Is the Amazon Kindle Ugly?

(a) I’ll hold judgment until I see one in person

(b) Who cares

Ok, I know that ultimate success in this marketplace will come to someone who produces a device that is "cool" and "stylish" but this is still an early adopter market.  This device will succeed or fail based on its capabilities and not its style.  And how would I measure success?  Well, the Sony Reader is reported to have sold about 50,000 units as of a few months ago.  If the Kindle can sell 500,000 units over the next 18-24 months than it will be an unqualified success.  That would be enough to seed the market for a follow-on device that could sell in the millions.  Such a device would have to be cool and stylish.

In the long run the market for dedicated Readers is no more than a niche.  Let me give a hypothetical to explain why.  If seat-backs on airplanes, trains, busses, etc. plus hotel rooms, conference rooms, coffee shop tables, etc. all have displays in them.  And those displays have the right characteristics.  And your cell phone can display content on them.  Then doesn’t your cell phone take the place of a Reader?  There are some issues (e.g., battery life) but most of us wouldn’t want to carry a dedicated device to address those.  I used a Pocket PC with the Microsoft Reader software on it a few years back to read books on airplanes.  I know others who have been using Mobipocket to read books on their Windows Mobile phones.  The experience isn’t ideal, but it’s basically a display problem.  And that is something that will get solved.

E-book Readers are a niche.  But one that could enjoy moderate success over the 3-5 year timeframe.  Beyond 5 years, their continued success depends on how slow the world is to deploy upcoming display technologies.

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