First of all, how do you name a book product, digital or not, "Fire"? Is it also model number FHT451?
Now that I've got that off my chest, let's get to the question of the day-after-Kindle-Fire-announced: is Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire Android-based tablet a legitimate alternative to iPad?
If you're hovering over the Kindle Fire pre-order button on Amazon, don't click it quite yet. Fire, as hot or cool (depending on which fire-play-on-words slang for "fascinating and desirable product" you prefer) as it is, is NOT, I repeat, NOT a cheaper alternative to iPad.
Two big reasons: PIM and gestalt.
I will expound.
Where's my email?
If you've done any reading about Fire beyond my coverage yesterday ("Amazon Reinvents E-Reader With Kindle 'Fire' Tab") you'll notice Amazon seems to be pushing Apple on "ecosystem" – providing not only the bleeding-edge hardware but all the content (movies, music, apps and, duh, e-magazines and e-books) to fill the hardware up, just like iTunes + iPxxxs = Apple's ecosystem.
But at no point during yesterday's presentation did Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos mention email. Or calendar. Or address book. Or any PIM functionality.
PIM is an acronym for Personal Information Manager, which denotes functions to curate your personal life. Right now, there are no PIMs on Fire (and that sentence structure is bound to repeat itself often from now on).
During the product demos after Bezos' presentation, I was told there would be an Amazon email client. What about calendar and address book? Uh, not sure. Maybe/probably they'll be incorporated into the email client which no one had even mentioned until asked.
It's clear PIM was not a top-line development priority for the Fire department. And that's not a good sign.
I suspect there will be a Fire email client, and maybe it will be as innovative as the Amazon Silk Web browser, and maybe it will integrate calendar and address book functions. And maybe it will include intuitive methods for importing your existing PIM data from popular sources such as Outlook, Google Mail – maybe even iTunes.
That's a lot of maybes.
Which leads me to...
Fire's interface sho' is pretty – artistic, simple, intuitive, functional and wonderfully swippable, a huge improvement over Nook Color's pedantic, uninspired home page.
But Fire's user interface also is leisure content-centric – movies, music, e-books, which makes perfect sense since this represents content Amazon wants you to buy and consume copiously. Fire clearly is designed to entertain you.
To get to any other less fun Fire functions, it looks as if you'll need to pack your rope, pitons and carabineers and go spelunking into Fire's app interface crevices. Or click through a screen or two.
But by filling Fire's home page with play, it's almost as if Amazon doesn't want you to work – or even just keep track of your life.
iPad also can entertain you. But to Apple, because iPad's interface is based on apps, all functions are created equal. You choose what to place front-and-center on the iPad app pages – leisure or work apps, or nice balance, which is what life should be like.
Yes, you likely will be able to "pin" the Microsoft Office-compatible Quick Office Pro app to the Fire home page for quick access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
But have you ever viewed a spreadsheet on a 7-inch screen? Ever tried to write a document on a 7-inch screen? These are tough enough tasks to tackle on a 9.7-inch display, much less on a 7-inch screen. An increased level of difficulty for work-related functions is one reason why 7-inch tablets have found few fans.
Don't get me wrong. Fire is easily the best/most advanced e-book e-reader (or will be when it starts shipping on November 15), a Ferrari compared to the suddenly Model-T-like Color Nook.
But if you're looking for a tablet, no matter how attractive – and comparatively cheap -it is, Fire is not a viable alternative to iPad.
Are you a Fire bug?
This doesn't mean you shouldn't consider a Fire if you were thinking of buying an iPad. It's all a matter of what you plan do with your device. Some of you are iPad people. Some of you are Fire people.
Take my friends Bob and Edna (not their real names), a married couple. Edna is a mom and real estate agent. Bob is a blue-collar kind of guy, drives a truck for a living. She needs a tablet for her business – a Fire would not suffice. Bob wants to be periodically entertained and read in between truck stops and deliveries – he's a Fire guy.
Or, take me and my mom. I'm writing this post on my iPad. I took it with me to cover the Fire igniting yesterday and take it with me always to check email, edit photos – and to read books and watch movies and play Scrabble. I'm clearly an iPad person.
But as simple as iPad is, it's too much – stuff – for my mom. So, she has a Nook Touch so she can just read. She'd be a Fire person.
See? It ought to be easy for you to determine if you're an iPad person or a Fire person. But it's unlikely you're both a Fire person and an iPad person, which means you are not faced with a choice between Fire and iPad because one is not an alternative to the other.