From BlackBerry Inspiration to BlackBerry Plagiarism - Apparently that is the design process behind Amazon's Kindle hardware

Inspiration or Plagiarism?
By Kevin Michaluk on 2 Oct 2011 04:04 pm EDT
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Earlier this week Amazon announced their new Kindle Fire, a media-consumption oriented tablet that looks basically identical to a BlackBerry PlayBook. I think a lot of us BlackBerry PlayBook owners and BlackBerry fans we're a little surprised to see just how blatantly Amazon ripped off the PlayBook's hardware design. Turns out we shouldn't be **that** surprised, as it seems Amazon has a history of taking inspiration from Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices. Yesterday the WSJ posted a story on Amazon's kindle history, which had a quote from a hardware designer who worked on the first generation Amazon Kindle who told WSJ:

"Jeff Bezos would come into our design meetings and say he loved his BlackBerry and the ease with which he could find e-mails and respond to people," the former Amazon designer explained. "That's why the first Kindle was so boxy, had the funky square keyboard and that strange scroll wheel on the side; it was all inspired by Jeff's BlackBerry."

Pretty interesting, and it definitely explains the look and design of those old Kindles, which we're sort of like an old BlackBerry flattened out like a pancake. The WSJ took the stance that the new Kindle Fire takes after the iPad in design, but I think the author of that story never saw a BlackBerry PlayBook before, as the Kindle Fire's hardware is basically a carbon copy of the PlayBook. Heck, with the Kindle Fire reportedly being made by the same company who makes the PlayBook for RIM, it's more like the same device than a copy even.

So is it inspiration? Or plagiarism? Check out the images above and you be the judge. You have a BlackBerry 8700 on the far left, next to the original Kindle. Then you have a BlackBerry PlayBook and Kindle Fire on the far right. Whether inspiration or plagiarism, it's kind of funny though. Don't they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery?

Reader comments

From BlackBerry Inspiration to BlackBerry Plagiarism - Apparently that is the design process behind Amazon's Kindle hardware

74 Comments

Its plagiarism, but what RIMM doesn't have that Amazon does have, is the ability to market their device and do a pretty damn good job.

Although I haven't seen any Kindle commercials as of late, apparently the Kindle family is coming to BestBuy and Amazon also has, well, Amazon. Good stuff.

RIM has the ability...they choose not to. Believe me when I tell you, their marketing department is corrupt.

Agreed. Doesn't really matter much on plagiarism or not, it's in the execution. There are a lot of napkin based entrepreneurs out there, who always complain that someone else introduced their idea into the market. The comment is, they did it, you did not. Execution is were RIM has been missing for the last year or two.

Amazon does not need much commercials.

Fire will be a hit. With this price even with the reduced freedom.

I would buy a Playbook for 200 Euro. At the moment with what it would "give" me.

Also it's still over 350 Euro here :/

I just sent an email to the paper about how the Fire is identical to the PB, and looks nothing like the iPad. Maybe others here can do the same? The link is at the bottom of the story after comments. Paste in the url of the story.

And RIM is not suing Quanta for the R&D money and design costs that Amazon was handed for free? Isn't this intellectual property of RIM's? What a sell out company.

Suing Quanta makes no sense, they are a ODM it's their legal right to offer similar products to others who seek their offerings. You should review what being an ODM means and their business practices. The only IP here that RIM owns is the OS, the design of the PlayBook for all intents and purposes is not theirs.

I would have thought that there would be some agreement between RIM and Quanta that Quanta would be able to put out a similar looking tablet for another company.

Should have been but that itself goes against the logic of being an ODM. RIM knew this, Quanta knew this. Suing Quanta is not the answer, not sure why this is so hard for people to grasp.

"ODMs create their own intellectual property and are very proactive in patenting it."

They OWN it, they can do whatever they with it. Inclusing licensing it out to others who wish for exact, and or similar designs.

Actually, I think this is great. Now when I pull out my playbook, people won't laugh because they'll think I'm using the Amazon fire. :)

Also it kinda proves RIM correct that the size is valuable, which all of us PB owners know already.

Doesn't this also explain the halt in PB production. Doesn't Quanta need to gear up for millions of Amazon Fires?

I don't think it matters one way or the other. What is going to sell the playbook is pulling off 2.0 correctly, it has nothing to do with the hardware and I really do think Amazon has put life back into the 7 inch tablet.

Even if there was, it was probably tied to meeting a sales figure, which RIM couldn't have met with the miserable Playbook sales numbers. Quanta was probably planning on making tons of these things, but RIM's poor marketing, unfinished OS, and just plain pathetic rollout killed that. I see nothing wrong with Quanta trying to resurrect the manufacturing line by getting most of the same components in a similar device to a company that knows how to sell things. They had to lay people off because the Playbook has done so bad, so maybe the Fire can get some of those people working again. RIM probably has no one to blame for the Fire's resemblance to the Playbook but themselves.

Unfortunately, Kevin didn't do his due diligence and find a pic of the PlayBook in portrait mode. They are hard to find, but they are out there.

Here's a link to a PC Magazine article which states that they sold 95,000 the first day.
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2393983,00.asp#fbid=aojKpEv-h4B
Edit: This is an estimate.
"eDataSource estimated these figures by tracking email purchase receipts in 800,000 inboxes. The New York-based research firm has a database of millions of email, Twitter and Facebook marketing campaigns dating back to 2003, though it's not immediately clear where this information derives."

Right...there are so many ways to make a 7" tablet look different from others. Let's see: rectangular form factor and 7" cutout measured on the diagonal. Stop the outrage. Amazon's flagrantly copying the PlayBook. Stop the presses. Must be a slow news day. Ridiculous and irritating post from our fearless leader.

I like my 64 GB PlayBook but I'd stop short of shrill cries of conspiracy even if it does get my site quoted by others. If you're looking for justification for this whole thread, there it is.

Wow. From what I heard in forums, It is actually like the very same box made by the very same company. Pretty much sounds like a copy. I think holding them and comparing them would pretty much support what Kevin is saying - you likely have done neither. Kevin more likely has. Do I even have to defend our fearless leader in Crackberry, let alone Playbook and RIM? I thought that was a sacrilege to make such comments. Instead defenders are the ones punished. Nothing is sacred in here. Nobody has any respect, even mouthing off to Kevin now. Crackberry is out of control. I just stopped by here on the way out of the forums until Crackberry has been controlled to stop being Bashberry and the Playbook forums are actually dedicated to Playbook enthusiasts and pro- RIM , pro-Crackberry, pro Kevin types as it claims to be. See everyone after Devcon..

You're painting with a pretty broad brush there buck-a-roo. Your calling my comments to Kevin "sacrilege" is going a bit too far. It's a public "forum" after all, and Kevin is tolerant of others' opinions as long as they aren't blatant trolls.

I think he can handle himself. Don't let the door hit you on the butt on the way to Devcon.

@webmaster - I think your comment is ridiculous and irritating :)

since WSJ posted this story yesterday it's been getting submitted over and over again by readers on our tip line as news for us to post on. I agree it's not that big a deal... but it's something people want us to post on, its' definitely funny story to see as it relates to the original kindle, and this way ppl will stop sending it in as a story to post on now that it's been properly blogged.  understand?

oh yeah, and it's sunday... of COURSE it's a slow news day!  

 

read it. understand your frustrations. 

we have some good changes coming soon to the way we manage our forums. the aim is to make things more consistent across all our properties, and in here we'll have consistent ways of dealing with trolls, etc.

Thank you sir. It is not just my frustration, I am simply the most vocal, least tolerant and perhaps most courageous because I do not get intimidated. I end up getting in trouble for it, and happy to take the hit for the sake of the site. I speak for many here who have thanked me and sent private messages. I will be watching from a distance but I've had it for now. Thank you for your response.

How do you know what is "legal"? Are you Quanta's lawyer? Do you have the agreement with RIM that defines who has wnat responsibilities and rights?

Just because an ODM generally has rights to the design, does not mean the same conditions apply to every product and agreement.

RIM would have certain rights. Do you know what they are? If not, we are all speculating (ah, the fun of a forum).

We will know when RIM takes action, if any. In the meantime, it's reasonable to ask how close is too close.

LOL. I'm a bit of a BlackBerry fanboy to tell the truth, so I find it a bit disappointing when we start to sound a bit shrill...it makes it sound like we're already circling the drain. I think a bit of "turn the other cheek" is in order. Ignoring the bullies makes them turn elsewhere for their recreation. Agreed that the Amazon thingy looks a lot like the RIM thingy but so what.....imitation *is* the sincerest form of flattery. Time to move on, ignore the real trolls (there are a lot of them) and be more business-like. Just like our BBs!

Btw, thank you for being respectful of my point of view. I respect yours, too, even if I am "irritated" by it.

/Eric

They shoulda work something out like a Blackberry x Amazon Tablet release togather..too bad amazon is a bigger market than RIM..

Kevin,

Stop standing up for RIM and use your connections inside RIM to see why RIM is sitting still in this highly competitive market. Why is iOS and Android OS so much more intriguing to consumers? Yes this is a Pro-RIM forum, but maybe do something about it as the owner of CrackBerry instead of posting "pseudo-positive" articles.

Ever think that you may be out of a job in a year if RIM stops producing BlackBerries?

Blind RIM Fans: Don't tell me to stop reading the articles, I can read/post whatever I like

"Don't tell me to stop reading the articles, I can read/post whatever I like"
Not if Kevin has anything to say about it. How dare you act this way as a guest? I'm completely fed up with this attitude when anyone posts anything positive or optimistic. Now even Kevin is a target. I hope he simply eradicates all of you.

Posting here is not an entitlement, it is a privilege. How dare you come in here and make demands of the host? I hope the privilege is taken away from those who have no respect.

It's a public forum. As long as it's public, no one can stop me.

Just saying, instead of posting useless articles, maybe do something with all the people you know a RIM.

@ JLH .... a few things:

a) i'm the founder of crackberry and main voice on crackberry, but the site is owned by smartphone experts/mobile nations

b) i'm going to start a new series this week on the blogs called "if i ran rim" which will get into the things i want to see happen at rim to make them dominate once again.  they won't be negative, nor pseudo-positive... they'll be constructive.

c) i also oversee our iOS/android/webOS/windows phone sites.. risk of job less doesn't enter my worries. focused on growth all the way. we got soo much to do in the mobile space and have big plans in progress to do better with all our sites. i'm more concerned about finding time to sleep than anything else.

d) when you register with the site you agree to our terms and conditions. if you're outside of them in your posting, we have the right to ban/close your account, etc. it's not something we want to do or like to do -- we'd rather see people post in good sense with positive intent... but if haters wanna hate we can and will take out the troll trash.

 

Now you see first hand Kevin what it has been like in the forums with poor border control. This enthusiast has had enough. Please speak with the mods. They are going after people like me instead of the ipad android immigrants. I would appreciate a full pardon for "infractions" for being positive about playbook and defending it by the way.

My thought- RIM had contracted for way many more PBs than it ended up needing and sold the components to Amazon for the Fire. My .02.

Technically probably plagiarism, but it doesn't really upset me. There's really only so much that you can do to vary the design of a tablet. Some are more rounded, some are boxier like the PlayBook. Some are 7", some are 10". Other than that, what else are they really going to do to radically change from something that already exists?

When I saw the 10 inch Samsung Galaxy I said to myself: This looks a lot like the iPad! But I don't think people reacted so violently like this.

I hate to be a spoilsport, but you all need to look up "plagiarism" in a good dictionary. The KindleFire may have copied, may have infringed patents, may have done any number of things, but plagiarism doesn't apply. Plagiarism about the unauthorized and unattributed use of words/ideas/themes, not a physical device.

way to be literal...i dont think the article was about english class... the wonderful thing about the english language is we can bend words and phrases and ideas to fit what we are trying to say... for example... tablet... hmmm i dont think the playbook is several pieces of paper bound together to for a booklet in which we can jot notes down on..... or blackberry... hmm my phone definately didnt grown on a vine.... get it? now stay on topic will you

and im sure no one will bitch about the size. lol amazon doing it is good but if its rim its crap. i love that.

Who cares!? Better to solve the battery and quality problems with actual devices like the 9900 and it´s wonderful battery life - THAT is a problem cause if RIM doesn't get all this little matters off... the black fruit will end in a fruit salad... without sugar;-)

Bold 9900 (yet)

7 inch Fire is dead on arrival.....now where did I hear that before.

You are spot on about that one.

Just think of all the cool holders etc. that are going to fit the playbook perfectly! yeah.

Put another way all those cases I bought for the PB will fit my Amazon Fire .... if 2.0 is a failure.

BTW does anyone know if the zinio app for Android will work with the Android player? Or is the zinio ap just for Honeycomb?

let me preface my comment, i really like my Playbook, I use it everyday it is a joy to use. Unfortunately RIM screwed up big time, they have made irreputable damage to its reputation. The only way they can erase the disaster of 2011 is if the QNX phones next year are the next best thing to have.

I think that this is a perfect opportunity for RIM to advertise the PBs ability to run all of the content that companies like amazon offer (without the need of an app)

Not plagiarism in any event, and if RIM doesn't have a design patent on the PlayBook design, then there's probably no intellectual property violation, period.

This article lessens the credibility of this website.

The same logic used by the author would also label RIM as a plagiarist. Look at Android tablets that were released before the Playbook. It's not hard to find. It's not a unique design. Worse yet, how about the metal outer bezel copied from the iPhone?

You know, I walk into Best Buy and see a wall full of HD TVs. They look pretty much the same, big rectangles with big black screens when turned off. Ports and controlls about the same. Turn them on and the picture looks pretty darn the same. So is this plagarism? I don't know.

We can ask this question about PlayBook and fIRE and come up with clever entertaining questions based on our own opinions, feelings about RIM, and some general info from Wikipedia about ODMs.

But until or unless we can get our hands on the RIM agreement for the PB, we will just have to wait until RIM decides to react. Depends on what specifications they gave Quanta to design with, and what specific rights each party holds, based on their actual agreement. This will guide RIM on how to react. Or guide their improvements provided in OS2 or PB2.

You say that obviously the WSJ hasn't seen a Playbook. I don't think I know anyone that's seen a Playbook. Did they ever release it? LOL

I LOVE the new Kindle Fire. I have zero interest in buying one, but it has already brought the price of better tablets (HTC Flyer as the first) into perspective and has resulted in serious cuts in price (already! only days later). Oh yeah... it's getting interesting.

Does anyone know if the Kindle will use the same swipe interface as the Playbook? Or if the charging hub and usb port are the same?

No camera, no mic, no micro HDMI, 8GB of storage. I also can't see any visible speakers. You are getting what you pay for: 199$
Playbook: Dual cam, dual mic, dual speakers, micro HDMI 16gb: 400$

Although you only have 8GB on it, I saw in a video that your information is stored in the Amazon cloud, so storage space is apparently never an issue.

I'm from Canada but we're speaking USA here because the Kindle Fire isn't featured on the Canada site. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure it will be on its way.

I will say it's smoother than the Playbook and pages load very fast. I read some information, however if you are a Blackberry Owner, I don't think you'll find the Fire a better idea. I still find that the Playbook gives you more power: The bezel swipe and sliding to another opened application.

After reading about it, the tablet seems limiting to me. Personally, I find the interface very crowded and the reason why it is more smooth is because the interface seems simpler. I did a CTRL+F of the word multitasking and found nothing (same with micro HDMI). Then again I read on another source that it has multitasking just like other androids.

Can someone with more knowledge correct me on these issues?

As someone who has spent quite a bit of time looking at the intellectual property issues behind appropriation art (thinking mostly about the aesthetic implications of judgments like Prince v. Cariou; link below), I think this comes down to the contractual obligations agreed to by the respective companies rather than something that is handled as a part of patent law.

The bottom line is that it is not illegal to blatantly copy a "design." This is why upscale fashions have been plastered with logos for the past few years; those can be protected by trademark and copyright law, but a certain cut and use of fabric is not (which is why knock-offs or blatantly similar designs show up almost immediately). I haven't been paying much attention to the Apple v. Samsung case, but my understanding is that most of the actual litigation pertains to patents, materials, and code that do fall under enforceable law, rather than superficial similarities in design (which amount to window dressing).

I will say that I'm not a lawyer, but right now it seems like people are trying to enforce a standard of law to the behavior of companies and corporations that isn't supported outside of grade-school notions of "copying."

I wrote 4 things over the summer about appropriation art and copyright; you can find it here starting with "What Appropriation Means to Me and Mine" and going through 3 "On Copyright" essays: http://briandupont.wordpress.com/

Please, the Playbook was stillborn, will be gone very shortly. Regardless of where the inspiration came from, all vendors look to competiton to see what to include in their own units. Blackberry store trying to compete with Apple Store maybe????? Regardless, both units have severe limitations, and whilst an iPAD is a big iPhone with the phone, the Playbook is not a big Blackberry. It needed so much more work to hit the ground running as opposed to pushing it out. RIP playbook, RIM, focus on getting a QNX BB out before I retire, that is where you bread and butter will be. The iPad is simply unbeatable now, and the streets are littered with also rans.

So, didn't Steve Jobs say that the 7" form factor would fail? Well, if that is the case, then why is a content delivery outfit like Amazon launching a 7" tablet?

As for the low sales of PB. I can tell you that sales people get 5x the commission to sell you a Motorola Xoom with 3G service. That is why everyone that has gone to a store has found sales people that try to get you to go from a Playbook to anything else.

No matter that you can save $50.00 a month with you BlackBerry. The sales guy wants his commission.

While the Fire does look a lot like the PB, let's look at the positives.

The Fire is real vote of confidence for the 7" form factor as they could have made it any size they wanted. The Fire is a pure media content player and will always underwhelm those that want....just that one more thing. It will never replace any other device, such as a laptop, because it's too purpose-built. It also will be largely useless without the paid content as the real purpose of the device is to connect customers to the Amazon eco-system and therefore other non-content related features will be ignored.

I have no doubt Amazon will sell tons in the first few months, but once the list "can't do's" is known (and grows) and with the similar form factor fully-functional PB only $100 more.......