Amazon: Kindle Fire Performance Update Coming This Month

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With criticism of its new Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet continuing to mount, Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) said it is at work on improving the user experience. "In less than two weeks, we're rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire," Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener told The New York Times, adding the update will deliver improvements targeting device performance and multitouch navigation.

The Kindle Fire offers consumers a single, portable point of access to digital media initiatives including the Kindle e-book catalog, Amazon Appstore for Android, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon MP3, with all content backed up in the cloud. The Kindle Fire is priced at $199, compared to $499 for Apple's (NAS: AAPL) cheapest iPad, making it clearer than ever that while Apple relies on digital content to sell its hardware products, Amazon is depending on affordable Kindle devices to drive content sales.

According to Amazon.com, the Kindle Fire is the most successful product it has ever introduced -- although the digital retailer has declined to divulge sales totals, analysts forecast it will sell between 3 million and 5 million Fire units this quarter. But consumer frustration with the Kindle Fire is growing, with roughly a third of user reviews on Amazon's website delivering mixed to negative feedback. Complaints cite its non-responsive touchscreen, slow web speeds, the absence of external volume controls and a lack of user history editing options.

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen recently called the Fire user experience "disappointingly poor," telling The New York Times, "I feel the Fire is going to be a failure. I can't recommend buying it."

Although Amazon.com remains silent on the subject, sources indicate it will introduce a new, improved version of the Kindle Fire this spring. Last month, Citgroup reported Amazon also will introduce its own Kindle-branded smartphone in late 2012.

It is uncertain how negative public perception of the Kindle Fire will impact mobile software developer interest in the tablet. But in the weeks leading up to the Fire's commercial release, developer enthusiasm was strong, with 49 percent of North American developers "very interested" in creating apps for the Kindle Fire -- only 4 percentage points behind the iPad prior to its April 2010 launch -- according to cross-platform development platform Appcelerator's Q4 Mobile Developer Report.

Among 15 Android tablets included in the Appcelerator survey, the Kindle Fire ranked second in terms of developer interest, behind only the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Developers cited price as the most critical factor for any Android tablet to compete successfully with the iPad; they also credited Amazon's content ecosystem, its Appstore for Android storefront, target demographic and e-commerce integration for fueling interest in the Kindle Fire.

Nielsen tells The New York Times that the Amazon.com shopping experience ranks among the Kindle Fire's clear strengths. "If I were given to conspiracy theories, I'd say that Amazon deliberately designed a poor web browsing user experience to keep Fire users from shopping on competing sites," he said.

This article originally published here. Get your mobile content industry briefing here.

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