Amazon Kindle Fire Faces PR Fire

Amazon Kindle FireEarly users are sending their Kindle Fire devices back, and the issue is no PR bed of roses for Amazon, as negative press shows that the acclaimed tablet is, in fact, a huge disappointment. The tech media has published rave reviews in the past, accompanied by forward-looking statements that portrayed the Kindle Fire as an “iPad killer” no less. But things have changed when Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox went live this December 5th: Kindle Fire offers a disappointingly poor user experience.

Nielsen denounced many of Kindle Fire’s drawbacks: it’s a heavy object, unpleasant to hold; has no physical buttons for turning the page; it’s slightly error-prone, and leaves smudges on the screen; the screen has more glare than the traditional Kindle; and the list could go on. But Nielsen is not as popular of a resource as the New York Times, and other mainstream publications who rushed to publish in-depth analysis of Amazon’s failure – and this is a PR fire baptism for the company, with only two weeks before Christmas.

The Fire is one of the top selling gifts this season, and for Amazon the most successful product the company has ever introduced. As David Stretfeld of the New York Times notes, it would be foolish to underestimate Amazon.

Most advocates rely on the price: $199 cover a lot of flaws – but those users who sent back their devices seem to have a different opinion. Their main concerns revolve around security issues such as password protection and one push purchase buttons. But there are other issues like “scrolling is jittery, stutters, and un-even”, a poorly designed ‘carousel’ GUI and more. These are things that cannot be ignored. While many users are not savvy enough to discover them on their own, the media fuss will determine more returns. Amazon will have to come up with a viable solution pretty fast.

The first move to counter the PR crisis has already been made: Amazon is promising a software update in less than two weeks. But will this update be enough? In the meanwhile Amazon no longer features Kindle Fire on its landing page, featuring a Kindle eReader, Wi-Fi, 15 cm (6 Zoll) E Ink Display instead.

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