Our very own Seth Clifford, he of the iOS and mobile design podcasts, took a second look at how Amazon's Kindle Fire stacks up against Apple's iPad 2, now that the Fire has gotten its first, much-needed software update.
As a nerd, the Fire is a waste of time for the most part. You're limited by the choices Amazon's made in the hardware and software, and getting stuff done around those choices is possible, but probably not worth your time unless you really feel like poking around. People have been hinting at how great a CyanogenMod build would be for the Fire, so you may want to go that route eventually, but then again, why not just buy another Android tablet if that's what you want it for? Surely if you're willing to hack to that end, you can save yourself some time with other hardware. But I guess there's the challenge too.
As a normal person, the Fire is pretty good. Seriously. The software update (which auto-installed minutes after I unboxed the Fire) made a big difference in responsiveness. Prior to that, half my button presses didn't even register and scrolling was pretty lame. If you're comfy with Amazon's selections, and you don't mind a few weird moments (like always tapping the screen to do everything), you probably won't mind it too much. There's plenty to do and it's laid out clearly for you. If you use the device in the manner Amazon has envisioned, you'll be fine. It's when you stray outside of that use case that you face some resistance. My guess is that most Fire owners won't make that choice.
Seth's far more forgiving than I. Too much about the Kindle Fire -- from the ill-position power button and the lack of volume buttons, to the laggy video, to the way the software is designed almost entirely as a giant front end for Amazon's e-commerce engine, to its bizarre lack of content outside the U.S. -- is like finger nails on a chalk board. It shows a lack of care and concern, and if they can't think this stuff through beforehand, I have little faith in their magically fixing it in the long run. Here's why -- it's Amazon-prioritized, not user-prioritized, and I value my time and sanity far more than the $300 difference between a Fire and even a base-price iPad. (Your use cases and priorities may be different, of course.)
Check out Seth's complete comparison for more.