Kindle Fire Absence in the U.K. Spurs Protest

Amazon's popular Kindle Fire is missing in action outside the U.S., angering consumers in Canada and the U.K. and costing the company some money.

As Android tablets go, Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire is absolutely flourishing in the U.S., where industry analysts estimate the e-commerce company sold 4 million to 6 million of the 7-inch slates at $199 a pop for the holiday quarter.

Yet each report of the Kindle Fire's success adds some more salt to the tender wounds of consumers who can't get a Kindle Fire yet€”that is, anyone outside the U.S. eWEEK has heard complaints from readers in several countries that the Fire is not yet available to them.

Ted Schafran, based in Toronto, wrote to eWEEK:

"Unlike the Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, Acer tablets and the iPad, the Kindle Fire is sold ONLY in the United States. There are MANY Amazon international customers (myself included) who are extremely aggravated by the company€™s decision to fundamentally ignore the rest of the world. Perhaps a small matter in the U.S., but a big deal elsewhere. Just check the Amazon chatter in the U.K."

Backlash is particularly strong in the U.K., with consumers lodging over 1,000 complaints in the Amazon U.K. support forum railing against the company for not providing the low-cost tablet in England. Take this one, from Fleabag, published Feb. 8:

"I got tired of waiting€”and am glad I did! I have bought an Archos G9, which does a lot more than the Fire will do for a similar price, and runs a later version of Android without all Amazon's overlays reporting back exactly what I do."

Amazon did not respond to comment for this report, but there is precedence for this cautious rollout.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched its vaunted iPad in the U.S. in March 2010. But the device wasn't available in countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. until May 28.

Apple did much better with its iPad 2 in 2011. The company launched the category-defining device March 11 in the U.S. Two weeks later, on March 25, the slate rolled out to the U.K., Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada and more than a dozen other countries.

Industry analyst Jack Gold thinks the protests about the Kindle Fire's geographic limitations are much ado about nothing for now.

"Everyone forgets that the iPhone and iPad were limited oversees at first as well. Give Amazon a little time. I do expect to see the Kindle arrive in other markets. But Amazon rightly wants to focus on one market and get it right first. Then, it will expand. And don't forget, it is struggling to meet demand of the U.S. right now€¦ what if it had international demand? It takes time to ramp up."

Even so, one can't help but wonder how much money Amazon is costing itself by failing to meet pent-up demand overseas.

It's believed Amazon is taking a loss on the Fire hardware, selling the device roughly at cost. However, RBC Capital analyst Ross Sandler has said Amazon could make $136 per Fire in content such as electronic books, applications and streaming movies, over the lifetime of the device.

That's potentially a lot of money Amazon is missing out on in the short term. Then again, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos preaches the long haul. After 15 years or so establishing Amazon as the premier e-commerce destination, it's hard to argue.

Here's another point that bears consideration: Apple is renowned for its worldwide distribution pipeline and capabilities. It's being bringing Macs, iPhones and iPads to international markets for years.

Amazon has only been offering its Kindle e-readers since 2007. One could argue the company's ability to bring other devices to market is untested and unproven.

Regardless, the consumers are ready outside the U.S. It's now Amazon's move.