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商业 - 科技

亚马逊Kindle家族新成员全接触

JP Mangalindan 2011年09月30日

分析人士与评论界曾期待出现某一款产品,能够抗衡苹果公司的iPad。但这次,iPad的竞争对手却一口气推出了四款终端设备组合,而且价位和功能各有千秋。

    官方消息:亚马逊(Amazon)计划中的新款Kindle可不止一种,而是四种——几乎满足了各个用户群体的需求。业界普遍认为亚马逊将是iPad的竞争对手,此次它推出了四款产品:Kindle Fire平板电脑,配备彩色屏幕与多媒体功能;两款Kindle Touch产品,配备电子墨水(e-ink)黑白触摸屏;以及当前电子书阅读器的接班人——新款Kindle,并继续沿用了按键操作功能。

    周三上午,亚马逊公司在曼哈顿举行了一场效仿苹果公司(Apple)的发布会。会上,公司老板杰夫•贝佐斯揭开了新产品的面纱。他开门见山地说:“我相信,Kindle是一种端到端的服务。我之所以对它充满信心,是因为,过去四年里,我们一直在不断对这项服务进行创新和改善。”确实如此,凭借依托于书籍的产品生态体系,Kindle销量大幅上涨,目前在电子阅读器市场中所占份额高达52%。《财富》(Fortune)杂志近距离体验了Kindle家族的新成员:

新款Kindle (79美元)

    该款产品专为钟爱按键操作的纯粹电子书爱好者设计。实际上,这款产品严格遵守了“小车不倒尽管推”这句古老的格言。因此,这款产品仅有少数改动:用户界面几乎没有任何变化,电池额定待机时间依然超过一个月。但新款Kindle简化了物理键盘,使其重量比之前减轻了30%,仅有5.98盎司,而且体积也缩小了18%。

    新款Kindle仅配备了10个物理按键:左侧和右侧各有两个翻页键(延续了之前的风格),底部共有六个按键,可进行系统设置、返回主屏幕、返回上一页,以及一个四维方向键控制的软件键盘。电子书背面采用橡胶材质,具有防滑功能,这与巴诺公司(Barnes & Noble)近期推出的Nook电子书截然不同。

    新款Kindle的定价为79美元,面对如此让人心动的价格,用户没有道理不喜欢它。

Kindle Touch (WiFi广告版为99美元;3G无广告版为149美元)

    其实,Kindle Touch可以看做是传统Kindle与Kindle Fire之间的过渡产品:一方面,这款产品保留了Kindle用户钟爱的e-ink屏幕,同时又融合了触摸功能。在此之前,新款Nook和Kobo Touch电子书便已具备了触摸功能,更不用提iPad了。

    这款结实小巧的电子书与79美元的非触摸款外形类似,正面采用塑料材质,而背面则同样以橡胶制成。但Kindle Touch减少了按键数量,仅在前端保留了一个物理按键,使用户可返回主屏幕,而其他导航操作均通过滑动、轻击和捏合(可放大和缩小文字大小)等动作完成。这样的设计使得该产品更加轻便小巧,虽说算不上令人心动,但却更为实用。(在笔者看来,近期发布的Nook在外观上要略胜一筹。)

    操作界面基本保持不变,但却搭载了一项引人注目的新功能:X-Ray。通过在一个完整的屏幕上完成诸如项目、人物和短语等参考资料的拉出、集合以及显示,这项功能将使电子书阅读器的注解应用提升到更高层次。另外,这项创新功能还允许用户查看这些“要点”被引用的次数,并通过轻击屏幕,轻松访问它们在书中出现的位置。目前,X-Ray功能仅用于Touch产品,但亚马逊一位高管称,公司这么做的目的,是为了将电子书阅读器与其他产品区分开来——但最终,这项功能也将被应用于其他型号的产品。

Kindle Fire(199美元)

    亚马逊“严防死守的”秘密武器终于登台亮相。这款产品的配置与科技博客预测的基本符合:7英寸彩色背光式屏幕,售价199美元,配以深度订制的安卓系统(Android),而外观则类似于黑莓(BlackBerry)的平板电脑Playbook,只是Kindle Fire更为轻薄。而采用的处理器则超出之前的预测:1GHz双核OMAP4处理器,其强大的处理能力,足以确保应用的流畅运行。

    但实际上,这款产品的核心优势还在于其“软件”,即整合亚马逊多年来打造的一系列服务——mp3服务、安卓应用商店、影视租赁等,公司推出这些服务的目的是让用户通过点击就可在线使用这些内容。Kindle Fire主屏幕的一大亮点是一个菜单栏,其中包括杂志、图书、音乐、文档和视频等分类,而下方则采用了类似苹果公司封面旋转(Cover Flow)特效的“新型旋转木马”,以流畅的滚动查看的方式显示近期浏览过的应用、网站、图书和其他内容等。

    虽然我们未能尽情体验Kindle Fire的各项功能,但我们非常看好它的前景。Kindle Fire并未配备摄像头、话筒或3G等功能,因此苹果不必担心iPad用户会移情别恋。但在电子阅读器领域,亚马逊着实煞费苦心。

    译者:阿龙/汪皓

    It's official: Amazon didn't just have one new Kindle in the works, but four -- nearly one for every user scenario. The widely anticipated iPad competitor ended up being a quartet: the Kindle Fire, sporting a color screen and multimedia functionality; two flavors of the Kindle Touch, with a black-and-white, e-ink touchscreen; and the Kindle, a button-operated successor to today's model.

    Amazon (AMZN) boss Jeff Bezos unveiled the new models at an Apple-like press event in Manhattan this morning. "I believe Kindle is an end-to-end service," he began. "I believe it is because we have been inventing and improving that service over the last four years." Indeed, that book-driven ecosystem has boosted the Kindle, which currently owns some 52% of the e-reader market. Fortune got up close and personal with the new Kindles:

The Kindle ($79)

    This one's for the e-reader purist who prefers buttons that actually click. In fact, the model hews to the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That explains why it has probably changed the least: the user interface is almost exactly the same, and battery life is still rated at more than a month. The physical keyboard, however, was cut to make the actual reader 30% lighter and 18% smaller, easily reaching a featherweight status of 5.98 ounces.

    Now, there are just 10 physical buttons: previous and next page buttons on both the left and right sides (just like before) and a bottom row with six buttons that among other things, take you to settings, the home screen, the previous screen and a software keyboard navigated by four-way directional button. Meanwhile, the back has a rubbery, grippy texture not unlike Barnes & Noble's (BKS) recently-refreshed Nook.

    At a downright impulse-worthy $79, there's not much to dislike here.

The Kindle Touch ($99 for WiFi-only with ads; $149 for 3G, ad-free)

    Think of the Kindle Touch as the bridge between the classic Kindle and the Kindle Fire: it still has the e-ink screen some Kindle readers prefer but integrates the touch-based user experience the new Nook and Kobo Touch -- not to mention the iPad -- introduced before it.

    It's a solid little slab with a similar-looking plastic front and rubberized texture as the $79 non-touch model, but with fewer buttons. There's only one front-facing physical button that takes users back to the home screen, while the rest of the navigation is done via swipes, taps and pinches to enlarge and shrink text size. This lends the Kindle a much cleaner, minimal look that's utilitarian, if not exactly impressive. (The recently-refreshed Nook still wins in the looks department, in my opinion.)

    The interface stays largely the same, though there is one notable addition with "X-Ray." This takes e-reader footnotes to another level by pulling, aggregating and displaying references in a book -- notable items, characters/people and phrases -- in one screen. The innovative feature allows users to see how many times these "bones" are referenced and tap a scrubber to reach those points in the book. For now, X-Ray is only available on the Touch -- one Amazon executive said the company did so to differentiate the e-reader from the rest of the line -- but eventually, it will make its way to other models.

The Kindle Fire ($199)

    Amazon's worst-kept secret is finally out in the open. Much of what the tech blogs reported proved true: a 7-inch color backlit screen, a $199 price point, a customized version of Android and a chassis that looks a lot like the BlackBerry (RIMM) PlayBook with a thinner bezel. Under the hood, it's packing a faster processor than previously expected: a 1 GHz dual-core OMAP4 processor. That should be powerful enough to keep apps humming along.

    Really though, it's all about the software, a cohesive-looking experience integrating many of the features Amazon has built out over the years -- an mp3 service, the Android app store, movie rentals -- that the company developed to ensure that much of the users' content is one click away. The home screen highlights a menu bar up top with categories like Newsstand, Books, Music, Docs and Video, while an Apple (AAPL) Cover Flow-like "recency carousel," displays all the apps, web sites, books and other content you've perused in one fluid-scrolling row.

    Though we weren't allowed to spend as much time with the Kindle Fire as we would have liked, what we saw looked promising. Without features like a camera, mic, or 3G option, the Kindle Fire won't likely cause many iPad users to jump ship. But as far as e-readers are concerned, Amazon has upped the ante yet again.

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