Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why the Kindle Fire Will Defeat its Android Counterparts, but not Kill the iPad

When Steve Jobs took the stage earlier this year to unveil the iPad 2, he made a claim that this would be the year of the copy cats.  While that has claim has been materialized in devices like the Motorola Xoom,  RIM's Playbook, and even Barnes and Noble's Nook Color to a certain extent, there is a new challenger in town: the Amazon Kindle Fire.

While I would argue that it's not really "correct" to compare the iPad 2 with the Kindle Fire, it's bound to happen, and as consumers are shopping for a tablet device this holiday season, the question is going to come up.

Although it's too early to come up with final judgements, as the product won't even be released until November, we can at least make some early speculation as to how this will affect other tablets on the market, and whether or not we may have an iPad "killer" on our hands.

First, this is why the Kindle Fire will defeat, and most likely destroy its Android counterparts:
Its focus is narrow, and its goals are specific
Unlike the majority of Android tablets on the market today, the Kindle has a very specific purpose -- above all else, it is an e-reader.  Sure, it's also a media consumption device, but when it comes down to it, users will want a great reading experience.  When you pick up a Xoom, or a Playbook there's not as much direction or purpose -- it's simply there for you to guess what you should be doing.

It has more and greater content available
The Kindle Fire will have the Amazon Appstore for Android and while it's not as comprehensive as the general Android Market, there is a great selection of apps.  (PS -- it was a very smart move to establish that Appstore in the world of Android before the release of the Kindle Fire).  Where the Kindle Fire truly shines is in the media available: Movies, TV Shows, Music, Magazines and of course, books.  Obviously you can download the equivalent Android apps for some of these things on other devices, but the experience will be nowhere near what you find on the Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the seemingly incredibly fast web browsing, and a casual user has everything they need.

It's priced right
If I was the maker of an Android tablet right now, I would be afraid.  Very, very afraid.  Barnes and Noble (which took a hit to their stock value after today's announcement) has to be especially concerned.  At a price point of $199 (which is currently $50 less than what the NOOK Color costs, which is significantly less than other Android tablets) it makes for a very attractive package -- I mean, we all saw what happened with the $99 TouchPad, right?

Second, this is why the Kindle Fire cannot, and will not, kill the iPad:
It has a different target market
These positive points are all well and good, but does it add up to an iPad killer?  I think not.  From what I've seen of the presentation made today, there was a little jab at syncing a device using a wire, but it didn't seem focused on what the Kindle Fire could do that the iPad can't (like Flash, for example, which other companies have tried to make a major selling point).  Instead, it focused simply on what the Kindle Fire does well.  And while it does many things very well, there was no mention of certain things the iPad excels at -- like content creation, for example.  Not to mention the hardware differences that equip the iPad to be a useful tool in more situations (thinking of GPS, cameras and a microphone specifically).

The Kindle Fire is no laptop replacement
Along those same lines, the ways the iPad and Kindle Fire have been presented are different.  Steve Jobs considers the days we live in to be the "Post-PC era" and that the iPad is the new personal computer.  In many cases, an iPad can easily be considered a laptop replacement, and has the specs and apps to back that claim up.  The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is presented more as an entertainment device.  While its hardware specs are nothing to balk at, it's lacking in some key areas (screen size not being the least of these).  Likewise, I've never heard of anyone buying an iPad for the sole purpose of reading books.

Content is still king
It's great that Kindle Fire users will have access to the Amazon Appstore for Android, and to the TV and movies available through their video services (including cloud syncing services) -- but the content available via those venues pales in comparison to what iPad users have at their disposal in iTunes.  Not only that, but the issue of few apps designed and developed specifically for tablet use still plagues the Android Market at large.  Until this changes, it'll be hard to sway users toward Android tablets.

So where does this leave us?  Will/Should consumers own both devices?  I find this highly unlikely and unnecessary.  Instead, I think consumers will fall in one camp or the other for the reasons mentioned above.  Sure, some households may contain both devices, as each person's needs and preferences are different, but at the end of the day I think it can be settled by answering the following question: do you need a low-cost, focused but potentially lacking tablet (but stellar e-reader), or do you need a premium laptop replacement with less limitations?


Brandon said...

I totally agree. There were a ton of headlines yesterday saying "Amazon takes on Apple" and I think that couldn't be more wrong. I think they're positioning for the 2nd place tablet in a very smart way. At the moment Android tablets don't have the features or "cool factor" to compete with the iPad and can't even come close to the iPad's value at the $499 price point. However, $499 is still expensive and everyone wants a tablet now. Being the first quality tablet at the $200 range is going to be huge for Amazon. Kindle is also a solid recognizable brand to the average consumer, as opposed to the confusing mess of the other tablets.

I also think you're right on with the narrow focus. You don't need to be a hacker nerd to set this up and maintain it, it should "just work" for the things it's intended to do.

I'm most interested in the Kindle Touch. Even though I have an iPad I'd consider getting a really good dedicated e-reader for $99. And now it's got a really clean design and awesome e-ink screen. I think the whole announcement sets up a really strong lineup for Amazon!

Matt Augustine said...

Great points! Being the 2nd place tablet is not a bad goal by any means, and I'm sure Amazon would be very happy living in that space. And as you said, with the demand for a "cool" tablet, and a $200 price point, it's destined for success. Plus, I like your point about the brand recognition - combine that with everything else, I'd say they've definitely got a winner.

I have heard of others that have a huge desire for the new touch-based, e-ink Kindle as well. I wouldn't mind having something like that either... especially if you're a person that reads a lot. From what I understand, e-ink is just so much easier on the eyes, and helps you drift away from the LCD screen and relax.

Only more good things can come from this :)

Brandon said...

Also these guys agreee:

Matt Augustine said...

It appears we posted our comments at the exact same time :) Great article. Thanks for sharing!