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The new Amazon Kindles are exciting, but is the Silk browser the bigger news?

Today Amazon announced 4 new devices and I was so excited, that I ordered / pre-ordered 3 of them (Kindle, Touch 3G and Fire). New hardware might be fun, but I think we should all be more excited about the Kindle Fire’s new Silk web browser. It’s not been that long ago that the only option for broadband at my house was through HughesNet’s satellite based internet connectivity. Boy was it annoyingly slow because for every web page that you loaded, it had to bounce the request up to the satellite in the sky, then bounce back down to Atlanta where HughesNet’s computers do their voodoo on your request, then send the web page info back up to the satellite in the sky and finally bounce the info back down to my computer. Ick with a capital I. Surfing on mobile devices can feel similar to that experience and I often find myself getting frustrated waiting for web pages to load. Amazon’s Silk browser is supposed to solve this problem by doing all the heavy lifting via Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud computing platform. The claim is that it will dramatically improve web page load times by splitting the workload between the tablet (Kindle Fire) and the cloud. AWS will do all the content optimization for the tablet before it gets sent to it. For example, you won’t have to wait for huge images to load because they will be optimized for your screen size. The browser will also learn your browsing habits and will guess what site you might go to next and have that page already loaded and ready to view before you even click the link. I’m excited to try the Silk browser and have to wonder if/when it might show up on devices other than the Kindle Fire. I know it will never show up on iOS device, but as an app download for Android devices? I can see that happening.

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Ian September 28, 2011, 4:37 pm

    A nicely priced “interim” machine.
    All the hardware etc. was outsourced by Amazon, rather than take resources from their own Lab 126. So when will the really good stuff be announced in 2012?

  • aphoid September 28, 2011, 4:39 pm

    Other browsers have tried this kind of thing before, though perhaps with less compute power on the server end. Opera Mini, for example, has done this for years through a similar-sounding proxy service. There are other examples: I remember AvantGo did this as well. (“Opera Mobile,” for comparison, runs a full browser on the client.)

  • Julie September 28, 2011, 5:01 pm

    @aphoid and for us old timers from the Palm OS days, we remember the Blazer browser that had a similar feature. I’m assuming though that since this is from Amazon, that it’s going to work as advertised. I’m still really anxious to compare browsing with the Fire and browsing with an iPad on the same WiFi network.

  • BJN September 28, 2011, 5:36 pm

    As much as I like and use Amazon, I don’t want to be dependent on their AWS servers for “optimized” internet content. They may not share my idea of what’s decent resampling and optimization and they would have a record of *everything* I do with the Fire browser.

  • Ken Schoenberg September 28, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I think that Amazon is approaching this a little differently than Opera and Skyfire. I believe they are actually going to provide some data from their servers while allowing the rest of the page to be distributed directly from the actual web server. It’ll be interesting to see how well this works, both on heavily trafficed sites where you would figure the page would be constantly in their EC2 cache…and less traveled websites.

  • ottomatic28 September 29, 2011, 10:21 am

    “I was so excited, that I ordered / pre-ordered 3 of them”. I literally laughed out loud when I read that. You’re something else Julie; so glad I discovered your blog.

    I have heard rumblings over privacy issues similar to what BJN has mentioned.

    Should be interesting….

  • Jane P. October 3, 2011, 6:11 pm

    There is an article on the CMET site regarding privacy issues with Silk. The issue is that you have a “middleman” between the devise and cloud. Speed is good, but sometimes being just “fast enough” for safety is better.

    I’m thinking that the 7inch screen makes the fire a great alternative to the i-pod touch.

    I am so excited about the new Kindle readers. At $79 – $99 a real no brainer for me.

  • James October 4, 2011, 10:35 pm

    Read the reviews before going for some of those new Kindles. The $79 not only doesn’t have the keyboard but lacks any audio capability. While as far as I can tell the Touch models can’t rotate the screen.

    So some nice new features but there could be some reasons to stick to the older Kindle 3 Keyboard.

    While Apple recently cut the price of the iPod Touch to start at $199, probably not coincidence. No hardware upgrades, so the Kindle Fire would have the performance advantage as well as the larger screen size.

  • Jane P. October 4, 2011, 11:58 pm

    Hey James,

    Your are absolutely correct – best to wait for reviews and to get your hands on the product displays at local stores. I’ve learned to be patient and am looking forward to reading Julie’s reviews.

    Offhand, the lack of a keyboard doesn’t bother me: it will be part of the screen – like with the tablets. If you go to the Amazon website you’ll see videos of all these products.

    Reading past posts on the Gadgeteer, many folks who have both an iPad and Kindle really prefer the Kindle for reading. This really gave me pause regarding moving up to an iPad or getting a Kindle or putting out the bucks for both. With this big price drop, I can afford a Kindle reader. Question is: can I afford an iPad over a Fire? For that, I’ll be waiting for reviews, and a 10″ Fire tablet, and the iPad 3. I can be patient….

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