Free by the holidays? Rumors suggest the Amazon e-reader will be, but the company isn't saying. Still, since few words in the English language have a bigger fan base than "free," it seemed only natural to compile this list of other devices that could or should be complimentary some day in the near future.
If there's any device with a trajectory toward free as steep as the Kindle, it's the iPod Nano. Apple should use its stranglehold on the tablet market to reinforce the prominence of iTunes. How about a free Nano with each iPad 2 purchase?
You just can't expect me to get excited enough about HD or XM to buy a new rig, install it, and pay the monthly subscription. But give me a device that's compatible with all of the above, and maybe Pandora or Rdio available on a menu of subscriptions a la cable TV, and I'm in. And while you're at it, you might as well just make it an app.
Even going free from now on won't save the Zune. For those in the know, it was one of the more well-crafted digital media devices ever to come to the show a minute late and a dollar short--kinda like whoever got stuck playing the Harlem Globetrotters this time around. The fundamentals are solid, but the pizzazz just isn't there, and the game seems fixed anyway.
So now Microsoft's plan is to discontinue the hardware and fold the Zune's software into the Windows Phone platform. This defeat could have been avoided if Microsoft had adopted an aggressive but closed free model from the start, going after Apple and converting the world from iTunes to Windows Media Player.
While we're in fantasyland, why not just ship out all those last few Zunes at random, free of charge?
Anything on the Sprint network
If AT&T's bid to acquire T-Mobile goes through, the "Now Network" could feel increasingly like a relic of a yesteryear filled with cute, smaller providers. But if it gave out its best smartphones for free, I'd gladly play along and pretend its 4G is for real.
Google TV/Apple TV
Let's be real. Until I can easily explain to my mother what it is and why she needs it, you're going to have to give it away.
Rides on Jeff Bezos' space rocket
Someone has to ride along as Jeff goes in search of new products, markets, and customers willing to sign up for free two-day intergalactic shipping through Amazon Prime. Why can't it be me?