AWS meets Kindle Fire

On Sept 28th, Amazon announced the new Kindle Fire tablet. This post digs into the two key cloud integrations that Amazon brings with Fire.

Amazon Silk, The Cloud Accelerated Browser

The browser deploys a split-architecture where all of the browser subsystems are present on the Kindle Fire as well as on the Amazon’s cloud computing platform, AWS.  Each time a user load a web page, Silk makes a dynamic decision about which of these subsystems will run locally and which will execute remotely on EC2. The goal is to improve user experience by delivering content to users faster. Silk achieves this in a number of ways. EC2 acts as a staging area where web pages can be pre-processed before being redirected to the user’s browser. It uses content compression techniques, such as re-encoding video and images before sending them to Fire. It also keeps connections constantly open to popular websites, which reduces the time needed to negotiate connections on a one-to-one basis and caches content such as images, JavaScript, and Cascading Style Sheets that are used to render the web pages that users view every day.  Finally Amazon is leveraging Google’s SPDY protocol for faster connections to Web servers.
The performance of Opera can be a testament to the improved user experience that Silk can deliver. However, the split browser approach raises privacy concerns as Amazon Silk logs the sites that the user visits along with Fire’s IP or MAC addresses.  Privacy advocates have raised concerns about how this data may be used by law enforcement agencies or lawyers. However Amazon is really only interested in shopping habits and is willing to bear the cost of using its cloud infrastructure for every Fire user to understand what are people buying at rival sites. Remember that the Amazon store is just one click away from any library that the user is in :) Some users may not mind this invasion of privacy if Amazon can deliver a better shopping experience. Besides, it is possible for users to turn off the EC2 service altogether and use the browser in a standard way.

Free cloud storage for all Amazon content

Amazon has designed the tablet with only 8 GB of storage space. But it allows users to leverage its cloud storage solution to save content (books, music, video, apps) that they are not frequently using. Content is available instantly to stream or download for free and Amazon uses its Whispersync technology to sync content across devices

By leveraging its massive cloud infrastructure, Amazon can deliver a tablet with skimmed down hardware and low price point. Although free cloud storage and streaming is available for those that go beyond 8 GB, this privilege is restricted to Amazon content. If users have invested in content from other providers and plan to use Fire as their primary device for content,  they will either need to make sure that the non Amazon content fits on the 8GB or pay for additional storage on the Amazon cloud.

Whats next? Beyond Browsing and Storage

Amazon could use its cloud computing infrastructure to not just improve a user’s browsing experience or give away free storage, but also offload processing of resource intensive applications such as security scanning, number crunching, gaming etc. MIT’s Technology Preview explores some of the options. It will be interesting to see how Amazon further evolves this marriage between AWS and kindle.

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