A few hours after these words first see the light of day in print Thursday, Amazon.com will take to a small airport hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., to announce something. Quite possibly, it will be the next iteration of the Kindle Fire tablet, of which the first generation has sold out.
On Wednesday, Apple Inc. will gather the media at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to announce something. Quite possibly, it will be the next iteration of the iPhone, the iPhone 5. Apple's e-mailed invite apparently casts a shadow that looks like a "5" in the foreground.
The biggest rumor about the Kindle Fire is that it will sport a "paperwhite" display for easier reading, particularly in bed with the lights out. This isn't meant to help children trying to squeeze in extra time with the Hogwarts crew, but presumably for grown-ups who share a bed and where one partner wants to read as the other sleeps.
The biggest rumor about the iPhone 5 is that it will be joined by a "mini iPad," one with a 7-inch display to rival the Kindle Fire's screen. The second-biggest rumor is that the iPhone 5 will have a larger screen, be much thinner and sport a different "pinout" for the dock connector, part of the "thin-is-in" approach.
If these things do come off as planned, you can expect a small degree of scrambling. An iPhone switch in connectors to 19 pins instead of 30 will be a big change. That will make a whole range of accessories relatively useless unless adapters arrive, and pronto. My faithful Sony clock-radio/iPhone dock-recharger, for example, won't handle a 19-pin iPhone. One wonders whether BMW's special in-car cradle for the iPhone also will be reissued should the pin setup change. Right now, the models won't handle a different configuration. The list goes on.
I've heard tons of arguments in favor of a "mini" iPad, but I'm not as taken with the idea. Those who want only a smaller tablet will cheer the advent of a more handy-sized iPad, I guess, but part of the iPad's appeal, to me at least, is its ability to replace a large percentage of a notebook computer's functions while having a more-than-decent screen display. Apple certainly can deliver a device with a stunning picture in a small size, but a small size means less to look at.
On the Kindle side, paradoxically, I would imagine that a better screen display — and perhaps a bit more memory, speed and wireless power — would be draws for consumers. I remain wary of the Android environment for security reasons — can anyone show me otherwise? — but something is out there that could move me quickly to buying a brighter Kindle Fire tablet, and that's content.
I've said this before, but it bears repeating: What I can get on a device, the ecosystem into which I buy, is as important as the device itself. With Apple's "iDevice" universe, my iBook and iTunes purchases transfer from one to another to another within certain limits. (Apple won't let you put your music collection on 1 million iPods, for example.)
Ditto for the Kindle: My Kindle e-books and other e-publications, the equivalents of novellas and other short pieces, as well as Kindle-formatted magazines and newspapers, including The Washington Times, can go from device to device.
But Amazon has another "temptation" for customers: Members of Amazon's Prime service, a $79-a-year plan that includes free two-day shipping on orders, can "borrow" thousands of books and watch vast numbers of TV shows and movies free on the Kindle Fire. Owners of text-only Kindles can borrow the free books.
See? It's the content that will grab you. If you're part of either company's user community, or both, you will find stuff to keep your interest via the new devices. I've said this before, but content is king. Whatever product-specific rumors do or do not pan out, I think I'm safe in suggesting that content will remain central.
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