Way back in the dark ages of 2007, we reviewed the name Kindle in the very pages of this blog. At the time, we weren’t in love with the name, although we did point out that as a verb, it’s active and suggests exciting or arousing an interest in books. It also suggests illuminating the mind, something a good book should do. But overall, we thought the negative associations (torching books) outweighed the positive (kindling knowledge).Four years later, Kindle has become one of the three leading e-book readers, the others being the Barnes & Noble Nook and the ubiquitous Apple iPad. Like most bold names, it attracted its share of negative comments, but the product was so good that most people got over the downside of “kindle” and just bought one. And interestingly, Amazon managed to turn a verb into a noun (as opposed to the genericization of Google, in which a noun is turned into a verb, thus losing its proprietary-ness).
Just in time for this year’s holidays, Amazon has released four new versions of the Kindle: Kindle (“all new”), Kindle Touch (multi-touch screen), Kindle Touch 3G (free 3G wireless), and Kindle Fire (color, plus built-in media browser). Here, Amazon has taken the masterbrand approach and appended descriptors to the name Kindle, much like Apple has done with the iPod (dubbing them Touch, Classic, Nano, and Shuffle). It’s a good strategy, and one that allows them a lot of expansion under the Kindle name; they’re building value into the brand on its own, quite apart from the Amazon parent brand.
But what about Fire? Hardly a descriptive term, like 3G or Touch. It’s clearly meant to evoke the result of the kindling, energy and light and power, and it turns the full name into a nifty verb phrase. And because the name is Kindle Fire, not just Fire, they are preserving the strength of the Kindle brand. (Although I wonder about the trademark, filed for by an entity called Seesaw LLC, which has also filed for the mark Amazon Silk – the Kindle Fire’s web browser. Coincidence? I think not! Dun dun duuuuuun.)
Of course there was a ton of speculation about the name of the new device; back in August, Amazon was discovered to have registered various Kindle domain names based on the elements, including KindleAir.com, KindleWater.com, and KindleEarth.com. Perhaps it was a ruse, or perhaps they just hadn’t decided on a name – or there may yet be more two-way-tv-wrist-radios coming from Amazon. You have to admit, though, that Kindle Fire makes a hell of a lot more sense than Kindle Water.
Kindle Fire rocks as a product name for all the right reasons – it’s short, catchy, evocative, and stands out in the marketplace, even a marketplace that’s full of goofy names like eClicto, Boox, and eSlick. It will be interesting to see what Amazon does with the next gen products – will they build on the Fire name, and come out with the Inferno? Or will they go the “earth elements” route? Regardless, Kindle Fire is a smart addition to the Kindle family.
However, the less said about Amazon Silk, the better. Unless it’s a soy-based browser?
Overall Grade: A