As I write this, Jeff Bezos is on stage in Santa Monica, California presenting the newest developments in the Kindle product line. It’s been greatly anticipated the last several weeks and this is the time to learn what all the fuss has been about.
The first reveal of the day was the update to the Kindle eReader. The newest version of this Kindle is known as the “Kindle Paperwhite”.
The biggest appeal of this product is, as might be expected, improved screen technology. The Paperwhite has sharply improved contrast that everything crisper. Text will stand out more sharply than has been the case in other models as a result.
It also boasts a greater pixel density than previous models. The Kindle Paperwhite’s screen has 212 pixels per inch, up from the last generation’s 167ppi.
Rather than the three font options that we’ve had access to before, the new model will have six. New additions include Palatino, Helvetica, and Futura.
Battery life is still the same, offering up to 8 weeks of uninterrupted use.
Most importantly, the Kindle Paperwhite will have a lit screen, despite rumors about supply line issues. The light source is placed on the bottom edge of the screen itself and appears to do a great job of spreading illumination evenly across the display area.
As always, this new eReader will be thinner and lighter than previous models. As Bezos put it, “It’s thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paper”.
The new Kindle Paperwhite will be just $119 ($179 for the unlimited 3G model) and will be available in October, though preorders will begin immediately. The basic Kindle will also be getting a screen upgrade and a price drop to just $69.
In other Kindle hardware news we get the new updated Kindle Fire.
The replacement for the existing Kindle Fire will be 40% faster than its predecessor. Battery life has been extended a vague but apparently significant amount. The price has also dropped to just $159. It will be available on September 14th, explaining the sudden lack of Kindle Fires in the Amazon store this week.
More importantly, we now know about the Kindle Fire HD. This will come in two sizes, as many had hoped. The newer, larger Kindle Fire will be 8.9” and have a 1920 x 1200 resolution. Not quite as large as the iPad, but definitely moving in on Apple’s territory.
Both versions of the Kindle Fire HD will have stereo speakers to replace the mediocre sound quality of the first device.
They will also have greatly improved wireless connectivity. Anybody who was following the first Kindle Fire launch will remember that the device ran into trouble on many networks. This time around it will have two antennas, work on the 5GHz band, and have over 40% faster speed than the iPad’s wireless.
The 7” Kindle Fire HD will be shipping on September 14th for just $199. The 8.9” Kindle Fire HD will be $299 and ship sometime in November. Both models will have 16GB of storage space at these prices.
There will also be a $499 Kindle Fire HD that has 4G LTE cellular connectivity. This model will have 32GB of storage space and the data plan associated with it will run $50 per year. That meets one of the community’s big demands for the new model, so we will see how widespread adoption is.
Depending on how performance holds up in actual testing, and it seems to be impressive based on presentation alone, the Kindle Fire HD might just have what it takes to build Amazon up well beyond even the 20%+ tablet market share they claim to currently enjoy.
Stay tuned and we will keep you up to date on all the latest news related to this launch.
When it comes to selling advertising space, it makes sense that bigger is better. Billboards reach more people than bus stop ads. That may not translate entirely to the tablet PC, however. In a recent report, mobile advertising company Jumptap revealed that Kindle Fire ads are the most successful at getting customers to click through, despite the relatively smaller screen space they have to work with compared to the competition.
It seems that while the iPad has had the most success for its advertisers up until now, with .9% of those who view a given ad choosing to click through to the product, the Kindle Fire has already bumped itself up to 1.02%. That is nearly twice the success rate that the closest non-Apple competition has enjoyed, as shown by the Jumptap graphic to the right.
This actually seems to support the general trend for those who choose to invest in the Kindle Fire. We have already seen that Android developers enjoy something like three times the income through Amazon that the same app tends to bring in through Google’s own marketplace. Now advertisers are learning the same thing. Perhaps the only truly surprising bit of information here is that the Kindle Fire beat out the iPad. As mentioned, shouldn’t bigger ads be better ads?
The Jumptap theory is that this is the result of a generation gap. Kindle Fire owners are significantly more likely to be in the 45 to 64 year old range, which differs from iPad owners who are far more likely to come from the 18 to 34 year old range. They suggest that while these older users are generally less likely to buy products on the device itself, potentially limiting the impact of some ad campaigns, it is worth coming up with ads optimized for the Kindle Fire’s smaller screen in order to take advantage of the click-through rate.
To illustrate, they used the example of fast food advertisements. It seems these were tending to catch much more attention on weekends than during the week, but they are obviously the sort of small, quick graphic that can appeal to any demographic even when the product isn’t something offered through a given device.
Since we have a wealth of information available to properly tailor ads to their recipients in many cases, it seems like we have reached the point where size doesn’t matter. Or at least a point where size matters less. We can’t predict yet what effect a larger Kindle Fire will have on this data when Amazon gets around to releasing one, so it might just be a matter of Amazon customers being more predisposed to click on ads they find potentially interesting for all I know.
It’s always going to be up to developers to decide how best to monetize their product and this once again shows that Amazon’s platform is a superior choice. The more we see of this, the more likely we are to see wider adoption of the Amazon Appstore for Android. As a Kindle Fire user, even one who hates these very ads, that means this comes across as good news.
Recent data out of ChangeWave Research indicates that the Kindle Fire is still idling at a much lower level of consumer interest than was the case in the fourth quarter of last year. Obviously nobody expected the rate to jump back up to as high as it was immediately after the holiday release of a much anticipated product, but the fact that there has been no noticeable change since the beginning of this year is being taken to mean that the Kindle Fire is essentially dead in the water.
ChangeWave Data (as seen on the right) puts the interest in Kindle Fire purchases among potential customers at about 8%. This compares less than favorably to the iPad’s 73%. I don’t think it is fair to say that this comparison should be made given that they serve completely different customer needs, but let’s take this for what it is.
The Kindle Fire is still running ahead of all other Android devices by a fair margin. Even in the limited information we get from this ChangeWave survey, interest appears to be at least 30% higher for the Amazon product compared to its closest non-iPad competition. In that respect, it is doing quite well. This doesn’t mean that there are great times in store for the future of the product, however.
The biggest issue right now seems to be the fact that Android is failing to match up with the competition. The best sellers are the Kindle Fire, which goes a long way to distance itself from Android, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which appears to be considered as one unit in the publicly available information of this report despite actually being a line of four separate products. Nobody else stands out.
I would predict that tablet customers get even more cautious in the months to come. We’re still waiting on an official announcement about the Kindle Fire 2. The release of Windows 8 tablets into the market is going to upset things in a way that nobody can quite predict yet. Even Apple might do something unexpected if the incredibly far-fetched iPad Mini ever actually appears. About the only company that customers can be completely sure of ongoing support from right now is Apple and even there it is hard to be certain that you’ll be making the best use of your money.
In the short term, I expect the Kindle Fire to become more of a niche product. It is a media consumption tablet rather than a fully functional computing device. You can’t reasonable replace even a small computer with it like you can an iPad. This doesn’t make it any less useful, but customers are now realizing that there are specific reasons to get a Kindle Fire and that you can’t expect it to function as an iPad competitor. It was never really meant to.
In the long term we have to wait and see where Amazon goes with the next Kindle Fire. If the reports of a larger, more powerful device are true then perhaps they will be trying for a serious PC replacement. It might not be the best time to be marketing something like that against all the new Windows 8 PCs, given how well Windows 8 is said to perform on a touchscreen device, but there is the chance that Amazon’s forking of Android will be sufficient to generate their own unique category in customer perception.
Even if they had no prayer of ever taking majority control of the tablet market, and realistically I don’t think anybody believes they have a prayer of doing so, Amazon isn’t about to drop the product line. It is still gaining popularity, however slowly. Media is still selling through it more steadily than through any other Android device. However much Kindle Fire sales numbers might not match up to holiday interest, that’s only part of what matters when it comes to success.
We are well aware that Amazon has come to completely dominate the Android tablet market with their Kindle Fire and that this has been accomplished in an amazingly short amount of time. Unfortunately for Amazon, market research firm IDC has released a report of the Android tablet market shrinking at a noticeably higher rate than the tablet market in general. This could prove problematic as a trend, but the situation may be even more complicated than that.
IDC’s report indicates a bit of a slump as we come into 2012. Total shipments for tablets are coming in below expectations, especially compared to the previous quarter’s record breaking sales numbers. Apple’s new shipments are up to 68% of tablet sales compared to just 54% at the end of 2011, indicating that Android has lost a bit of traction despite the lack of reason to get excited about the iPad 3. Much of this, according to IDC, may be attributed to Apple’s keeping the iPad 2 around as a cheaper alternative to their newest offerings.
Where many are taking this as a death sentence for the Kindle Fire and Amazon’s tablet prospects more generally, there have also been issues raised with IDC’s research methods. Namely, they are making their determinations based off of total shipments from factories to warehouses and stores. This is itself a problematic point to raise since it calls into question IDC’s analysis of Q4 2011, but does make sense. There were obviously going to be plenty of retailers that still has stock left over from the holiday season, so maybe it would be smart to account for that. Even so, sales almost certainly dipped compared to the iPad.
Looking forward to the year ahead, this doesn’t start Amazon off on a high note. The Kindle Fire was just their first generation product, however, and we are expecting the next generation in a matter of months. It will likely be larger, or at least have the option of being larger, and will definitely be more powerful. Pricing can be expected to remain highly competitive. This is certain to lead to a resurgent interest in the Android segment of the market even leaving aside such strong offerings as the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and Google’s anticipated budget tablet.
Larger screen or not, it is hard to say in advance if Amazon has a Kindle Fire 2 vs iPad 3 comparison in mind. It is even harder to tell if this would be a smart move at this time. Both Android and iOS sales may be hit hard toward the end of this year with the introduction of Windows 8 tablets to the competition. Since these will certainly be all-purpose tablets along the lines of the iPad, it might be more effective for Amazon to continue building the Kindle Fire’s niche as a consumption device that serves specific needs at a lower price than the alternatives.
The bottom line is that right this minute it is doubtful Amazon has anything to be worried about with regard to the Kindle Fire. Things are going well even if there’s a bit of a slump right now. The big challenge will come later this year when Android is hit from both sides by iOS and Windows 8 and consumers are left to decide which will be their long-term choice.
After months of speculation and rumor about Amazon and Apple going head to head in an all-out Kindle Fire vs iPad 3 (or Mini, or HD) confrontation, we finally have all of the information we’ve been waiting for and it turns out that Apple isn’t addressing their “competition” in any significant way. This should really surprise nobody given the different user bases being served, but it is worth taking a look at what the new iPad can do and how well it does for the price.
The big distinguishing feature of the iPad is that, unlike the Kindle Fire, it is in many ways a computer alternative. There is little that you can’t do on one, aside from truly hardware intensive tasks, if you are motivated enough to use the touch screen. The newest iteration of the hardware line is no exception and does a fair amount to improve the overall experience even further. New features include the move to a Retina Display like that of the iPhone 4, a new A5X Dual Core Processor, one 5 Megapixel camera situated on the rear of the device, Full 1080p HD video recording, 4G LTE connectivity through both AT&T and Verizon, and dictation capabilities. A fair list that expands on what the iPad 2 already did well.
What does this mean for the Kindle Fire’s future? Honestly, practically nothing. This was not, contrary to rumors, a release that intended to kill the Kindle. As any side by side comparison has long since proved, the iPad already had a larger screen, cameras, a microphone, cellular connectivity, and more processing power. If no other factors were considered besides simple hardware performance then Apple wins the iPad vs Kindle Fire matchup every time. The fact that Apple couldn’t help but be aware of this only serves to illustrate that their widening the gap in hardware performance was directed elsewhere; most likely at heading off Microsoft by increasing momentum before the first Windows 8 Tablets start hitting stores later this year.
The biggest factor is still going to be the price for most consumers. For all its impressive power, the iPad 3 still runs at least $499 for the cheapest model with no 4G connection. Even the iPad 2, the cheapest version of which has been kept on at least temporarily at a discount to consumers, is twice the price of the Kindle Fire at $399. None of the major advantages that the Kindle offers in terms of size, weight, or affordability have been addressed. While you can’t say that any of those is universally acknowledged as the most important factor in tablet purchasing (the iPad is not suffering a bit by most accounts, nor does anything from Amazon seem to indicate that they were expected to be by now), they are the things that people take into account when deciding on a new device purchase. For the moment, these remain two completely different types of tablet. The iPad works as a functional PC alternative while the Kindle Fire is all about the consumption. The next big chance to change the equation won’t be until the details are announced for the upcoming Kindle Fire 2.
Over the past several weeks there has been significant speculation over the possibility of a newer, smaller iPad on the horizon that is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire. As much as it sounds plausible when looked at in a certain light, I just fail to see it in the end. There are a few reasons, but in the end it comes down to different audiences. For Apple to seriously put a stop to the popularity of the Kindle Fire, they would have to address Amazon on completely different terms than has previously been the case, and it is not a stretch to assume that Apple has no intention of fragmenting their product line in such a way.
The value of the Kindle Fire is precisely that it does not attempt to be a fully functional tablet. Sure, it can do a lot of what any other tablet can do, but in the end there are few competitors that fail to beat it out on paper in terms of performance. What it does do is provide a channel for Amazon’s digital services. Anything that Amazon wants to serve up to customers is immediately in front of them just a click away and always works on the first try. Everything else is just left hanging under the Apps tab to work with as best you can.
The iPad, on the other hand, is trying fairly successfully to replace the home desktop as a center for leisurely computing. Short of playing highly demanding games or manipulating images and video, there is little that Apple’s tablet is unable to take over with moderate success. You can even use it as a word processor thanks to various Bluetooth keyboards designed specifically for such a use. The iPad does serve as a conduit for digital purchases, but it is more than that. You can use it to create and manipulate various types of projects rather than simply consuming.
Yes, Apple could easily cut into Kindle Fire sales with a 7” iPad 3 priced in the $200-300 range, but it would take more than just having the hardware available. They would have to prove to customers that they could focus it entirely on convenient consumption. It is almost counter-intuitive to phrase it like that, but the focused experience is what Amazon successfully leverages in the lack of computing power and I think they would have to be beaten at the game they have helped to define.
This isn’t to say that a smaller iPad would not succeed. It would probably be huge and have a devastating effect on the emerging budget Android tablet market. Those most hit by it would be along the lines of the Samsung Galaxy Tab though, not the Kindle Fire. Until and unless Amazon goes out of their way to pick the fight in a Kindle vs iPad standoff, I think they are fairly safely entrenched for the immediate future.
Nobody can doubt at this point that the competition for the tablet market has just gotten serious. Apple has the iPad, which all things considered is probably the best thing on the market by a moderate margin, but now there are other options like the Kindle Fire which bring similar service for less than half the price of the cheapest Apple option. As results have shown time and time again, though, it takes more than a lower price and a set of analogous capabilities and interface options to even out the competition.
To start with, yes the Apple iPad has superior hardware and a more polished experience overall. It lags a little bit less, has a larger screen, and can go a bit longer in between charges. Not a lot, but enough to notice. It is, without hesitation, a great product that I enjoy using for just about anything besides reading. Some people can even stand to do that on it.
That said, there are some problems with the overall experience. Apple’s App Store guidelines have cut off some of their most popular content providers and forced others to accept less than ideal situations, for example. Mostly the problems are along these lines. Apple put out great hardware, but their handling of the associated use, taken as a whole, can be troublesome.
This is where it is useful to turn to the Kindle Fire as a decent example. Amazon is basically the first company to bring a functional, polished tablet to market so far that also had an App Store to make use of. Not only that, they offer pretty much everything you might want to consume right there for download should you need it. They have even pulled the media experience to the front of things to try to make transitions more fluid and experiences more cohesive.
Where Apple focuses on Apps and their use, Amazon has chosen to bring media to the front and weigh apps as no more important than anything else being offered through the device’s interface. The full functionality is there, and there are thousands of major apps available for download that will provide any kind of content you can imagine, but it isn’t the only option. Documents, Movies, Books, Music, all get their own place alongside the Apps. There isn’t even a standard Android home screen anymore.
This is where Amazon went right, in my opinion, and why they are likely to be a serious competitor. It isn’t about the lower price tag. That’s nice, of course, but it only goes so far. It’s more that the Kindle Fire places the emphasis on what it was made to do without shoving it in your face. It is made to consume certain content and will do so perfectly. To get to something that might be less polished or run a little bit less well actually takes more steps out of the way to get to, if only slightly.
They made the decision to play to the Kindle Fire‘s strengths rather than make it a general purpose device that could be everything for everybody. The Kindle vs iPad competition will come down to design philosophy more than simple processing power.