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How the Kindle lost the keys to mimic the iPad


Blogger Nick Bilton at the New York Times Bit Blog noticed something fascinating about the new Amazon Kindle devices the other day, so he talked to a hardware designer who had worked on the original Kindle e-reader in 2007. Sure enough, the designer told him that the original device design was largely inspired by the BlackBerry. Bilton noticed that the new designs are all mimicking a device that is near and dear to the hearts of TUAW readers -- the iPad.

The 2007 Kindle looked a lot like a BlackBerry and worked in a similar manner. It had a clunky keyboard at the bottom of the e-Ink screen, a scroll wheel to move around the text and menus, and a very boxy look. BlackBerry smartphones from that era look remarkably similar, and the anonymous designer told Bilton that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' BlackBerry was the inspiration for the first Kindle.

The devices that were introduced this week owe much of their design to the iPad. There are no scroll wheels, no physical keyboards. Instead, the devices have moved to a design meme that features a screen surrounded by a bezel -- exactly the design of the iPad. Bilton quoted Tumblr UI designer Justin Ouellette as saying that the Kindle Fire even uses the same Gorilla Glass as the iPad, but that companies hoping to truly compete with the iPad need to mimic Apple in one more way: pay attention to details. As Ouellete notes, "The weight, the thinness, the feel, the texture of the glass, are all really important to the overall experience."

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