Apple likes the idea of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, according to an analyst report from Barclays Capital Ben Reitzes.
His source? Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who suggested in a sit-down with the analyst 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 system.
"The more fragmentation, the better, says Apple, since that could drive more consumers to the stable Apple platform," Reitzes wrote, as quoted by Business Insider. "We believe that Apple will get more aggressive on price with the iPad eventually but not compromise the product quality and experience."
Most Android products offer a "standard" user interface of a set of home screens paired, via a virtual button, to a grid of individual apps. Some manufacturers have taken additional liberties with this layout. HTC smartphones running Android, for example, feature prominent time and weather indicators on the initial home screen, while Samsung's TouchWiz imposes a distinctive look on Android's typeface and icons.
But Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, expected to ship Nov. 15 with a $199 price tag, takes Android one step further. Gone are the customizable home screens and grid-of-apps. In its place, Amazon has crafted a dashboard with easy access to multimedia such as books and music. It looks totally different from what you'd find on, say, Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Whether fragmentation affects the Android platform to the point where it drives consumers to look elsewhere, the Kindle Fire by itself could present significant competition to the iPad this holiday season. Morgan analyst Douglas Anmuth has estimated that, based on channel checks with supply-chain vendors, Amazon could sell as many as 5 million Kindle Fire units in the fourth quarter of 2011.
But other analysts feel that the Kindle Fire will have a fainter impact. "In our view, Kindle Fire's low price point speaks to how there is much lacking in the device," J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a Sept. 30 research note, pushing back against his colleague's rosy assertion. "At $199, we argue that the price point is not going to afford most users a tablet experience, which is a problem if Amazon wants to become a major tablet vendor."
Without a camera or support for a 3G connection, and loaded with only 8GB of onboard storage, the Kindle Fire certainly lacks some hardware features in comparison with the iPad. However, its combination of lightning-fast browser and easy access to Amazon's online storefront could nonetheless make it attractive to consumers looking for a media-consumption device.