Sunday, December 09, 2007

What's Wrong with the Kindle™?

I'm late to the party commenting on the Kindle, and I don't own one and haven't touched one. The physical layout (e.g. easily mishit next page buttons) is dumb and the UI seems sluggish from videos. I have touched several Sony whatever-they're-calleds: none of them were working properly, but I could see the display well enough to not care for it that much.

Here's my one line summary of what's wrong with the Kindle that no-one I've read seems to have picked up on:

It's yet another damn thing.

Here's a secret to setting the world afire with a new gizmo. It should be better, smaller, more convenient than a market dominating thing at some particular task, e.g. taking photographs, reading books, keeping track of contacts and appointments, browsing and playing music, or making phone calls, or watching videos, or browsing the web. And it should be at least adequate at a bunch of other things you either already do but carry other devices around for, or think you might do but don't because you can't stand carrying around other devices for.

Examples: cell phones didn't really break out of the niche market until they replaced address books and business diaries. There was that moment when hundreds of thousands of business professionals suddenly stopped copying phone numbers from their Filofax (Dayplanner for Americans) and started doing the reverse. Suddenly you got a pocket-sized electronic diary and, oh, look, it's also a cellphone, which is quite handy.

The iPhone is awesome precisely because it's a world-beater at a couple of things you already do (e.g. use an iPod) and it's perfectly adequate at a ton of other things.

I already carry a laptop, a cellphone, a Nintendo DS, a digital camera, and several other gadgets everywhere. I don't want to add a frickin' Kindle. Do I need to take that out of my bag at airport security as well?

Cringely's latest column revives the biggest ongoing unfulfilled rumor in the Apple world (predating the Newton, I believe):

The fact that an iTablet could be a great e-book reader, too, is not a driving reason for such a device, I don't believe. But it's a nice capability. Read the book and watch the movie. Then watch Amazon's new Kindle go up in flames.

My MacBook Pro has a great display and automatically adjusts its screen's brightness to the ambient light level, making it a superb book reader -- if it didn't run so damn hot and had sufficient battery life, it would have everything the Kindle has as a bookreader (except the free Sprint network connection) with the advantage of not being one more damn thing. Rip off the keyboard and add wireless keyboard support, and yeah, where do I buy one?