I've done a fair share of writing about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in 2013. One alternative device that I think has potential as a BYOD option inside the enterprise is the new Kindle Fire HDX. This tablet comes in 8.9" and 7" models with 16, 32, and 64 GB configurations at different price points. LTE support is also optional.
Amazon loaned me a 7" Kindle Fire HDX to test, and I spent some time with it during the past few weeks. Here are some key takeaways from my testing.
The Kindle Fire HDX: Android tablet and eReader convergence
I've been a Kindle user since it first launched, but my Kindle usage waned when I purchased an iPad. However, my first generation Kindle Fire got me thinking that the Kindle could evolve into a business tablet in another generation or two -- and that generation is now.
The 7" Kindle Fire HDX is lightweight and well-balanced, with a 1920x1200 HDX display, 323 PPI high pixel density, and 100% sRGB. The screen rivals many of today's business tablets and blows away previous Kindle Fire versions. Figure A shows the main screen of a Kindle Fire HDX.
Kindle Fire HDX home screen.
Some people might argue that the Kindle Fire HDX isn't a true Android tablet because it runs Fire OS 3.0 "Mojito" (a heavily customized version of Android). I call Fire OS 3.0 the Android OS for everybody else. Not every mobile user inside an organization is going to care about the latest Android OS version -- they just want a device that works and lets them access the basic corporate resources.
Amazon also sent me an Origami cover ($49.99 for 7" cover/$54.99 for 8.9" cover) with the Kindle Fire HDX. While I've never been one to "geek out" over tablet covers and stands, the Origami cover has a nice fit and a unique way of folding up -- like origami bird -- to act as kick stand for the tablet.
Amazon App Store for Android vs. Google Play
Some users might be turned off by the fact that the Kindle Fire HDX doesn't have Google Play support. A common criticism of the Kindle Fire HDX is that the Amazon App Store for Android pales in comparison to Google Play. Figure B shows the Productivity section of the App Store for Android:
Productivity apps available in the App Store for Android.
However, Google Play compatibility isn't necessarily an issue for entry-level Android tablet users. When I went through the Amazon App Store for Android, I still came across some familiar Android apps (including some of the ones we've covered here on TechRepublic):
- Polaris Office
- Documents To Go
- OfficeSuite Pro
- Resco Mobile CRM for Android
Email, calendar, and contacts setup
I tested the email setup using my Google Apps for Business and Gmail accounts. The Kindle Fire HDX has a wizard-driven setup that does all the configuration ("heavy lifting").
When I setup my Google Apps for Business account in the email, my calendar data was also pulled into the Kindle Fire HDX calendar app. Likewise, my contacts data was pulled into the Contacts app.
The configuration of these three key user productivity apps isn't going to stress out a BYOD onboarding process. In fact, the Kindle Fire HDX owner only needs to know their username and password (at least in the case of Gmail and Google Apps).
When you receive a file attachment and tap on it, you have the option to open it in a compatible app -- just as you'd open the attachment on any Android device (Figure C).
Open a file attachment.
Device security might be a concern when contemplating letting a Kindle Fire HDX access corporate resources, though I found that shouldn't be a problem considering the growing lists of enterprise security features and support from Antivirus and Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors. A quick look for security apps in the Amazon App Store for Android turned up the following MDM clients:
On the device side, the Kindle Fire HDX security features include:
- Lock screen password
- Credential storage for digital certificates for VPN and enterprise Wi-Fi Network
- Device Administrators for authorizing which apps can act as a device administrator for the Kindle
The Kindle Fire HDX represents a new angle for Android devices and presents another device type that's bound to enter the enterprise through BYOD programs. Its predecessors used to only an eReader, but the Kindle Fire HDX has evolved into a BYOD-ready tablet. The 7" Kindle Fire HDX gets my whole-hearted recommendation, and I expect that IT administrators are going to start seeing more BYOD users with Kindle Fire HDX tablets wanting to access corporate resources in the New Year.
Do you own a Kindle Fire HDX? Describe your impressions about this device in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.