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Amazon to Update Older Fire Tablets to New Fire OS, Could Bundle Washington Post App with it

FireTablet_Family[1]Amazon is giving existing Fire owners a couple reasons to hold on to their older tablets. Last year’s devices are going to be getting a firmware update, and what’s more there are reports that Amazon plans to offer a Washington Post app.

The retailer sent out a notice over the weekend to existing Fire tablet owners, sharing the good news. According to the one I got, my existing Kindle Fire HD (2013) will be updated to Kindle OS 4 Sangria.

This version of Fire OS shipped on the Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7 last week, and it will be coming to all third generation Fire tablets. It’s based on Android 4.4 KitKat, and includes better power management options, Family Library sharing options, and Firefly, the Fire Phone feature which enabled users to use their camera to identify products.

For the record, Amazon actually announced that the older hardware would be updated when the new OS was announced in mid-September. I missed the news at the time, so i thought it was worth sharing.

In related news, BusinessWeek is reporting that the Bezos-owned Washington Post is working on a curated news app which will be bundled with the Fire tablets. Dubbed project rainbow, the app is being developed by a team led by Kerry Lauerman, the former editor-in-chief of

For the past few months, a group inside the Post has been working on a new application that will offer a curated selection of news and photographs from the daily newspaper in a magazine-style, tablet-friendly format. The application will come preinstalled on Amazon’s newly updated Kindle Fire tablet, expected to be launched later this fall with the larger 8.9-inch screen, according to people with knowledge of the Post’s plans.

The app will initially be free in the larger Fire tablet, and will later be made available to other Fire tablets and Android tablets as well as for iDevices. BW says that there will be a subscription fee, though of course there’s no info on how much that will cost.

And while this is pure speculation, I am expecting the app will be bundled with the Fire tablet in much the same way that Kindle Freetime Unlimited is bundled. That other service is also paid service which has to be paid for when activated.

This is a bold move for the Washington Post but it could well prove a bust. While the WaPo has expanded staff and revamped their coverage since the newspaper was acquired by Jeff Bezos last August, its rival the NYTimes has recently cut staff and killed an app that could well be bellwethers for how consumers get their news.

Last week the Neiman Journalism Lab reported that the NYTimes was killing the NYT Opinion app.  This app offered access to just the editorial content of that paper, at a premium. While it proved well-liked, the app didn’t pick up enough users to justify its expense.

If I had to guess, I would expect the new Washington Post app to suffer a similar fate. IMO readers don’t want to pay more for less content; they want to pay less for more content. That’s why apps like Flipboard and why feed reader services like Feedly are so popular.

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