Fighting Apple with Fire

When a consumer picks up a tablet, it’s the experience that matters – What can this device do? How smoothly does it run? Can I take it outdoors with me without worrying about a power source or sun glare?

For this reason, Amazon has been very smart in how it chose to position the Kindle Fire: as a content delivery platform instead of a piece of hardware. It’s the first tablet released without emphasis on the processor speed, amount of ram, or Bluetooth capabilities. While specs are often a hot topic of debate between nerds and geeks, the mainstream consumer won’t know the difference between a Snapdragon or a Hummingbird processor. The focus at the Fire’s release was instead on what a user could do with the device and the accessibility to content. With their massive eBook library, the newly released video streaming services with Amazon prime, and a growing Apps market, Amazon has created a seamless integration of content and delivery platform. It’s no small feat for a company that began selling paperbacks online in 1995.

With the Kindle Fire, Amazon has entered the tablet market in the same way Apple revolutionized the MP3 players space with its first iPod. The Kindle Fire also has the same potential to move tablets further past the early adopters stage, just as how the iPod served as a catalyst that mainstreamed the MP3 device. Despite being so late-to-market, Amazon makes up for lost time by paring the product down to its core features and giving users a unified experience across all its products. (Amazon’s Press Conference style was also eerily similar to Apple’s. Thanks to Jobs’ flair, no tech company can go back to less-than-climactic product releases ever again.)

With the tablet market exploding (303.8% y-o-y growth in 2Q11) and Apple’s stronghold of a market share (currently at 68.3%), this space is ripe for some disruption. The Fire will help Android gain marketshare, but it’ll be hard to unseat the iPad as the premium device in this category. The Fire is also aimed at a different consumer segment – the more casual tablet user without a large wallet. With the 7-inch screen size, the Fire has a potential advantage of the iPad in terms of ultra portability. And at $199, the price is oh-so-right. I’m definitely rooting for the Amazon Fire. It’ll be nice to see someone best Apple at its own game, for once.

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