Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Kindle Fire - Arguments For and Against

As I reported the other day, the Kindle Fire looks like underwhelming the consumer market.  I've read several reviews since the blog post which all confirm that the limitations imposed, presumably to keep costs down, are serious issues.  One correspondent on Twitter ran a series of tweets that started off as excited messages when the device turned up earlier than expected and started working better than initial expectations, then the tweets deteriorated as the limitations became apparent.

But lets be honest here - we're talking $200 for a media device that doubles as an e-reader (or is it an e-reader that doubles as a media device?), so perhaps I was being a tad unkind in my evaluation earlier in the week.  Reading through the later reviews it appears that the Engadget tech nerds weren't off trend though.  I expressed a concern that the reviewers, exposed to cutting edge technology on a daily basis, might have had raised expectations compared to real people - yes I know they're real people too, with real families and so on, but their view on the tech world is bound to be distorted.  However consumers unwrapping their Kindle Fires have confirmed the concerns about the low storage limit (8GB), the minimalist controls (one button) and the slower performance (compared to iPad).

There are alternative views, take a look at this Steve Rosenbaum article in Huff Post.  Steve's view is that the iPad and the Fire can co-exist happily in the same household.  He's also extremely tolerant of the shortcomings based on a belief, which is reasonable in some respects, that some issues will be ironed out quickly, others will slip into version 2.  My main objection to his views are that the pre-order consumers, one million of them, are almost certainly not all wanting to be guinea pigs for Amazon - they probably expected to receive the finished article.  His main contention is that the Fire is targetting a slightly different segment of the consumer market, one which actually didn't exist until its launch.

You see, although there have been tablets other than the iPad for some time, and at least one - the Nook - has occupied a similar apparent position to the Fire, none have the media content and backing that Amazon can provide.  It's fair to say that Amazon is probably the only company out there that can currently take Apple on at this point in time as far as media content is concerned, although there are strong rumblings that Google want to cut a slice of that market, so watch this space.

So although there are other mini tablets about to launch, significantly the new Nook and the Kobo Vox, neither are likely to have access to the media that Amazon have.  However, they might just produce good tablets that perform like the cut down iPad I suspect most of the 1 million pre-orders expected.  My view is that if they do appear to be a better fit for the consumer perception then they will give the Fire a run for its money. There's also a strong rumour that Amazon are planning a 10 inch version of the Fire - now that may be a game-changer if it is coupled with improvements to identified issues with the current version of the Fire.

I don't think the contest for the holiday tablet purchase is over - far from it - and my guess is that Apple are not sweating over the competition from the Amazon Fire - probably the basic Kindle and the likes of the Kobo Touch are more likely to eat into the Apple sales than the Fire will - but I feel a really interesting six weeks is in front of us.

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