Amazon announces a $50 tablet… what does it mean to schools?!


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Yesterday, Amazon announced several new hardware offerings, including a new 7 inch tablet, costing just $50.  This price puts the Kindle firmly in “impulse buy” territory, mirroring prices that were previously associated with very low-end products from manufacturers that you have never heard of.

To be clear, this is NOT a premium product and is in no way a competitor to the iPad or the many medium- and high-tier products running Android or even Windows.  A quick look at the specs reveal a low resolution screen with a modest processor.  However, assuming Amazon has made smart choices about optimizing the FireOS (a version of the Android operating system) to work well with the hardware, this could be a compelling device for reading, watching video, listening to audio and even video or voice calls.

Amazon is even looking to give price breaks for those that buy in bulk: if you buy five, you get the sixth free, a Kindle “six pack.”  Certainly this is an interesting prospect for teachers and schools on a budget?

While it is exciting that a hardware vendor is driving down price points, the Kindle family will likely remain a device great for individuals but lacking for classroom-wide and school-wide implementations.  The limitations include:

  • Amazon account requirements: The Kindle works best in the Amazon universe and assumes, like an Apple iPad and an Android tablet, that you are purchasing for a single end user.  While I know some schools and libraries that have successfully configured Kindle eReaders and Kindle Tablets for use in a shared space, purchasing, digital rights management and other account concerns are not resolved on this platform.
  • Amazon app restrictions:  While the Kindle platform runs on a “forked” version of Android, this is not “official” Android.  You must use apps from the Amazon App Store and can’t access the Google Play Store.  Although the Amazon App Store boasts a solid collection of apps, there are tons of missing apps in this environment that appear in the 1.5 million strong Google Play Store.
  • Stock apps are limited: As Google stock apps are unavailable on the Kindle, Amazon has developed alternatives to the Gmail mail client and Chrome browser.  However, it has hard to compete with Chrome, the world’s most popular web browser.  Amazon’s Silk is functional, but lacks compatibility with many web tools.

Despite limitations, I estimate that teachers and schools with or without open wireless networks will see these devices appear in back pockets and backpacks after this holiday season… because it is a $50 tablet!

We have pre-ordered one of these devices and will have it on the release day, September 30.  We’ll be sure to report back here our impressions!

Are you in for a $50 Kindle?  If so, tell us your thoughts in the comments below or find us on Twitter!

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