Steve Jobs had some harsh words to say about the Kindle, and eReaders in general, in a recent interview with David Pogue. Jobs had previously stated his view that eReaders weren’t a viable product, but this was before the success Amazon has had. Yet, even with the profit the Kindle has made, Jobs’ view is the same now as it has always been:
I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing … But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day. Because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device.
Jobs also goes on to imply that since Amazon doesn’t release exact sales figures, the Kindle hasn’t been as successful as people believe. Of course, this is just marketing bravado on the part of Jobs. Sure, there aren’t as many Kindles out there as iPods, but no one would truly believe that Amazon hasn’t benefited from the eReader market. Besides the devices themselves, Amazon takes a huge share of the profits from everything people buy to read on it (So huge that some publishers have started to complain).
It’s also pretty easy to jump to the conclusion that Jobs is hinting at the fabled Apple tablet. While still existing mainly in the form of rumor, the tablet is nonetheless expected to have a huge impact. Since its a portable device which will, among many other things, be able to read books, it’s expected to be the killer eReader device. Some have even gone so far as to preemptively call it the Kindle-killer or attempt to forecast its effects on Amazon’s sales.
Both Jobs’ statement and they hype around the tablet come down to the same question of design philosophy: dedicated vs general-purpose devices. While Jobs may be right that general-purpose devices have the long term advantage, the Kindle won’t be in any real danger unless the tablet can pull in enough customers from across the board. Someone who likes the idea of an eReader, but already bought a tablet for other reasons, will likely keep the tablet. Someone specifically shopping for a reader could still be swayed by the Kindle’s advantages, however.