Amazon's New "Silk" Browser Gets Speedy Mobile Browsing Via the Cloud
September 28, 2011 2:44 PM
Amazon.com's new Silk browser splits the work of loading webpages between the tablet and the cloud.
(Source: Amazon.com via YouTube)
The new browser will be available exclusively for the Kindle Fire tablet.
Tablet browser looks to deliver faster performance that its mobile rivals -- "Yay cloud!"
Earlier today Amazon, Inc. (
) pulled the wraps off its
long-awaited multimedia tablet
, branded "Fire". The catchy name was backed
by a bargain $199 price
) and solid hardware -- a dual core processor and all the essentials. With that tablet came a brand new slick browser, which offers an improved version of a seldom-seen feature that could offer a big browsing edge for Amazon's tablet over rival designs.
I. Amazon.com Unveils What Could be the Fastest Mobile Browser
One intriguing thing about the tablet is that it's not a standard build of Android. The tablet forked off of Android
(!) the Android 2.1 build. That means that Amazon has cooked in its own implementations of multi-touch and GUI features, independent of Google's updates (Android 2.1 "Eclair", Android 2.2 "Froyo", and Android 2.3 "Gingerbread"). Amazon.com will continue to maintain its own operating system branch on the Android tree.
A possible benefit of this approach is that the tablet may be
less susceptible to malware
, while still enjoying full compatibility with apps in
Amazon.com's "App Store for Android."
And Amazon.com gets to pocket its cut of app sales revenue, rather than Google.
A third benefit of the unique approach is that it gives Amazon.com the opportunity to revisit core software and find ways to differentiate it from rival Android tablets, as well as other competitors like Apple, Inc. (
). A perfect example of that redesign/refine paradigm is Amazon.com's new Silk browser [
], the Fire's primary browser.
The new browser is available only for the Fire. It will not be available (not yet, at least) on other Android tablets.
The browser leverages Amazon.com's
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)
, the company's cloud computing operation. Basically,
much like Opera's "Turbo Boost"
feature (and the similar feature found in the mobile SkyFire browser), the Silk browser communicates with the Amazon EC2 server farm to accelerate mobile browsing by pre-rendering page elements before they're delivered over the network to your device and by offloading CPU-heavy script-processing to the cloud.
As a heavy amount of smart phone users' traffic is on 3G (and sometimes 4G) networks, this is a big deal as webpages that take second or less to load on Wi-Fi connected personal computers can take a half minute or more to fully load on a mobile device.
Silk goes beyond Opera's Turbo Boost in that it has logic baked into that can analyze webpages and
the rendering/process between the cloud and the local CPU. This could make Silk even faster against "dumb" offloaders, which automatically offload certain tasks to the cloud. In the best case scenario, both the tablet hardware and the cloud will be working at maximum performance to deliver webpages as fast as possible to your Fire tablet.
Of course how much this theoretical boost equates to in real world gains remains to be seen.
II. Browser Opens the Door to Data-Mining, Mobile Ad Ventures for Amazon
Early reports are largely overlooking one hugely important aspect of the new browsing technology. Namely, all of your page requests will be passing through Amazon's cloud servers (even though your tablet will be doing part of the eventual processing/rendering). This means that Amazon will have access to a full history of its browser user's web visits.
It could use this data -- which will likely be anonymized -- in two ways. First, it could use it to improve the suggestion feature in Amazon.com online retail site, based on your overall internet behavior (not just on Amazon). The site already does this to an extent with its browser cookies (which some "pesky" users block with browser extensions), but the new technology gives it access to a potentially much more complete data set.
Secondly, it could use this mined data to deploy an ad network, to compete with Google's mobile AdMob network. A leap into advertising would be a bit outside Amazon.com's past business realm -- particularly given that it could be selling ads to its online retail competitors. However, the field is lucrative enough that Amazon may not be able to resist trying its hand at an advertising platform. Further, a mobile ad platform could tie nicely into Amazon's aspirations as a one-stop app distributor.
Regardless of which of these possibilities gets implemented when, the cloud browser appears poised to give users something valuable -- faster mobile browsing -- while giving Amazon.com a little something back in return -- product differentiation and mined data.
"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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