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Sencha Says: Kindle Fire Handles HTML5 OK

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Does Kindle Fire really compete with the iPad? That depends on whether 'compete' means 'has near-identical functionality' (answer: no) or 'will take sales away from the iPad' (answer: probably).

And it's not just the lower price ($200 vs. $600) that gives the Kindle Fire's weaker hardware a stronger push. Fire gets its content from Amazon, and Amazon controls and distributes oceans of content -- the reason Jeff Bezos positioned the whole Kindle family as a content platform, not a piece of hardware. The user-end version of AWS, in a way.

What does this mean for the tablet developer, though? Well, for one thing, the Kindle Fire supports HTML5 (as does the new Kindle file format. Which means that, in some ways, developer won't need to worry about which device they're coding for.

But the Fire doesn't support quite a few of the more under-the-hood HTML5 features (like Web Sockets and Web Workers) -- in ways predictable, and already annoying, to existing Android 2.x developers (Kindle Fire runs on a customized Android 2.3 Gingerbread).

So exactly which emerging web technologies does the Kindle Fire support, and how well?

Answer from the HTML5 masters at Sencha, in a quotable nutshell:

The Kindle Fire is a competent but minimal HTML5 platform that reflects its $200 price and Android 2.x lineage.

One thing it does support quite well: web fonts, which should make digital publishers happy. But not media queries, which considerably weakens the write-once-run-anywhere appeal.

So if you're thinking about developing for the Kindle Fire, you might want to read Sencha's full evaluation. You'll know what you can rely on and what you can't -- recognizing a little more clearly how the Fire isn't exactly designed to work like iPad-like tablet PCs.