Amazon Lights the Kindle Fire

Alan Bullock
Sep 29, 2011

The tablet market got a little more crowded this week. What remains to be seen is whether the top 80% or the bottom 20% feels the squeeze, or if maybe the whole pie gets bigger to make room for a new player. Amazon’s entry had been widely anticipated and predicted to be a potential “iPad killer”. The announcement of the Amazon Kindle Fire, a 7-inch Android device with an aggressive $199 price point, made headlines on Wednesday, but measuring it against the iPad may be comparing apples to, um, Apples.

I’ve always felt that the iPad was more of a consumptive device than a creative device. As my son once said, “you don’t fully appreciate the iPad until you’ve spent some time on the couch with it,” — web surfing, watching videos, checking Facebook, playing games, etc. — all more comfortably than ever before. Its on-screen keyboard is OK for entering URLs and short messages, but (for me, anyway) not much good for more extensive typing tasks. The iPad 2’s creative DNA got a big boost with the addition of a camera (OK, two) and all the associated photo apps. Notably, the Kindle Fire will have no camera, which, with its smaller screen (and correspondingly smaller on-screen keyboard), will render it creatively challenged.

That leaves consumption, which appears to be the market that Amazon is chasing with the Kindle Fire. Apple makes a lot of money from the sales and rental of digital music, movies, TV shows, and books on iPads, iPods, and even Apple TV. Amazon is already a strong player in that business, with an extensive library of music and video content that it has been selling from its web site and streaming through TiVo DVRs and other connected set top boxes — not to mention the more than 1 million books, newspapers, and magazines already available on Kindle e-readers. All of that will be available on the Kindle Fire.

On top of all that commercial content, you may also recall that Amazon has a web site where people can buy stuff. Lots of stuff. Pretty easily. And usually at pretty good prices. Think Amazon’s Kindle Fire might also include a way to shop there? Count on it.

Will there be apps? Yes. Will users be able to access online content, including personal photos and videos from various online services? Yes. But the Kindle Fire will have just 8 GB of on-board storage and appears to have limited creative and sharing capabilities compared to other Android devices and everyone’s favorite target, the iPad. In fact, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color is probably the more accurate comparison.

iPad killer? No, but you’ll be able to buy one with it.

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