Amazon.com has considerably expanded its reach, announcing that its Appstore is now available in 200 more countries and the Kindle Fire HD, in 7- and 8.9-inch HD display options, can now be preordered in more than 170 additional countries.
The Kindle Fire HD tablet is Amazon's best-selling item in the world, Kindle Vice President Dave Limp said in a May 23 statement.
"Not only does Kindle Fire feature advanced hardware, it's also a service," added Limp. "When combined with our content ecosystem, great email and browsing, and top-rated customer service, we hope people around the world will agree that Kindle Fire HD is the best tablet for an incredible price."
Amazon's idea of tablet-as-a-service—low-cost hardwire, loads of software download options and a device that arrives already programmed to know the user's name—has made it a market disruptor, stealing not just device sales but app downloads from competitors Apple and Google (which are anxious to see if rumors of a planned Amazon smartphone will hold up).
During the first quarter of this year, the tablet market grew 142 percent year-over-year, for a total of 49.2 million units—more than all that shipped during the first half of 2012, according to IDC. Amazon ranked fourth in the market, behind Apple, Samsung and Asus, respectively, though it grew 157 percent year-over-year, compared with Apple's 65 percent growth.
The result of all that tablet use has been a change in the way we see the world.
Once, most of us found it amazing that the Internet might accompany us onto an airplane. Now, the pesky business of flying and landing a jet accounts for valuable minutes that are cutting into online time.
A May 22 report from the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University studied air travelers' growing dependence on electronic devices, and the "consequences" of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ban on device use during takeoff and landing.
The Institute found tablet and device use to be increasing "dramatically." At any given point, "more than one in nine passengers is using a tablet," though potentially as many as 90 percent of passengers may use a device at some point during the flight, said the report.
Given such device use, and FAA laws that prohibit the use of connected devices during takeoff and landing, the Institute expects that during 2013, 105 million hours of technological activity will be "disrupted" on domestic flights. That's a 102 percent increase in "hindered activity" since 2010.
The FAA, said the report, is facing growing pressure to lift the ban due to three major factors.
First, "rising load factors." Planes are departing full or mostly full, and this makes cabins "congested and stressful," which makes passengers want to jam in their earbuds and zone out to the latest episode of Mad Men.
Second, there's an "underutilization of WiFi, power outlets and other amenities in airplanes." Airlines are investing in WiFi and outlets, and for precious minutes—an estimated 13 during takeoff and 15 during landing—FAA regulations leave them just sitting there. Wasted!
Lastly, there's growing skepticism that the ban actually makes anyone safer.
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for example, studied the ban and found no actual evidence that a consumer electronic device can affect airplane operations. .... It is safe to say that support for the ban's continuation, both among technicians familiar with avionic systems, policy makers, and the public, has dropped sharply," according to the report.
There was no word on whether having seatbacks in the upright position also helped planes land safely.
"Technology is often crucial for dealing with family and work-related emergencies, keeping businesses functioning smoothly and lessening the stress of being away from home," the Institute concluded. "In the absence of clear evidence that the ban provides any meaningful safety benefits, it is time to follow an aggressive timetable for lifting the ban and allowing passengers more time to 'power up.'"
Should the FAA decide to immediately reverse its decision, Amazon announced that during May 23 and 24, it's offering for free in its Appstore one of its most popular Free Aps of the Day ever, Fruit Ninja.