Amazon's Kindle Fire will challenge Apple's iPad and other tablets in that space, but adoption by companies as a business device could prove a nonstarter.
Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, due to start shipping Nov. 15,
will almost certainly rack up significant consumer sales.
The biggest question is whether the Fire, by presenting a
viable touch-screen alternative to the iPad, can succeed where so many other
Android-based tablets have failed. Nearly two years into its sales run, Apple's
tablet continues to dominate the market, while successive "iPad Killers" have
arrived on the scene only to promptly expire amidst withered expectations. Some
analysts believe the Fire, backed by Amazon's considerable branding presence and
marketing muscle, will sell millions of units in its first quarter of release-instantly
passing the sales totals of the Motorola Xoom, Research In Motion's PlayBook
and other contenders.
However, the iPad-and other tablets on the market-may yet retain an
advantage over the Kindle Fire: they double as business devices,
with an increasing presence within many companies. In quarterly
Apple executives have cited the iPad as a tool deployed with rising
within Fortune 500 firms, even as third-party developers rush to create
productivity apps for the iOS, Android and PlayBook platforms.
Employees may have a hard time persuading their bosses and
IT administrators that the Kindle Fire can carry similar weight within the
enterprise. Amazon's marketing efforts highlight the Fire's ability to play
movies and music, display e-books, and run programs via its branded app store.
The user interface, a heavily modified version of Android, is designed
explicitly to place the user in Amazon's playground as fast and seamlessly as
To Amazon's credit, the company isn't trying to push the
Fire as a business device-aside from nods to built-in email and the ability to
read documents. But its emphasis on the consumer market, and on its
functionality as a media device, could drag on its ability to compete with
those tablets aimed squarely at both the consumer and business markets.
Shopping and reviews Website Retrevo.com recently sampled
some 1,000 online individuals about their opinion of the Kindle Fire, which
facilitates streaming video and downloading e-books from Amazon's online store.
Of those surveyed, some 44 percent said they'd consider purchasing "a 7-inch
tablet made by Amazon" over Apple's iPad 2. Another 44 percent said they
"didn't know enough about the Amazon tablet" to make that decision and 12
percent said "they'd still buy an iPad."
However, Retrevo also found that the Fire faced some
significant branding issues.
"The Amazon Kindle is a strong brand and a popular
e-reader," Andrew Eisner, the Website's director of community and content,
wrote in a Nov. 9 research note. "However, it looks like Amazon may have to
spend some marketing dollars if it wants consumers to perceive Kindle as a
tablet, too. In this study, which was conducted after Amazon announced the
Fire, the majority of respondents (35 percent) thought the Kindle Fire was an
As the Fire's release date nears, Apple is making a show of
According to Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes, Apple CEO
Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer suggested in a sit-down that the Kindle
Fire, and its radical deviation from the "standard" Android user interface,
represents a big step in the fragmentation of Google's mobile operating
"The more fragmentation, the better, says Apple, since that
could drive more consumers to the stable Apple platform," Reitzes wrote, as
quoted by Business
"We believe that Apple will get more aggressive on price with the
iPad eventually but not compromise the product quality and experience."
Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter