Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Is the Kindle Fire Looking like the Christmas Turkey?

I've just got through reading the reviews and user comments regarding the release of the Kindle Fire in the US.  I have to experience this long distance as there currently aren't any plans to launch this side of the pond at present.

Apparently Amazon have secured one million pre-orders for the device, which will keep a fair amount of industrious Chinese workers busy (I'm assuming its manufactured in China - apologies to all if I'm wrong).  That's a fantastic achievement given that Amazon were incredibly reticent about letting journalists play with the pre-launch device when it was announced.  There clearly was enough of a buzz to warrant a million credit card orders, and of course the success of the Kindle 3 has won plenty of supporters.  And that $200 price tag must have been very tempting too, given the price point of the competition.

However the launch reviews aren't great.  Take Engadget's review, which is less than glowing, pretty much sums it up.  The Fire always was going to have to struggle against the iPad - all tablets are going to be compared unfavourably in some way for the immediate future due to Apple's continuous process of pushing the boundaries - and the Fire is no exception. 

While Amazon appear to have done a tremendous job of keeping costs down it appears that has been at the expense of functionality and particularly performance.  Additionally the reports indicate that Apple's insistence that tablets need to be at least ten inches across the diagonal is irritatingly correct (irritating to me because I poo-pooed the size as too large when launched - I now admit I was wrong and Apple might actually know a bit about consumer products).  Seemingly Amazon are working on a ten inch Fire, which hopefully will come to market sooner rather than later as the reports indicate that some of the core functions are too cramped on the seven inch screen.

My guess is that Amazon will have capped the initial production run at around 1.25 million units.  They will know that some of the pre-orders will be returned by disappointed consumers - some may be cancelled before they ship following the launch reviews, but they will comfortably shift that number, however shifting more could be a struggle.  If they get the niche right - don't forget the reviewers of tech gadgets do have a bit of a distorted view of the world and very high expectations - then this initial batch will sell.  But it may take until after Christmas before they shift the lot and I suspect the management team will be watching sales very closely before extending the production run.

So, like the turkey, the Fire will be making an appearance in many homes on Christmas day, but like the venerable seasonal bird it may not be returning in significant numbers for some time afterwards.  Maybe Easter would be a good launch date for the ten inch Kindle Fire?

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