USA Today is the latest paper to launch an app specifically for the Kindle Fire, Amazon's Android-powered tablet device that was launched at the end of September. The paper already has a general Android application for tablets, but seems to have deemed the device important enough to target directly.
The app features "a custom look and design specifically for the tablet" and provides "a convenient interactive package designed to take advantage of Kindle Fire's seven inch color touch screen," according to a press release from USA Today. The Fire runs on an older version of the Android OS than many new devices and has a very different user interface.
The app is available in Amazon's app store, which also boasts a Wall Street Journal Fire-specific app, as well as some Condé Nast titles. The Kindle Fire is already the second most popular tablet after the iPad and was projected to see a 13.8% market share in the last quarter of 2011, reported paidContent in December.
PaidContent's Tom Krazit wondered as early as November whether the Kindle Fire would create a 'fragmentation problem' for Android as publishers looked into making apps for the device. It clearly makes sense for publishers to build apps for the devices that sell best, but this might mean that they neglect other devices.
USA Today also has apps for the iPad, Windows Touch and HP TouchPad as well as its generic Android app and smartphone apps. Is it necessary for a newspaper to create so many different apps? It clearly provides advantages in terms of aesthetics and experience, but for many smaller publications it would not even be a possibility to invest so much in developers. Some may choose to create an HTML5 browser-based app that would adapt to the device it is displayed on, as the Financial Times has done.
Most publishers still create their first app for the iPad, which still accounts for about two-thirds of the global tablet market. Although the tablet has been steadily losing ground to Android devices, rumours abound that a new iPad will appear in the first half of this year, which could help it maintain its hold.