- Update coming within two weeks, Amazon says
- Update will address tablet's speed, touchscreen, says a spokesman
- $199 device has become a strong iPad competitor, although it's less powerful
- Some critics have panned the device; others see a tablet for new buyers
Kindle Fire, the stripped-down tablet computer that is emerging as perhaps the most popular rival to Apple's iPad, will be getting an update soon to address some early user complaints, Amazon said.
Amazon says an operating-system update will improve speed and touchscreen controls and will give users controls over displaying recent browsing activity. Presumably, those controls would allow Kindle Fire owners to keep that activity private from other users.
"As with all of our products, we continue to make them better for customers with regular software updates," Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said via email. "In less than two weeks, we're rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire that will improve performance, touch navigation, and give customers the option to choose what items display on the carousel."
In the nearly two years since the iPad was introduced, competitors have struggled to gain any traction in the tablet market with devices that attempt to rival the Apple device in features and price.
But Amazon's Kindle Fire is a smaller, simpler device that, at $199, is a full $300 cheaper than the least-expensive iPad 2.
Amazon has not given comprehensive sales figures for the Fire since it was released November 15. But the company has reported that it's the top-selling device in its Kindle lineup. Black Friday was the biggest sales day ever for the Kindle line of e-readers and tablets, said the online retailer, which sold four times as many of the devices as last year.
Pearsall said that Amazon has sold "millions of units" and is making more to meet demand.
But some users have been disappointed with the Fire's features.
Complaints, on Amazon's Fire user forums and elsewhere online, have centered on issues like the power button being too easy to hit accidentally, the lack of physical volume-control buttons and a touchscreen that isn't sensitive enough, making it sometimes hard to register touch controls.
Users have also grumbled that the device's Web browser, Silk, sometimes loads pages slowly.
"Is anyone else finding that it takes several tries to get the device to actually go to what you are pressing on the screen?" one user wrote on Amazon's official Kindle forums. "I am finding this TOTALLY FRUSTRATING! It is taking me several hits many times to get a reaction out of it. What is up with that?"
Jakob Nielsen, a Web usability expert and consultant, panned the Fire in a post on his site last week, calling its browser "clunky and error-prone" and saying its magazine-reading experience is "miserable."
But others remain sold on the device's appeal and potential.
"Initial market response strongly suggests that Amazon, with the Kindle Fire, has found the right combination of savvy pricing, astute marketing, accessible content and an appropriate business model, positioning the Kindle Fire to appeal to a brand-new set of media tablet buyers," wrote Rhoda Alexander, researcher for analyst firm IHS, this month.