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Last week Amazon announced a Software Development Kit (SDK) for their Kindle e-reader. They are calling it the Kindle Development Kit (KDK). According to Ian Freed, Vice President of the Kindle group, “We’ve heard from lots of developers over the past two years who are excited to build on top of Kindle. The Kindle Development Kit opens many possibilities–we look forward to being surprised by what developers invent.” (full press release can be read here)
The KDK will be initially released in a limited beta. The revenue split will be 70% to the developer and 30%, with an additional scheme for application delivery fees and ongoing delivery of any dynamic content or data. Three pricing options have been announced (from the KDK page):
So what does this mean? It means altering your perception of the Kindle. If the creativity of the developers of mobile applications on other platforms is any indication (e.g.- Apple, Palm, Google, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Nokia, etc.), in the next year you will be able to do WAY more on your Kindle than read today’s New York Times and items from your Kindle library. Kindle becomes an already accepted wireless mobile platform with a well-recognized name. It is priced under the bulk of netbooks and many smartphones (admittedly, it also does NOT have touch or color, but I don’t think the designers at Amazon are standing still on those fronts…).
This comes as a frontal challenge to the highly anticipated Apple tablet (side thought: if e-readers were THE gadget at CES this year, are tablets likely to be the hot item next year?). As of today (January 25, 2010), it is not public just what the focus and capabilities of the Apple device will be. Apple changed the whole idea of phone as mobile platform and enabled the developers for that device to stretch it and innovate in ways no one foresaw at the beginning (I’m reminded a little of the market for third party add-ons and ActiveX controls to Microsoft Visual Basic and early web development). Apple’s good at drawing its established customer base into the “next big thing/flashy object” and expanding it. I expect to see good sales of their device initially. However, Kindle is likely to remain at a price advantage, even if the Kindle v.next has touch and color capabilities. Apple has NEVER been afraid to charge top dollar for its products, and apparently a large portion of the consuming public is willing to pay. However, the growing fuzziness over devices in this area (overlap in function, price, purpose, available applications, etc. for netbooks, e-readers, smartphones and all the ‘tweener’ devices….) may take some time to shake out. Kindle has the advantage of being in the hands of a large number users today, and Amazon is just opening up the device to be enabled in other ways. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting competition.