As expected, today Amazon announced their new tablet called the Kindle Fire. As we reported earlier today, the Kindle Fire will cost $199, and will be available in November. The price of the Fire is $50 less than earlier reports, so that was a pleasant surprise. Other surprises from Amazon include three new additional products to the Kindle family that have e-Ink displays, one with an e-Ink touchscreen and the other with 3G connectivity. However, the biggest surprise to me is that Amazon has developed their own web browser for the Kindle Fire, called Amazon Silk.
Silk is the combination of an app on the tablet and servers running on Amazon’s cloud infrastructure. The servers will retrieve the actual web content, optimize it for mobile browsing by compressing the file size and changing the layout, before it is sent to the Silk app on the tablet. If this functionality sounds familiar to you that is probably because it is already provided the Skyfire and Opera browsers that are available for Android and iOS.
While I understand why Amazon is selling tablets and eReaders because they are basically mobile retail platforms that will help Amazon sell more products, I don’t understand why Amazon felt the need to create their own browser. First off, the browser isn’t needed to sell products as Amazon has created different apps that sell products, and existing browsers are certainly good enough for browsing and buying products from Amazon. Perhaps they preferred to not use the built-in Android browser, but they certainly could have bundled one of the existing browsers such as Skyfire, Opera, or even Firefox and Dolphin HD.
Furthermore, there privacy concerns with having everything that you see on the Internet passing through Amazon’s servers before getting to your device. Will people be comfortable using Silk to access their bank accounts or login credentials for other shopping web sites? If I am buying a product from one of Amazon’s competitors will they then starting sending me ads for those products, or even interrupt my purchase to offer me a better price on that product? Amazon’s cloud infrastructure has gone down before, what if the Silk servers go down, will average users think the Internet is down because they can’t open a web site?
I see far more negatives than positives for Amazon with creating this browser. They will get grief from people concerned about privacy and they now have another piece of software they need to maintain, along with all of the customization they have done to Android to provide the Fire’s user experience. I am curious to see how well Silk will be received.