FireThe nomenclature issue around Amazon’s launch of the new Kindle Fire 7/Fire/fire raises some very interesting questions about their whole strategy for their new flagship model. The Wikipedia “Kindle Fire” article, for instance, calls it the Fire 7″ – but probably gets that wrong based on a mistaken reading of the Amazon page. And note that the whole new range of tabs are Fires, not Kindle Fires – distinguished only by their size, or absence thereof. Amazon has introduced that snazzy orange display font with a lower-case f to ram home the fact. But even Amazon can’t seem to make up its mind: it calls the Fire Tablets just that, with capitals, in its orange-font banner ads, lower-case fires in the main ad display names, and Fires in its blurbs.

However, Amazon is simply following the same naming policy it introduced with the Fire HD 6 mini-device – which will stay in the market alongside the new Kindle Fire 7. That’s been around for over a year now, which hasn’t stopped users and commentators falling into the vulgar error of calling it a Kindle.

Back in 2014, commentators were already remarking on the fact, pointing out that: “the rebranding highlights the division that Amazon wants to put between its more basic Kindle e-readers and its more advanced Fire tablets. It also further ties the tablet family to Amazon’s Fire line of devices, which now includes the Fire TV and the Fire Phone.” And, as the same article emphasized, this revealed how much Amazon was banking on across-the-board online content and services delivery as the real future growth driver of its digital business, with the Fire brand as the signature tag for the hardware component of the entire content/service offering, whatever the device.

By calling its new device simply the Fire, as opposed to any-other-screen-size-Fire, or TV-or-phone-Fire, and positioning that device as the rock-bottom-pricetag mainstay of the line, Amazon is probably hoping to reinforce its role as the benchmark for the whole platform, and embed it correspondingly deep in public awareness. After all, even a year ago, reporters were speculating that Amazon had hoped to rescue Fire Phone sales by linking its name to some superior tablet tech. The new Kindle Fire is now good enough for that to be a real possibility.

That said, Amazon may have a really strong grasp of consumer behavior, but if its marketing mavens really think that “Fire” (or “fire”) will seep into popular consciousness in the same way that Kindle – or Google – has, then I think they’ve stepped into the Apple reality distortion field by mistake. I mean, think of the potential errors. “Waterstones removes fires from shelves.” “I’ve been Fired.” “Babe, you’re on Fire.” “Fire!”


  1. Grammatically speaking, I can’t help but think “Kindle Fire” is kind of a silly name anyway. You kindle a fire. In the sense of how first you have kindling and then you have a fire, the idea of calling the e-ink device a Kindle and the subsequent LCD tablet and phone devices just fire makes sense.

  2. @Chris: We’ll agree to disagree on that one. I’ll replace the “TeleRead will” in the headline of my own post with “I’ll.” 😉 I myself won’t take “Kindle Fire” so literally. But I do understand your concerns and Nate’s.

  3. David, I don’t have a concern so much as I am a pedant when it comes to product names. i think we should use the correct name – well, sometimes.

    For example, I don’t use the term Apple Watch because technically the name is Apple Apple Watch (the same is true for Apple’s other generically named apps and products).

    But in the case of the Fire tablets, I use that term so that it is easier to distinguish between Amazon’s ereaders and tablets. If you call the tablets the Kindle Fire then you run the risk of forgetting the word Fire and thus talking about the Kindle’s LCD screen.

  4. I suspect the “Kindle Fire” nomenclature will always be with us. Even now, people still refer to the Palm PDA as the “Palm Pilot,” even though only the very first couple of models had “Pilot” in their name before the Pilot pen company objected and sued and Palm just started calling them Palms instead.

    That said, I’ll still keep calling it the Fire, instead of the Kindle Fire.

  5. Amazon has a problem few other corporations have. It not only has an abundance of products of its own, it sells what must be millions of others. Apple can use “Apple” as a prefix to its name without confusion, as with the Apple Watch. But search Amazon for “Watch” in Electronics, and you’ll get over 380,000 hits, and many of them could be called an Amazon watch in that customers might buy them from Amazon.

    Kindle as used by the public, is an attempt to get around that problem. This isn’t a Amazon tablet (meaning sold by Amazon), they are trying to say, it’s a Kindle tablet (meaning made by Amazon).

    Amazon, as you describe them, seems to be kicking back against that. They want “Fire” for some of their digital products. In their self-focus, they forget that, unlike Kindle, that’s an oft-used word that creates confusion. Saying “I just got a new Fire,” is much less clear than saying, “I just got a new Kindle.”

    To me that illustrates one of the flaws of marketing departments. They overestimate their ability to shape how words are used. Amazon want some products to be called Fire. The public finds that name too vague. Kindle is at least linked to the imagination that books bring. Fire means nothing.

    Adobe does much the same with their apps. They now have so many, it’s terribly confusing, and the situation is made worse by all the apps that have names that are pretty but mean nothing, i.e. Fireworks and Prelude. Photoshop tells you want it does. Their names don’t and mountains of Adobe advertising will not change that.

    Another flaw, common among marketing departments, is to refuse to think beyond the present product. Past products no longer exist for them. Future products are much the same. The result in a confusing naming scheme.

    You see that particularly with Apple Macs, where those who discuss them have to use release dates. Apple’s own description of my Mac mini is “Mac mini (late 2012).” Mac mini—2012 I could see as an official name. But putting the release date in parenthesis is a description not a name. For a parallel, imagine Boeing doing something similar. Rather than “Boeing 787 Dreamliner” we would have “Boeing Jet (late 2009).”

    You see that in products that, rather than come up with a genuine name, are merely descriptive. Kindle tablet names read more like descriptions i.e “Fire, 7″ Display” to give one I’m looking at now. At least Samsung has enough consumer sense to give their tablets real names such as Samsung Galaxy Tab 4.”

    Or imagine parents who name their children:

    Blond Boy (2006)

    Red-haired Girl (2009)

    Dark-haired Boy (2012)

    It’s almost that dreadful.

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