For months people have been waiting for Amazon to release their tablet. You see, If you were to ask anyone who they thought could bring a legitimate iPad competitor to the market, Amazon would likely be on that list. After all, with the success of the Kindle, it was only a matter of time before Amazon would make the next logical step. While I believe the Kindle Fire is that step, is it really an iPad competitor?
At first glance one might think so. The tech and news world has been buzzing with Amazon putting an iPad competitor on the market at only $199, $300 less than the iPad. One might wonder how this apparent low cost competitor will change the landscape of the tablet market. My answer? It won’t.
The tablet market is in its infancy, but we can already see a tiered system forming. It is already showing similar structure to that of the laptop and desktop market. No one would honestly compare a HP Mini netbook to a 17″ MacBook Pro – yet they are both fundamentally notebooks. But that same system of classification is going to become readily apparent as the tablet market continues to grow. At the high end of the spectrum you have the iPad and its direct competitors like the Motorola Xoom. These are tablets designed to be both consumption and creation devices with a mobile design that is flexible. Not as robust as a laptop, but pretty close. At the other end of the spectrum is going to be pure consumption devices – devices whose sole purpose is to deliver content to the user. The first tablet designed and willing to fulfill that tier has arrived, the Kindle Fire.
If you watch the commercial on Amazon’s website you will find the selling points of the Kindle Fire. You can read books, magazines, and newspapers. You can watch streaming movies and your favorite TV shows. Just can’t put your finger on who that actor in the movie was? Find out with full web access using Amazon’s apparently slick web browser. Bored on your train ride? Download a few games and blow your boredom to bits. What do all of these things have in common? They are all consumables. Amazon made a device that is designed as an easy way to consume media. No cameras. No business software. No video, audio, or text editing features. Consumption, pure and simple. Why? What is Amazon known for? Being a one-stop shop for nearly everything under the sun. Why would the Kindle Fire be any different?
I know what question has been nagging at you, “but won’t the Kindle Fire cut into iPad sales simply because it is a tablet?” Initially? Yes. In the long term? No. The two are going to find a very harmonious relationship in the same way that low end computers do with their more expensive brethren. People unsure about the tablet world don’t want to dip their toes in the water with a $500 investment. Why do you think the HP TouchPad sold so fast? Because the barrier to entry was so low. Who could resist testing out the tablet world for so little. Welcome to Amazon’s target market. After a person becomes more familiar with the tablet world they may feel it is time to upgrade and buy something more substantial. Now before you refute, just think for a moment how your computer or device purchases have gone in the past. I bet you usually start with an inexpensive version of a device to see if it fulfills your needs. After a few years (or months) you find that you are asking for things that your device cannot deliver so you upgrade. This holds true with phones, computers, cameras, and more. Why would tablets be any different?
I know what you are thinking, “why would Amazon want to limit itself?” I don’t see Amazon as limiting their market, I see Amazon as willingly filling a void in the tablet market. Remember how I said the tablet market is divided? Well, there is another group running along side the tablet market. They haven’t dipped their toe in yet, but they are looking at the water. We all know those people, the ones carrying around the e-ink machines touting their ability to read in the sunlight. You see e-readers have had a touchy-feely relationship with tablets like the iPad. They are often compared to each other even though they are not really in the same category. What the Kindle Fire provides is a way for those with e-readers that like the idea of a tablet, but aren’t sure if they would use it for more than reading and surfing the web, a low cost way to test the waters. You have to figure, there are a few million people out there with first generation Kindles looking to upgrade and for only $120 more than the base model Kindle they can have an e-reader that does so much more. Are you starting to see where Amazon is going with this now?
Ok, so it is a consumption device, but it is still similar to the iPad right? Not really, the Kindle Fire is an Amazon device first and foremost. Not just in branding, but with the OS as well. The OS is built off of Android, but it is heavily modified. Think of it like a Verizon cell phone. Verizon cell phones often have special skins, applications, and menus that let you know it is straight up Verizon. The Kindle Fire is along the same lines – menus, apps, books, movies, magazines, etc. are all going to be integrated with your Amazon account. It is a device centered around one expansive, but very tightly integrated ecosystem. Hell, when you buy it your information and Amazon account are already linked to the device. It is literally ready for you to start consuming media the instant it turns on for the first time. How many other devices arrive to your door setup and ready to go?
At first glance the Kindle Fire looks like it will be a contender for the iPad but that’s not the case. Amazon saw an opening, a need that was going unfulfilled. They saw the customers that only want to consume media. They aren’t looking to create a tablet that can replace a laptop’s basic functions. They are looking to have a device that doesn’t cost customers an arm and a leg to buy so they can watch TV anywhere in their home.