Amazon unveils Kindle Fire, can it compete?

Faith Merino · September 28, 2011 · Short URL:

It's not as high-tech as the iPad, but half the price, and has access to Amazon's arsenal of content

Are you ready to be shocked and awed?  You better be, because Amazon is about to blow your mind. 

Hyperbole aside, the Kindle Fire is here!  At an unveiling event in New York City Wednesday morning, Amazon officially debuted the new tablet, which will run on Android and will operate with Amazon’s Whispersync technology.  The Whispersync technology will allow you to watch a movie on your Fire tablet, stop, and then pick up where you left off on your TV and other Amazon-supported devices.

The interface also stays up-to-speed with your preferences, so content such as magazines, movies, games, and books all show up in “recently touched” order.  In other words, if you started reading a book and stopped for a minute, it will show up on the top of your screen. 

The tabs at the top of the screen can take you to whatever your heart desires: the Web, apps, documents, books, music, video, or the Newsstand.

Some other specifics: the tablet features a 7-inch display, supports Wi-Fi but not 3G, and comes with a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, the $79-a-year subscription service that gets you access to 11,000 digital movies and free two-day shipping on all orders.

The bad news: there’s no microphone or camera, according to details leaked earlier by Bloomberg, so no pictures, calls, or meetings.  Bummer.

The good news is that the limited tech means the Kindle Fire is ridiculously low-priced: just $199--less than half that of Apple’s cheapest iPad.  Forrester Research previously speculated that if Amazon could push out a tablet below the $300 price point, it could sell as many as five million units in the fourth quarter alone.

Obviously, though, the beauty of the Kindle Fire is that you have access to all of Amazon’s content, including 18 million songs, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, apps, and games—in addition to most, if not all, of the capabilities of a traditional tablet. 

Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps agrees: “Amazon’s willingness to sell hardware at a loss combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market,” she wrote in a blog post last month.

The tablet ships November 15, but you can pre-order today.

Tablets from other Apple competitors have fallen short of the iPad mark. Most notably, HP's TouchPad hit the scrap heap just one month after launching--following a bevy of commercials featuring celebrities promoting the tablet.  Celebrity promotions just weren't enough to make up for poor performance and low quality.

RIM's PlayBook also hasn't fared so well, selling only 200,000 units last quarter--well below analysts' predictions of 500,000-700,000.

Apple continues to dominate the tablet market with a 73.4% market share, according to Gartner.  Even Android isn't faring well in the tablet market.  Gartner dropped its forecast for Android's market share by 28% and said it would have reduced it even further had it not been for the upcoming Amazon tablet.

Can Amazon boost Android's presence in the tablet market? It's looking promising.


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