It’s been a big week for the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s $199 7-inch tablet aimed at bookworms and streaming-media enthusiasts alike. Of course, it doesn't actually come out until next week, but in the meantime, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet has appeared on the horizon as a major competitor. But there are a lot of reasons why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is probably grinning in anticipation right now. Let’s count the reasons why:
First, there are solid pre-release indicators that the Fire could entice lots of buyers away from Apple’s much more powerful but also much more expensive iPad 2. A recent survey of more than 1,000 people conducted by consumer electronics site Retrevo showed that of shoppers interested in buying a tablet for the holidays, 44 percent were considering a Fire instead of an iPad 2.
Amazon’s own sales data paints a rosy picture, too: back in October, just as the Fire was made available for pre-order, MSNBC reported that Amazon was selling more than 50,000 of the tablets per day – more than either the iPad or the iPad 2 sold over the same pre-sale period. And as the Fire’s November 15 release date nears, Amazon has apparently upped the number of units to be produced from 4 million to 5 million, according to Digitimes.
Before we draw any more broad comparisons between the Fire and the iPad 2, let’s clear something up. It's certainly a little unfair to place the devices in the same category: there’s a price difference of $300 between the Kindle Fire and the least expensive iPad 2, and the two tablets are clearly marketed toward different groups. But in the tablet world, the iPad is the standard by which all other devices are judged, in part because of its immense market share and in part because it had such a head start to establish itself. To be considered a success, any tablet, no matter the price or size, has to eat into Apple’s market share. So even though the Fire isn’t really comparable to the iPad 2 in terms of specs, we’re comfortable comparing sales numbers between the two devices – since at this stage there’s a sizable group of consumers whose needs would legitimately be met by either device.
Although the Fire is still a week away from being publicly available, it’s already making its presence felt on other Android devices. Version 2.0 of the Amazon Appstore dropped on Wednesday night, sporting a fresh new interface based on the Fire’s steel color scheme and layout. Appstore 2.0 brings a number of tweaks including the ability to make purchases from within apps, although noticeably absent are Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, and the other top-tier apps promised by Amazon earlier next week. We guess they’re still on the way.
Are you planning to buy a Kindle Fire, or do you have your sights set on a Nook Tablet, iPad, or another slate? Do you think the Fire will change the tablet landscape dramatically? Share your thoughts in the comments.