amazon-kindle-fireSome huge technology announcements from Amazon today as they introduced three new Kindle devices, a new $79 Kindle, the Kindle Touch, and the Android powered Kindle Fire tablet. As a web agency, the most interesting device is the new 7″ tablet. So far the iPad has largely been the only tablet to capture enough market and mindshare that it is even considered during the design and development of new web sites. With the Kindle Fire’s low price ($199) and Amazon’s ability to slap it front and center everyday on the homepage, the tablet has a strong chance to make a significant impact.

Equally interesting is the announcement that the Kindle Fire will feature a cloud-accelerated web browser called Silk that splits the work of fetching and rendering web sites between the device and Amazon’s cloud services. The browser promises to speed web browsing by reducing DNS requests, caching site data on Amazon Web Services cloud, optimizing site files such as images, and prefetching webpages based on aggregate browsing data.

Some thoughts and questions on Silk after watching the video…

  • You should rarely make broad assumptions about what a user wants and needs based on the device they’re using. It’s one of the most common mistakes made in mobile. There’s a comment near the beginning of the video about the differences between desktops and mobile devices. Improving performance and considering these differences is a great thing, but making assumptions about how a user wants to consume site content because they’re on a tablet could be a frustrating mistake.
  • Speed! I love to see the emphasis on performance from Amazon. Speed is mobile users’ number one complaint (by a mile) with the mobile web experience and there needs to be more of a focus on it from both the technology side and from web developers.
  • Reducing DNS hops and speeding up DNS requests could be huge. With CDNs and cloud storage and ad networks, site content is no longer coming from just one domain but actually from several on every page load and if Silk is able to both reduce the number of requests and speed them up (from 100ms to 5ms according to the video) that will have a big impact on page load times.
  • With all this “limitless” cloud caching going on, what ensures that a site visitor will see a changed file? A cached CSS file has flummoxed many a client, hopefully Silk’s cloud caching is smarter than browser caching or at least there will be an easy and reliable way to tell Silk that a file has been modified.

The mobile landscape is always changing. The market is continuing to further fragment. There are new devices every week and each one has different specs and a different app store and web browser. You must design and develop for an unknown future. How must companies who spent valuable time and resources working on a WebOS app be feeling right now?

The Amazon Silk product team say you “don’t have to worry about it.” The browser will just handle all the optimization for you. For end users I hope that’s true. I’ve already got my preorder in and can’t wait to play with the device and take the new web browser for a spin. After all, at MarketNet it’s our job to worry about it.

1 Comment

  1. Finally found sources (an Amazon Silk job posting) confirming that the browser is indeed based on Webkit: http://aws.amazon.com/amazonsilk-jobs/ This was my assumption but its still good to know that rendering should at least be really similar to other Webkit browsers.

    Also, seeing a lot of concerns on Twitter about the image compression and the impact it will have on design.

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