Predicted iPad 2, Kindle Fire Holiday Sales Showdown Not the Main Event

News Analysis: Tablet fans expecting a sales donnybrook between the Apple iPad 2 and the Amazon Kindle Fire during the holiday shopping season are likely to be disappointed. The real battle will be between the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook. Then the rest of the Android tablets will fight among themselves for the remaining market share.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner is the undefeated champion of the world, the Apple iPad. In the opposite corner is the challenger, the lightweight but scrappy Amazon Kindle Fire. Come on out and shake hands, then get ready to, er...hmmm not exactly rumble. Oh, I know, get ready to eat market share! And now the bell!

And thus starts the widely predicted holiday season battle between the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle Fire. But despite the predictions, it won't happen that way. There will be lots of iPads sold and the wide availability of discounts will attract buyers while they empty warehouses in preparation for the iPad 3. The Kindle Fire will sell like hotcakes at a penguin watchers' convention and won't need discounts because it's already being sold for less than it costs to make.
Customers will welcome the deals of course. Cheap electronics are always better than electronics that aren't cheap. But the battle isn't between the iPad and the Kindle Fire. The two tablets exist in alternate universes and it's unlikely that sales of one will have any relation to sales of the other. If there's any effect at all, it's more likely that the iPad and the Fire will help expand consumer interest in tablets in general.
The reasons are fairly simple. The Kindle Fire is a tablet that exists to help its owners consume content, it has a price point of $200 and it's designed to let its owners read content from Amazon, listen to music from Amazon and watch movies from Amazon. While it's much more than an e-reader, it's not a general purpose tablet. The people who buy this aren't looking for an alternative to the iPad. They're looking for an upgrade to their old Kindle.
The iPad costs at least two and a half times as much, and while it's generally available at a $50 discount off of its $500 minimum price, it can't be considered cheap. And while an iPad can work just fine as an e-reader, it does a lot more than that. In fact the iPad is more like a general purpose computing device, which is why it's driving the final nails into the coffin of the netbook market.
In fact, there will be a holiday sales battle, but it won't be between the Kindle Fire and the iPad. The Kindle Fire will be taking on the latest version of the Nook e-reader while the iPad probably won't be in a real sales battle with anything. The many Android tablets introduced this fall compete more with each other than they do with the iPad.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...