The Kindle Fire is a low spec Android tablet in a size that has not yet made any headway against the Apple iPad. It is similar in size to the RIM Playbook and Samsung Galaxy Tab, but has less storage and is slower than both. But, and it's a big but, the Kindle Fire has access to the great ecosystem of Kindle books, movies and tunes.
Reasons the Kindle Fire will crack the tablet market:
* Instant access to Amazon’s massive digital universe. When you buy a Kindle Fire, you do not just buy the hardware, but also access to the Amazon suite of movies, books and music. “All the content. Ultra-fast web browsing” is the tagline. Amazon is not trying to compete with higher specs but realises that success will come from content and software.
* The price. At US$199, Amazon has put a tablet within reach of the mass market. If you have never used a tablet before, and like many others, are not even sure why you need one, the purchasing decision becomes simpler at this price point.
* The Brand. Amazon customers are extremely loyal. Great service and support have made Amazon the world’s largest online store – towering over iTunes.
* Size. The seven inch screen always seemed a limitation on other tablet devices, but makes sense for books – it fits in your hand like a book, much like the hugely popular kindle e-readers.
* Amazon Silk and Amazon Web Services. The Kindle Fire links to content using AmazonSilk, a new mobile web browser that "does the heavy lifting on the backend and uses a split browser architecture”. AWS is the cloud networking service, with some of the fattest pipes, giving Kindle users cloud storage options. In Plain English, this means Amazon is optimising its tablets for fast data delivery.
It’s not so much an iPad killer as an iPad alternative – the specs aren’t nearly as good, the hardware is nowhere close to the beauty of the iPad, but for a mass market purchasing decision, this might be good enough. And Jeff Bezos makes it clear, Amazon works hard to charge people less. One might argue that since they have been building their content strategy for over 15 years, it makes sense almost to give away the device on which to consume it. Whereas Apple, who works hard continually to trump its own work (no one else can make their products out of date as fast as Apple can) has a high value, higher cost approach.
Recent research from PwC and Telsyte estimated that within Australia, the iPad has a market share of between 75% and 97%. The market for digital magazines accessed via an Android Tablet is arguably not yet worth the development costs.
However, the Kindle Fire may just open up the market, and for publishers, this means they will have another channel to reach their audiences; one that side-steps Apple’s cost and control.
While Kindle Fire is powerful enough to download and read books, we are yet to see how it performs when running rich multimedia apps such as some Oomph magazine apps. OomphHQ has already ordered several Kindle Fires to test out Oomph on Android app.
The Oomph digital publishing platform launched on Android in September 2010 powering The Australian on Samsung Galaxy Tab for News Ltd. Since then, Android has remained a challenge, due to diversity of tablets, versions of the Android OS and varying screen sizes. This is evident across all major tablet publishing providers who tend to have less-capable offerings on Android.
Oomph continues to refine its approach to cross-platform publishing and has developed an Oomph prototype using HTML5. This approach will ensure Oomph can target new devices quickly and extend to smart TVs and digital signage.
Two final thoughts: the Kindle Fire tablet may be good enough for mass market, but when you are creating beautifully-designed content, is ‘good enough’ really an option to showcase your work? And where to next for the other tablet manufacturers who build expensive high spec tablets but have a limited content strategy?