Welcome to ZenUnwired; a blog dedicated to tracking developments in technology and strategy, and to deciphering the impact of these developments on wired and wireless ISP's, device manufacturers, OS and application developers, and most importantly - you.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reign of [the Kindle] Fire

With the Amazon Kindle Fire launch, many are wondering just how its entry will impact the tablet segment. Up until now, the market has essentially been a world of one with the Apple iPad; and Apple continues to reign supreme with the iPad, while competing tablet makers’ attempts to topple the company have failed.

Before its launch, analysts called the Kindle Fire the iPad killer, a "segment defining tablet", etc. But in my opinion, Amazon designed the Kindle Fire not to be any of these things. That said, the Kindle Fire might just turn out to be all of these things. One thing however is clear - Amazon did learn from both Apple's success with the iPad, as well as from the failure of others to gain any traction in the tablet space. The result - the Kindle Fire - a snappy tablet designed around Amazon's customers, and one that is tightly integrated with Amazon's various services.

Consider this: what do buyers really want from their tablets? The most likely answer is going to be - "I want a tablet at a great price; one that is fast, is simple to use, looks good and has tons of content". Of course, the advanced user will want much, much more from their tablets. But the average user's answer is going to be a lot like mine above. The Kindle Fire hits on all of these requirements with a laser-like focus.
  • Price: The Kindle fire, priced at $199 on Amazon.com, and available for a lot lower from various retailers this holiday season, is priced really attractively considering all of the various tablets already available in the market. Sure, you can get some no-name tablets for a lower price, but $199 is a price-point where customers will trade a $20-$30 price differential for brand. In other words, will you buy a no-name tablet for $169 or an "Amazon" tablet for $199? Exactly. No wonder, the Kindle Fire is Amazon's top seller this season.
  • Screen: The Kindle Fire comes with a 7" color touchscreen that delivers 16 million colors in high resolution and the screen uses IPS (in-plane switching) technology (like the iPad). The result: a truly great screen for consuming any type of content - from reading books to watching movies to playing games.
  • Speed: The Kindle Fire is fitted with Texas Instruments' OMAP 4430 1GHz dual-core processor. In other words, this tablet is fast!
  • Simplicity: It is clear that by customizing Android, Amazon has opted out of the Android OS version and upgrade cycle discussions/debacles that plague other tablet makers. Take HTC for instance - The HTC Flyer launched with a promised upgrade to Android Honeycomb 3.2 but almost a year later the Wi-Fi version of the tablet is yet to see that upgrade. The result: a huge backlash against HTC by consumers; one that has set the web/blogosphere on fire (pun unintended). So Amazon doesn't even talk about the version of Android it is running (although its most likely a customized version of Android 2.3). Instead, what customers see is a completely customized UI; built to promote customers own and/or Amazon's content. The result: customers buy the Kindle Fire for the user-experience, not the Android version.
  • Content: The Kindle Fire is clearly designed to promote/sell Amazon's services. The short list of these services include: Kindle books & magazines, Amazon MP3, Amazon Appstore, Amazon Instant Video, Amazon Prime and the Amazon Cloud. If you own a Kindle Fire, it is inevitable that you will end up signing up and using at least a couple of these services.

Bottom Line: Apple, and now Amazon, have made it clear that it’s no longer about “devices.”  Success is about being able to deliver a comprehensive solution of services and applications that is optimized for these devices. The reign of the Kindle Fire has begun, and it looks like Amazon is just getting warmed up.