Kindle for PC: Microsoft Should be Embarrassed

kindle_for_pc_logoThe following is a guest editorial by Rob Bushway, the founder and former owner of

I twittered the following tonight, and as a result, raised a few eyebrows:

The fact that Kindle for PC doesn’t support the pen should be an utter embarrassment to Microsoft

Before I share my reasons for that statement, let me share a few of the statements people twittered back to me:

  • @brandonleblanc: @robbushway why? We’re not the developers for the Kindle for PC software. Amazon did. It’s their software.
  • @brandonleblanc: @robbushway its also Beta and Amazon is taking in feedback to further improve the app too
  • @lorenheiny: @robbushway Kindle syncs data across devices so can see why no ink on Tablet PC, but once ink displayable everywhere then it should have it.
  • @lorenheiny: @robbushway It’s apps like Live Messenger and its new use or lack of unique use of ink that gets me. That’s a Microsoft app. But oh well.
  • @kapurcell: RT @robbushway “The fact that Kindle for PC doesn’t support the pen should be an utter embarassment to Microsoft” Y MS & not Amazon?

With that background, here’s my rationale in saying that Microsoft should be embarrassed for the lack of pen support in Amazon’s Kindle for PC app.

  1. I know the Kindle for PC app belongs to Amazon and they are the ones ultimately responsible for it. However, I also know that Microsoft works very closely with their software partners in helping to ensure a quality experience around the OS. Considering that Kindle for PC was launched on the same day as Windows 7, I would be shocked if Microsoft were not at least playing an advisory role in the development of the app. Kindle for PC was announced during Steve Ballmer’s Windows 7 launch event in New York and showcased in the Partner Pavillion. Read Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc’s glowing review of it.  If Microsoft did not believe in this app and didn’t feel it showed off Windows 7 in the best light possible, you better believe they wouldn’t have made such a big deal of it on launch day. I have a pretty strong hunch that Microsoft played a role in ensuring that Windows 7 specific features, like multi-touch and the context-aware taskbar menu, would be included and built to showcase Windows 7 features on launch day. Nothing wrong with that at all and it is what anyone would expect partnering companies to do.
  2. When Kindle for PC first starts-up on the pc, it requires the user to register their PC by keying in their Amazon email address and password. To be sure, I didn’t expect to ink in the field, but I did at least expect the input panel to pop up when I placed the pen in the text fields. No such luck, though: the input panel didn’t pop-up because the text fields used on that screen were not accessibility aware – it is the same problem we all get when using the pen in Firefox and Chrome. In addition to the registration screen, the fields on the Send Feedback screen are not pen-aware.  These are tell-tell signs that the pen was never a consideration from the very beginning of the design process. Had it been, and Amazon was testing for tablet usage or at least aware of usability guidelines, they would have run across that issue. It also tells me that the Microsoft people working with Amazon on this app, again – assuming that they were, didn’t have tablet or pen awareness on their radar. That is a huge red flag, especially considering that the app centers around books.
  3. Notetaking in any form is not supported in the beta version of Kindle for PC. Amazon indicates that notetaking is coming in future versions, though. However, considering the missteps in #2 above, I’d be shocked if the notetaking field supported ink, much less was pen aware to at least prompt the input panel. Now, Loren Heiny states that it isn’t a surprise that ink isn’t in Kindle for PC due to the fact that so many disparate devices get synced using WhisperSync and wouldn’t be able to display the ink. I don’t think that is an issue, though. Ink is an attribute that can get stored on Amazon’s server’s with the content, and then displayed on devices that can support showing it. When the Mac version comes out, it should be able to display ink notes due to it being in a serialized .gif image – the same with the iPhone. Evernote does it across all of their apps – why can’t Kindle apps?
  4. I’m going to play devils advocate here. Let’s assume that Microsoft played absolutely no role in helping Amazon with their app to ensure it showcased Windows 7 features like multi-touch and the taskbar menu. If tablet functionality was ever in Amazon’s future plans for Kindle for PC, don’t you think they would have at least made their app pen-aware from the beginning? Did it ever cross Amazon’s mind that ink notes or ink markup in a digital book would be a good idea? Were they at all familiar with Microsoft’s work in the Tablet PC space, enough to see that ink and their Kindle for PC app were a match made in heaven? I’m guessing that Tablet PC never crossed their minds – or else we would have at least seen fields in the app being pen-aware to at least cause the input panel to display.
  5. Why Microsoft and not Amazon? It is Microsoft’s responsibility to make sure that companies like Amazon, who are developing products like e-book reader software, know about Microsoft technologies that could help them gain an edge over their competition. Marking up books, and textbooks and inking notes in books that could then be displayed on all their devices would surely be an edge that their competition doesn’t plan on supporting. Sadly, we see in Microsoft’s own technologies (Live products like Messenger, Mail, Calendar, etc) that confirm to us that ink and pen don’t seem to carry much weight at Microsoft anymore. That is likely a major reason why pen support doesn’t show up anywhere in the Kindle for PC app.
  6. I know Kindle for PC is beta, however, I’ve done enough beta testing for Microsoft and other companies to know that beta simply means: help us find and fix the bugs, but don’t give us any feature requests – we are way beyond that. New features come in versions 1.5, 2, etc. Don’t look for much to change once Kindle for PC comes out of beta.

Those are just a few reasons why I believe Microsoft should be embarrassed due to the lack of pen support in Kindle for PC. Granted, I’m making a lot of assumptions and I’d love to be proven wrong with what Amazon comes out with in their next versions. However, I think I’m right-on target with most of my assumptions. Meanwhile, we should let Amazon know ( that the Tablet PC exists and that Microsoft has the perfect technology to enhance the experience. Amazon definitely wants to hear feedback regarding the app, and I think we should let them know what we think.