The Canvas and the Catalogue

I’m in the midst of learning a good bit about my new Amazon Kindle Fire HD. But, of one the things that is very apparent to me in these first few days that I own it – and have owned an iPad for the last 2 years – is that its can be a totally different beast than the iPad. And that’s before even getting to a point where I’m able to shift my producutivty actions completely to it.

Some time back, I regarded the iPad as a blank canvas for computing. There’s a reason for the statement. Much of what we understand or do about computing is prescribed actions and activities either defined by the state of the device (work, home, on a lap or desk, etc.) or the imagination that we don’t have (computer graphics software, the evolution of spreadsheets, etc.). If you will, its predestined for us.

But, then you have this iPad. Its almost unusable in its out-of-the-box state. Sure, you can manufacture a decent expereince of things just using its browser (and you wouldn’t be half-off in doing so). However, its appeal comes in taking the 700K applications or so available for it, and turning it into your own interpretation of computing. The wise computer use sees this as an opportunity to correct many perceived rules of the game – the other adds it to their collection and never breaks such a commandment.

With the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (KF-HD) that I now own, its a bit different. As with many who have had an experience or several with Android devices, that "log in and get your info made available now" aspect is pretty slick. However, you immediately are taken into the fact that much of your experience will be a case of learning how to ignore recommendations and advertisements. Like the iPad, you will embrace the fact that you can’t change the core user interface. The scrolling carousel is a better prospect than Apple’s screens-and-folders. I miss the gestures, but the slide up, then hit that app via Favorites will soon be a forgotten knot in this.

And yet, in my experience, I find myself almost acting like I do at some big stores where I might have just come in to look around for a but, and while doing so, I might have gotten lost trying something on or reading – clearly, the KF-HD is about selling me something. Almost like I should be doing something transactional every time that I turn it on – and no, that’s not just because I didn’t yet turn off the special offers aspect of things. It just feels like I’m toeing around the store, skipping the eyes of the Amazon staff.

I’ll pull my analogy around a bit. If the iPad is a blank canvas, the Kindle (devices and platform) is a catalogue. With both you are chosing the kind of experience that you want, but I wonder if Amazon might unleash a different kind of crafted computing experience – one where you take not just a canvas of applications and services, but also of brushes made of coins, gift cards, and ratings. What picture of computing will your Amazon canvas allow you to create?