Tech firms! Stop using us to beta test unfinished kit

Kindle Fire
Amazon's Kindle fire: now it's working properly

Good news! The Kindle Fire's working properly now!

Amazon's issued an automatic software update that adds a raft of new features including Buttons Reacting When You Press Them, Touch Commands Being Detected and Your New Gadget Actually Bloody Working Properly.

It's free and came out quickly, so hurrah for that, but it's yet another example of what I like to call "the tech industry taking the proverbial out of its customers".

The Kindle Fire update doesn't address obscure driver conflicts, or one-in-a-million entanglements between apps, individual system settings and particularly unpleasant wallpaper. It fixes some very basic flaws, flaws that pretty much every reviewer spotted immediately.

There are only two possible explanations: one, everybody in Amazon's QA department is a dumbass. Or two, Amazon rushed the Kindle Fire to market before it was finished. My money's on number two, because that's what everybody does these days.

Siri seems to be the hardest word

I don't expect every gadget to be perfect. There's no way on Earth Microsoft can test every conceivable combination of hardware, software, preferences and user input to ensure Windows is bug-free, and I don't think it's reasonable to expect smartphone OSes to anticipate every possible combination of network settings, apps, coverage and fat-fingered fumbling.

That said, I don't think it's acceptable for gadgets to ship with more bugs than a tramp's pants either.

Here's Sony, sorry for show-stopping bugs in its new PS Vita. The Vita, like the Kindle, isn't a PC, or a smartphone: it's a closed system over which the manufacturer - Sony in the Vita's case, Amazon in the Kindle's - has near total control.

If it's not bugs, it's missing features. RIM had clearly been on some kind of Canadian moonshine when it decided the PlayBook would work just fine without native email and calendar apps, and Apple made a rare PR misstep with Siri. No, not the "nutcases think it's anti-abortion" issue, but the "it doesn't work properly outside the US" issue.

I know Siri's a beta - although the marketing isn't exactly shouting about that - but I also know that it's the iPhone 4S's unique selling point, which is why Apple's banging on about it so much. Over here, though, it doesn't deliver on its promises.

We don't have local search, and it can't understand some of our accents. It'll get better in 2012, but for many UK customers with strong accents Siri simply doesn't work yet. Essentially Apple is selling UK customers a promise rather than a product.

I understand why it happens. Amazon didn't want to miss the lucrative pre-Christmas shopping period. Apple wants to sell as many iPhones as possible. Everyone at RIM is completely insane. But I still think they're taking the mickey.

Imagine if any other industry took the same approach: you'd buy a car today and get the steering wheel in July.


Liked this? Then check out Tablets in 2012: what to expect

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.