Microsofts Windows 8 stands to benefit from solid sales of Amazons Kindle Fire and Barnes & Nobles Nook Tablet, according to a new report from research firm IHS.
That report notes Apples shipments of 15.4 million iPads during the fourth quarter of 2011, and estimates that Amazon came in second with 3.9 million Kindle Fire units.
In a Feb. 16 note, IHS analyst Rhoda Alexander termed those Kindle Fire shipments a respectable start, adding that the long-term viability of the product will hinge on the success of Amazons business gamble, which depends on tablet sales driving substantial new online merchandise sales at Amazon.com in order to attain profitability.
Respectable start or no, low prices for both the Kindle Fire ($199) and Barnes & Nobles Nook Tablet ($249) are apparently having a ripple effect on other Android tablets on the market. The surge in non-iPad shipments in the fourth quarter was achieved at considerable financial cost, she wrote, with sharp price reductions across most of the competing Android tablets and actual product giveaways from a number of vendors as part of promotional efforts for other electronic products.
Those price reductions, in turn, could benefit Microsoft as it preps to enter the market segment in a big way with its Windows 8 tablets. In the wake of the new low bar for pricing set by the Fire and the Nook and the looming Google acquisition of Motorola Mobility, the firms note continued, manufacturers and branded vendors are looking to Windows 8 tablets as a more profitable alternative. It predicts those Windows 8 tablets will hit the market in late 2012 and early 2013, which fits with other analysts' predictions.
Although the Kindle Fire has become a bona fide competitor to the iPad, Apple has been careful to downplay its potential on the tablet market. Price is rarely the important thing, Apple CEO Tim Cook said during a Feb. 14 keynote at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, according to an edited transcript provided by Fortune. I think people at the end of the day, they want a great product.
He conceded that Amazons Kindle Fire would ultimately sell a lot of unitswhile adding that the customers that were designing our products for, are not going to be satisfied with a limited-function kind of product.
But as Microsoft is making clear in presentation after presentation, Windows 8 tablets will not be limited-function devices. They will feature modified versions of Office, include the ability to run apps, and almost certainly hit the market at a competitive price-point. And if the Kindle Fire somehow drives more tablet customers into Microsofts waiting arms, however indirectly, it could end up having more of an effect on the iPad than Cupertino would probably like to admit.