The flames are on full blast in the tablet world as Amazon has released their new Kindle, the Android-powered Kindle Fire. Will it set online video alight with its hotness? It seems to already be pulling heat from another major tablet platform, the iPad (and it’s fellow iPad 2 which shows they just can’t come up with cool names over at Apple anymore).

The Kindle Fire

Now I haven’t got the Kindle Fire yet, but I’m working on that and hope to have one in my itchy little hands soon. From the tech specs it’s certainly not the most powerful of the tablets, nor is it probably the most fashionable. I don’t see Amazon coming up with cool ad campaigns that make hipsters want to buy the Kindle Fire. Plus, hipsters only like things that are cool, like recent sales of the expensive iPad 2 have been. Ha, word play!

So who will the Kindle Fire appeal to?

I’ve been having some discussions with a wide range of people here and those that are considering it are people with children and people who need a light, portable device that is larger than their mobile–because they want to watch video on it.

Seriously, a 4-inch screen, no matter if it’s AMOLED or not, is far from the best thing to view video on. If you were to hold a 7-inch screen at arm’s length, it would be about the same as sitting 6-feet from your 22-inch monitor. Now I sort of eyeballed that because I wasn’t in a math mood.

Fine, you know I can’t resist a little math. Well, this time I just went and used a pre-existing viewing distance calculator, which told me that the maximum viewing distance of a 7-inch screen, based on visual acuity, is about 2.4 feet for 720×480/720×576 and 0.9 feet for Fully resolved 1080i; 1920 x 1080. First off, most video being streamed isn’t 1080i so you wouldn’t need to have the Fire almost touching your face. That means that at just about arm’s length you’re at the maximum for visual acuity of 720p. With the iPad 2 it changes to 3.4 feet and 1.3 feet, so not much difference between the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen and the Fire’s 7-inch screen.

Chris Goes Into the Murky Mathematical Depths

Then, I found this pretty cool graph over at Carlton Bale:

(Screen Size vs. Viewing Distance vs. Resolution) from Carlton Bale

See how all the lines are converging on the smaller side? This is how those cool video headsets create a virtual 10-foot screen from a tiny 2-inch display placed very near the eye as well.

Now there’s a lot of math behind all of this so for those who are really interested in actual numbers, here’s the formula and the definitions.

VD: Viewing distance
DS:Display’s diagonal size

NHR: Display’s native horizontal resolution (in pixels)

NVR: Display’s native vertical resolution (in pixels)

CVR: Vertical resolution of the video being displayed (in pixels)
Note: Make sure the angle mode is set to degrees when calculating the tangent. If using Excel, you must multiply the angle by PI()/180. If DS is given in inches, VD will be in inches. If VD in meters is desired, multiply VD by 2.54 and divide by 100.

Isn’t Wikipedia cool?

Chris Makes His Own Math

Anyway, so the Kindle Fire. Amazon recently stated they’d up the original order of Kindle Fire to 3.5million. At $200 each that’s $700M in sales, though some say that they might be losing money on the deal. But even if they do lose money on it they could easily make it up on the other stuff.

If they lose $50 per unit when all is said and done it means that money could be recovered through various after-purchase sales. Remember, this is Amazon, King of the Etailers here, so they’re aiming to have users buy loads and loads of content from them since their market will be integrated into the tablet. There are apps for the Kindle Fire that will need to be bought and then there’s books, music, film, TV shows and the list goes on. A couple of each of those and the user has put more than $50 back into Amazon, which of course it will only see a fraction of. But that’s just the first couple months. I’m sure that Firewalkers will often find themselves at the gates of Amazon worshiping with their credit cards and one-button purchase decisions.

Now Back to the Regularly Scheduled Program

But my main concern is what it will do for online video. I’ve already mathematically shown that watching on the 7-inch screen of the Kindle Fire wouldn’t really lose you any quality on your high end content. But will people want to do it?

Well, Amazon was selling 2000 Kindle Fire an hour or something so it sure seems like they do. Plus, we already know that tablets are affecting the consumption of streaming video and that the length and quality of the video is also a factor. According to my article on Ooyala’s research, the tablet was said to have a 30% higher viewing time and completion rates around double desktops.

So, will the Kindle Fire impact online video viewing? Hell yes. Just like the iPhone did, and the iPad did and the subsequent rush of tablets that came to market (though oddly the first time round tablets didn’t have a big effect). People, Americans especially, are constantly on the go and that means that we need to get our video everywhere. We are no longer forced to read six-month old magazines while waiting for the dentist, we can just flip on the tablet and get the latest news in streaming video form. We, as video viewers, are empowered to get the video we want, when we want it, whether we are sitting in a park (Milwaukee Parks have free Wi-Fi) or if we’re in a cafe chilling with a cup of coffee and a blueberry scone.

Will the impact be as major as those iOS devices? It’s hard to say, but if they expect to sell 3.5 million in this first batch, it certainly looks to be on a collision course with online video and perhaps it really will set it on Fire. If you want a simple answer, you’ll have to ask someone else, I’m sure Amazon will give you an ‘absolutely’ and I’m sure Apple will say ‘too little too late.’ I see few simple answers in the world generally and so I give you a, “probably, but we’ll have to wait and see.”