Yesterday, after the iPad announcement, many folks Tweeted that it's the end of the line for the Amazon Kindle as if it were a fait accomplis. I'm not convinced that's true, but it does raise questions about the utility of the single-purpose device, and whether you want your eBook Reader to serve up more than just books.
Kindle Experience Looks Blah Now
Both the Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble suddenly look a little pedestrian now next to the iPad. Apple has a funny way of making other devices look second rate. It's one the company's core strengths. Although I haven't seen it, based on experience, you just know the iPad is going to have a killer display, and it's full color, so it already has something going for it, that at least right now, neither of those devices have.
Blogs and web content look horrible in black and white eBook Readers, especially if you use pictures in your posts. The fact is, the Kindle and Nook have been designed with a single purpose in mind, and that's to read books (and of course sell books for their respective manufacturers). There is nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, interface expert Jakob Nielsen absolutely loved the book reading experience on the Kindle 2, which is high praise indeed.
More eBook Readers On the Way
The Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader are also about to be joined by close to a dozen competitors this year, according to reports from the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. So the first wave of devices is about to get a face full of competition from all sides. The increased competition should drive down prices and force the early companies back to the proverbial drawing board to come up with something to compel people to keep buying their products. This should ultimately be good news for consumers, who should see more functionality at a lower price (and perhaps it will force Amazon to drop its silly proprietary book format).
Price Versus User Experience
It comes down to what you want from your gadget. Commuters may be looking for a low-cost single function item to read books and newspapers content. Others may want a full color experience with access to apps, music, video and games you can get from Apple. It seems to me if Apple is offering all of this functionality in a single device, even if it costs substantially more, that Sony, B&N and Amazon will soon follow suit. At the very least, I expect they will enter in partnerships and agreements to make their products more attractive to consumers.
Does the iPad mark the death of the Kindle and its competitors? I very much doubt it. I think it probably marks the beginning of a period of healthy competition where these manufacturers respond to Apple and upgrade their features accordingly. This should be great news to consumers who will be the real winners when the dust settles.