Over the past few weeks some of my co-workers shared their brand-new Kindles with me. I was interested again. The product design, while not perfect, is a step in the right direction. It is sleeker and the controls appeared to be better arranged. The screen was sharper. I placed my order.
Long story short, I love it! The experience of reading books and other materials is a joy (well, except newspapers). The built-in dictionary functionality and highlighting is really cool and the fact that I can quickly jump on the Kindle Store via the built in 3G cellular modem and buy a book or magazine anytime I want is great.
Additionally, the "experimental" features are pretty interesting. I don't think I'll ever use the robotic text-to-speech function, but having access to a web browser (albeit a very simple one) can be useful (especially if you don't have an iPhone or a broadband modem for your laptop). Speaking of the iPhone, Amazon has also released a Kindle App, which allows you to read books on the popular device (but not magazines and newspapers yet) and even keep your place synced between your Kindle and iPhone/iPod Touch as you read. Nice.
What makes this new Kindle truly important isn't what it does today but what it represents for tomorrow. First, let's look at the form factor of the Kindle: the size, the thickness, the design. It's flat, not a clamshell. Then, the functionality: built-in 3G internet access, automatic syncing to other devices, etc. It really is a unique device, existing in a space between mobile phones and netbooks/laptops. The Kindle plays in the Middle Web.
You probably haven't heard much about the Middle Web, but it's coming. It's right around the corner. It will be built on the demands for new experiences for new devices (imagine the love child of a Kindle 2 and iPod Touch). Imagine how such a device (if priced right) could become the de facto standard way in which most people experience the internet -- messaging, websites, video, social networks, music, etc. These new devices would represent the first class of computers that truly work equally as well when you are sitting on the couch as they do in the shopping aisle. (Oh yeah, I guess you could read books on them, too.)
I've had my first taste. Bring on the strong stuff.
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Dan Shust is director of emerging media at Resource Interactive, where he mans the research-and-development lab. He blogs at resource.com/wethink and danshust.com, and you can follow him on Twitter, @getshust.