Yesterday, a day ahead of schedule, Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, a $200 tablet powered by Android. Unlike the iPad, which is a full-featured machine, the Fire is light on firepower, and exists mostly to sell Amazon e-books and Amazon Prime movies. Still, reviewers, for the most part, have been kind – one critic called the device "perhaps the best, tightest integration of digital content acquisition into a mobile device that we've yet seen."
And in a statement, Dave Limp, an Amazon exec in charge of the Kindle line, announced that the Fire is already a hit. "Based on customer response," Limp wrote in a press release, "we’re building millions more than we’d planned." But several questions remain, chief among them whether the Fire, which straddles the line between tablet and e-reader, can rack up sales in the long run.
Today, Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester, offered a qualified yes. "Amazon has all the pieces in place to ensure a successful launch for the Fire," she told CNN, adding that Amazon will likely sell between 3 and 5 million Fire units before the end of the year. For context, consider the following facts: Apple has sold 28 million iPad tablets since the device first hit shelves, in 2010. (In the last quarter alone, Apple unloaded 9.3 million iPads.)
The Barnes and Noble Nook, on the other hand – possibly a more analogous example – launched in the fall of 2009, and racked up sales of 1.43 units in the first quarter of 2010. Rotman Epps has Amazon doubling or even tripling that figure in its first few months on the market. To Rotman Epps, the appeal of the Fire is the appeal of Amazon itself – an easily-accessible platform, used by a large cross-section of consumers.
"Amazon as a company appeals to a wider, more diverse customer base," she said. "Our studies show a lot of iPad owners live within driving distance of Apple stores – meaning they're concentrated on the coast. This could be a red state/blue state thing." Quick translation: Apple is for the coastal elites, the (millions of) high-tech bauble collectors, and Amazon is for everyone.
Picked up a Kindle Fire? We want to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments section, and in the meantime, check out Monitor writer Jeff Ward-Bailey's rundown of the market prospects of the Fire. Spoiler alert: the prospects are good.