In an unsurprising move, Amazon held a press conference early Sep. 6 unveiling the successor to their successful Kindle Fire tablet, the new Kindle Fire HD. Designed and marketed to beat Apple and their at the time highly-rumored iPad Mini to the punch, Amazon’s latest move, while certainly an improvement on the original model, proves that the company simply doesn’t understand the tablet market.
The new Fire model will come in three flavors. The first two are base HD models, the difference being screen-size, and will range in price from $199 to $369 depending on how much storage you want. And, to be fair, both of these models make perfect market sense. Starting at the same price as the previous Fire model, the new Fire HD will take its place as the most affordable tablet on the market. The “everyman’s” tablet or, more accurately, the poor man’s stripped-down iPad.
However, Amazon didn’t really push these models. Instead, the company focused on their new $500 entry into the tablet market: the Kindle Fire HD 4G.
The Fire HD 4G contains all the innards of its lesser-priced model with, of course, the addition of 4G LTE wireless from AT&T which Amazon will offer at a yearly rate of $50 for 250MB of data per-month and 20GB of Amazon Cloud Storage. Amazon has also announced that 3GB and 5GB will also be available, however they have not yet revealed pricing for these plans.
And how did Apple retaliate to this stunning display of pure, unadulterated market strategy? Well, at their Fall Press Conference, they announced…just about everything except a new iPad Mini. A new iPhone? Check. A new iPod Touch? Check. They even announced a new iPod Nano for no apparent reason. But, outside of some new OS features and sales figures, the iPad was nowhere to be seen during the conference.
The reason Apple didn’t announce an iPad Mini is because they understand their share of the sales pie. They may have dominance in the tablet market, but that’s not the market devices like the Fire compete in. They compete in the “mini tablet” and e-reader market, a place where devices function as stripped down, smaller and, most importantly, cheaper alternatives to full tablets. And, because it’s not a market Apple has dominance in, they’ve decided to wait to jump in and not have a new competitor out against all their other toy updates.
That is what Amazon doesn’t seem to understand: the Fire is the cheap alternative to the iPad. It’s not a competitor and shouldn’t be treated as one. However, with their new move, Amazon has attempted to push themselves into the full-fledged tablet market with a product that doesn’t hold its weight against full-fledged tablets. Yes it has an appealing Internet service, but that’s not the only thing people are looking for when they go looking for a full-fledged tablet.
It’s hard not to love Amazon. With the cheapest prices around, an easy-to-use interface, and the greatest selection of items both popular and obscure anywhere, there’s a reason the site is so successful. However, the company’s latest move in the tablet market is incredibly misguided. Their product is not a proper competitor to the iPad and, at $500, most people looking for a full tablet experience will go for the also-$500 iPad and its far superior technical specifications and ecosystem of applications.
The best path Amazon could take now is to look at the results of people using 4G on their Kindle Fire’s and applying that to a much better or much cheaper device in the future. Either would give them a truly strong product, but trying to do both at once simply doesn’t work.
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