Amazon is prepping a software update for its Kindle Fire tablet within the next two weeks, according to a report in The New York Times.
“In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire,” Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesperson, told the newspaper Dec. 11.
That update is an apparent response to complaints from some early users about the 7-inch tablet’s performance and user interface. On Amazon’s Kindle Fire page, those complaints range from slow Web browsing to issues with multi-touch control. That being said, the number of four- and five-star reviews on the Website outweighs the one- to three-star ones.
Companies regularly issue software updates to patch problems with new devices. Apple, for example, recently pushed through an over-the-air update to solve reports of excessive battery drain on iPhones running iOS 5.
The Kindle Fire offers a heavily modified Android interface, which facilitates the purchasing of streaming content and e-books from Amazon’s online storefront. That tight integration, along with a “virtual bookshelf” user interface that deviates from other tablets’ grid-like screens of individual applications, makes the Kindle Fire an altogether different animal from the PlayBook or Apple’s iPad. Amazon claims the tablet is a bestseller, while declining to break out exact sales numbers.
The $199 Kindle Fire sells at a significantly lower price point than the iPad or many other tablets on the market. According to research firm IHS, each unit costs $201.70 to manufacture, including materials and labor. If that analysis holds, it means Amazon is racking up a slight but noticeable loss every time someone purchases a Kindle Fire.
“Amazon makes its money not on Kindle hardware, but on the paid content and other products it plans to sell the consumer through the Kindle,” Andrew Rassweiler, senior director of IHS’ teardown services, wrote in a Nov. 18 research note. “This is a similar business model to wireless companies such as AT&T or Verizon. They sell you a phone that costs them $400 to $600 or more to make for a price of only $200. However, they expect to more than make up for that loss with a two-year service contract.”
But for Amazon’s model to succeed, it needs to convince customers that the Kindle Fire’s downloading and media-playing abilities are indeed seamless-hence this latest update.