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11:20 AM

Kindle Fire: Major Software Update Soon

Amazon says the patch will resolve customers' gripes about performance and privacy on the hot-selling tablet.

Amazon Kindle Fire: Visual Tour
Amazon Kindle Fire: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Amazon plans to issue a Kindle Fire patch within the next couple of weeks that will address a number of consumer complaints about the hot-selling tablet, according to a report.

"In less than two weeks, we're rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire," an Amazon spokesman told The New York Times, in a story published Sunday.

The e-tailer provided few specifics about the update, other than to say it would improve overall performance and multitouch navigation and add a feature that will allow users to delete their browsing histories, an upgrade that should by welcomed by the privacy conscious.

It's not clear if the update will address some other common complaints about Kindle Fire, a full-color touch tablet that Amazon launched in September. The company's support forum indicates that there are a number of issues that customers are concerned about.

Common complaints include insufficient volume for movies, occasional lockups that require the user to perform a hard reset by pressing the power button for at least 20 seconds, and difficulties connecting to personal Wi-Fi networks. A thread devoted to the latter issue has drawn 365 comments to date.

"This is crazy," wrote a Kindle Fire user identified as E. Lin on the support forum. "I can connect fine at work, but at home I get that connection error message."

[ Another complaint about Amazon's Kindle Fire: Too Small, Too Large. ]

The complaints don't appear to be hurting sale of Kindle Fire. Amazon is on pace to ship 3.9 million Kindle Fire units by year's end, analysts at IHS iSuppli said in a report earlier this month.

That would give it 13.8% of the global tablet market, good enough for second place behind Apple's iPad and its expected share of 65.6%, and far ahead of Samsung's estimated share of 4.5% for the fourth quarter. Samsung introduced the Android-based Galaxy Tab in 2010.

Barnes & Noble, which unveiled the Nook Color last month, is on pace for a share of 4.7% by year's end, while iSuppli estimated that HTC will close out the year with a share of 1.3%.

Amazon's share is almost double the 7.7% expansion of the tablet market that iSuppli said occurred after Kindle Fire's launch, meaning that at least some of the tablet's sales are coming at the expense of the iPad. iSuppli said Apple's share of the tablet market is poised to drop 4.1% from the third quarter.

Kindle Fire's success may owe a lot to the fact that it's priced at $199, making it a loss leader for Amazon. The least expensive iPad 2 model starts at $499. Despite its low price, Kindle Fire includes a number of high-end features.

The Android-based device has a LCD screen that displays 16 million colors in high-resolution (1024 x 600). In-plane switching technology provides for wide viewing angles. A dual-core processor, reportedly from Texas Instruments, keeps things snappy. And Kindle Fire weighs just 14.6 ounces, making it easy enough to hold in one hand for most users.

Kindle Fire also features a new kind of browser, called Silk, which performs some functions locally while handing off other tasks to Amazon's AWS cloud data center. Amazon claims that makes Silk faster than competing mobile browsers, such as Apple's Safari.

Kindle Fire offers direct links to Amazon's vast storehouse of books and magazines, as well as to third-party content from partners like Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu.

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