Android tablets market is on (Kindle) Fire

Android tablets: Kindle Fire accounted for more than half of all sales by February. But can Amazon's Android tablets take on Apple's iPad? 

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
In this 2011 file photo, the Kindle Fire is displayed at a news conference in New York. Last year, Inc. figured out how to crack Apple's stranglehold on tablets by making a half-size, no-frills tablet. The Kindle Fire, which sells for $199 (basically, the cost of production), now dominates the market, at least for Android tablets.

The Kindle Fire appears to be burning up its competition _ on the Android side, anyway. Inc.'s tablet computer is catching on in a big way in the U.S., accounting by end of February for 54.4 percent of tablets that run Google Inc.'s Android system software. That represented a near-doubling of the Fire's Android market share since December, when it was at 29.4 percent, according to new data from ComScore Inc. The Fire first went on sale in November.

In a way, the Kindle Fire is gobbling up the small fish in the Android tablets pond _ far outpacing Samsung's Galaxy Tab (15.4 percent of Android), Motorola Xoom (7 percent), the Asus Transformer (6.3 percent) and others by Dell Inc., Lenovo Group Ltd. and Sony Corp.

But the big fish remains Apple Inc.'s iPad, which, according to the market research firm IDC, controlled about 55 percent of the entire tablet market as of the fourth quarter of 2011, with Android tablets accounting for the remaining 45 percent. In its release Friday, ComScore declined to offer more recent overall market share numbers, so observers are still waiting for an up-to-date snapshot of the broader tablet battle.

But if the iPad-Android market split has stayed close to where it was in December, that would mean roughly 30 percent of tablets currently shipping are Kindle Fires, moving the Fire an increasingly close second to the iPad.

That may make dismissing the Kindle Fire more difficult for Apple, which sold nearly 12 million of its new iPads in the device's first quarter on the market, a strong showing but not a record for iPad sales. In February, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook painted tablets such as the less expensive $199 Kindle Fire as inferior competitors.

"A cheap product might sell some units," Cook said at the time. "But then (consumers) get it home and use it, and the joy is gone. And the joy is gone every day that they use it, and they wind up not using it anymore."

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