Kindle's Not All Bad: It Might Be A Turning Point For Non-Phone Wireless Devices

from the there's-always-something dept

I agree almost entirely with Tim Lee’s assessment of the Kindle e-book reader, posted Monday on these pages, but as a wireless and telecom analyst, there are aspects of the device that are interesting and important – unfortunately for Amazon, they aren’t going to help make the Kindle a success. The most interesting factor is that Amazon is basically launching an MVNO, called Whispernet that will use the Sprint EV-DO network. It certainly won’t be the first MVNO on Sprint, and it won’t be the first mobile device maker to brand the wireless service as their own (think Palm VII’s Palm.net, or Blackberry.net when they both resold Mobitex service). But the Kindle is one the first mainstream consumer electronics device we’ve seen that is not a computer and not a phone but which still connects to a mobile broadband network.

This portends a future (that Sprint has been talking up a lot lately with WiMAX) where myriad consumer electronics devices like cameras, GPS devices, sensors, signs, etc. all connect to the “cloud” and have service either bundled in retail prices, or into some other service fee like Amazon is charging for content. This kind of device is a break from the normally carrier-controlled handsets we usually see, and is interesting for that reason alone. It’s also a break from the $80 rule, where non-phones can only connect to cellular data for $80/mo. Since the Kindle device has limited Internet functionality, Amazon can predict average monthly EV-DO throughput per device, and negotiate a much better wholesale data rate from Sprint than $80, and can then afford to bundle that into content pricing. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t agree with the content pricing on the Kindle. But the launch of an “Open Access” consumer electronics device with wide area network access bundled in has got me excited. Imagine now a GPS device from Garmin or TomTom that comes with a cellular radio for traffic updates, local fuel prices, etc, and the data plan is bundled into the retail price. Wow! Consumer electronics devices that could work right out of the box with full mobile connectivity, and a carrier that is willing to wholesale reasonably for that network connection! The times are finally changing.

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Comments on “Kindle's Not All Bad: It Might Be A Turning Point For Non-Phone Wireless Devices”

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13 Comments
Old_Paranoid says:

e-book reader

An “open access” device would be nice, but I want a device that allows me to read common format docs, typically in .pdf, .txt, simple .htm / .html, and maybe .rtf formats. While I could use the wireless to get the current headlines, it would be far cheaper for me to set my PC to use its broadband connection to download the newspaper / journal sections I am interested in for reading on my commute. I am willing to download these from my PC or read them from USB devices or SD cards. I don’t care about buying e-books.

Shun says:

Not exactly open access

If the e-book reader is limited to reading e-books in Amazon’s own proprietary format, it is not an open access device.

Also, your quote above is slightly misleading: “Amazon can predict average monthly EV-DO throughput per device…” if they assume that all Kindle buyers use it solely for the purpose that Amazon intended.

Most likely, someone will “jailbreak” this device and get it working as a generic tablet, with EV-DO connectivity. This makes throughput per device somewhat unpredictable. I’m sure Amazon will attempt to lock it down, then the whole cat-and-mouse game can begin with this vendor, as well.

I’m looking forward to seeing some product, and pictures of Kindle guts.

Michael Long (user link) says:

Misses the point.

As this points out, anyone who complains about blogs not being free is missing the point.

Yes, you can get the blog “free” as long as you’re at home connected to your piad DSL line, or connected to the internet at a coffeeshop with free wifi… but what about elsewhere? What you’re paying for then, is not so much the blog as it is for the blog and for the limited EVDO connectivity needed to access it from practically anywhere, at any time.

And it may not be a solution for you, specifically, but it may be just the ticket for someone else. Either the price is too high, or it’s not. If too high and there aren’t enough buyers, they’ll drop it, or not. And if you think it’s too high, then you can always vote with your dollars, or lack thereof.

But I think it’s way, way too soon to call the game. Anyone remember “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.”?

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Wrong Subject

#1 said “If the e-book reader is limited to reading e-books in Amazon’s own proprietary format, it is not an open access device.”

Sorry to be unclear. The Kindle is not the “open access” device to which I’m referring. I’m referring to the cellular network, which is now open to be accessed from many kinds of CE devices which are NOT sold by the wireless carrier. That is new and an important change.

Silisonlips says:

Did Amazon ever hear of a library...

How about giving me an e-book that lets me read “free” books from the public library (oh, those already exist!). With Audio and e-books available on most public library sites, why in the world would I use something like this that limits/locks me into using a poor performing wireless carrier? Not to mention the subscription cost and cost of each book.

Hey everyone, let’s do something old fashioned and go to the library – from our homes on the Internet! Not to mention taking advantage of what we pay out in taxes…

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