making their own money, they will want to spend the money to stay within Amazon’s ecosystem. It’s a really long term plan on Amazon’s part, but they have proven themselves to be a very patient company in the past.
The FireTV and FireTV Stick
Here’s where I think Amazon can make some serious hardware inroads and become an actual leader, instead of just being a vehicle for Amazon’s services and products (though certainly it’s still another way to “flypaper you” into their ecosystem). Amazon made modest improvements to both the FireTV and the FireTV Stick, but the real clincher here is that the FireTV particularly can now deliver 4K content to your flashy new 4K monitor or TV. And it’s still a serious gaming device (with Amazon having its own inhouse gaming studio producing some genuine quality games), that has one of the best gaming controllers on the market for it. And all of that ability for only $140. Throw in Amazon Prime TV/Movies, and you have something that can easily steal the show away from anything that Apple TV could dream of doing right now, and it’s about $10 cheaper than the Apple TV, too. For people that want to take advantage of (what I personally consider worthless, but that’s just me) 4K resolution TVs and monitors, the FireTV is the head-and-shoulders above winner. It’s app selection is comparable to Android TV, as well, and while the NVIDIA Shield TV might overall be the better gaming device, Amazon as the advantage of creating its own (potentially) exciting gaming franchises through its inhouse game studio which could put it over the top if they make a game good enough.
But, there’s still one more thing that ties all of these products together to finally make them more mainstream and viable to the populous…
The Amazon Echo. No, it wasn’t upgraded like the rest of the products I mentioned, but most of the products I mentioned were in one form or another upgraded to interact with the Amazon Echo all the more. And while I consider the Echo to be a cylinder of spying microphones and an easy way for Amazon to build a shopping cart out of you, most people love this damned thing. They want them all over their house, in fact. It’s a massive seller, and may be the only other real hardware hit for Amazon outside of its Kindle e-reader line (though the original FireTV has done modestly well, too).
Everything and everyone interacting with the Echo is the kind of dream that Apple hopes would happen with Siri (which is evidenced by their own latest Apple TV), but most consumers admit to rarely using Siri, which the opposite is true for the Echo. People use the thing nonstop (how fortunate that it doesn’t run on batteries). And reviews also suggest that kids go nuts over the Amazon Echo…as to where you don’t really hear that about Siri. So while Apple may be top of the heap right now, the next generation of tech users (present-day children) may not see Apple in such a positive light. Amazon may just take center-stage as the number one company for…well…everything. And for everyone (who doesn’t have an Amazon Prime account, anyway?).
As an analogy, the Amazon Echo is to the Amazon ecosystem and hardware, as the iPhone is to the Apple ecosystem and hardware. It’s the product that ties it all together. And it’s a whole Hell of a lot cheaper than an iPhone.
Putting it all together, what I’m describing here is a roadmap that I’ve been talking about for years on my science and tech podcast: Sovryn Tech. Amazon is worming its way into everything, and its creating a broad ecosystem that I didn’t even scratch the surface of (Fire Point-of-Sale systems, AmazonCoin, Amazon Cloud, Amazon Photos, etc.) that has real potential to replace Google, Apple, and Microsoft (and as is oft quoted, Google claims that its only real competition is Amazon).
Saying all of this, though, isn’t me praising Amazon. I think they are a heinous company that bolsters the Surveillance States and Surveillance Societies that we live in. I think they have a creepy business plan that years from now has the potential to screw everyone (even though right now they play it out as offering “great deals”).
I don’t recommend buying Amazon-built products (with the exception of a potential Dark Android $50 Fire tablet, I mean, c’mon). But I do recommend keeping an eye on them, which I will continue to do here at the Dark Android Blog.