Amazon cooking Apple with Kindle Fire?

Amazon has launched a head-on challenge to Apple's iPad with its own tablet computer. And it's cheap...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 18 Sep 2012
Amazon’s founder and chief exec Jeff Bezos launched the Kindle Fire in New York today, with most of the slavering techno acolytes focused on the price. At only $199 it’s less than half the price of the iPad. What’s not to like?

Well, there’s always something. ‘Premium products at non-premium prices,’ is how Bezos describes Amazon’s positioning, yet there are a few downsides. The Kindle Fire doesn’t have a camera or mobile internet access, the latter particularly seeming to be a massive oversight.
Who wants a portable device these days that’s not capable of connecting to the net? The Fire’s touchscreen is also considerably smaller (7" to Apple’s 9.2") and Android tablets have yet to convince in the way that the Apple iOS has.

This is perhaps reflected in its more modest expectations: Forrester research estimates that the Kindle Fire will sell between 3m and 5m units in its first year, compared to the 9.3m iPads that Apple shifted between April and June.

Still, this represents the first genuine challenger to Steve Jobs’ lot when it comes to tablets, beyond Samsung’s Galaxy. The latter has been mopping up the entire non-Apple demographic (which true to form is becoming more vocal and vitriolic as Apple’s reach extends across the globe). Yet the two have been more embroiled in legal cases than simply selling their wares.

Amazon also has the digital media muscle to back up the hardware. It knows that content is king: it’s second to Apple in digital music sales in the US, and also has its huge e-book businesses. It recently signed licensing agreements with various content providers, such as a Fox tie-up to enable the digital retailer’s subscribers to instantly stream films and TV programs through the Prime video service launched in February.

The only other problem is whether the Kindle is trying to be too many things at once, landing somewhere between a tablet and an e-reader. Yet such quibbles do fade into the background when a low price comes into play. Apple may just be staring at a quality, cheaper, smaller alternative tablet. And it may find that hard to swallow…

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