Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD tablets are priced competitively against Apple’s iPad. Photo: Dennis Provost/Wired
Apple, at last, has a legitimate competitor in the tablet space now. And it sure isn’t Samsung. Amazon’s trio of Kindle Fire HD tablets are nothing less than a declaration of war against Apple and the iPad.
“The Amazon Kindle Fire HD, in the short term, eliminates all competition outside of Apple,” Bovitz research manager Randy Hellman told Wired via email. “Amazon is trying to position it as an iPad equivalent for a better value.”
Amazon’s original Kindle Fire, which debuted last November, was thought by many to be an “iPad killer” prior to and upon its release, but it never really, well, caught fire. Not that it was a failure, either. Although Amazon isn’t releasing sales numbers, it says the Kindle Fire makes up 22 percent of U.S. tablet sales.
This time around, Amazon clearly learned lessons and made some great changes to its first-generation tablet to deliver the 7- and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD. Unlike the original budget-friendly Kindle Fire, the Fire HD’s specs are on par with today’s top-tier tablets — even at the $200 and $300 price points.
“This year, we want to have the best tablet at any price,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the company’s media event Thursday morning.
Specs aside, however, a positive, seamless user experience is what really makes or breaks a tablet — which is why so many other Android slates have flopped. To that end, Amazon didn’t just upgrade on the hardware front: The Kindle Fire HD also sports a laundry list of integrated software features that rival, or even beat, the convenience of Apple’s tightly packaged iOS ecosystem. According to an August survey by Forrester, 31 percent of consumers already have their credit card on file with Amazon, compared with just 18 percent with Apple. That means that for many, easing into the content-rich Amazon ecosystem could be an attractive and smooth transition.
With both the entry-level iPad and the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE priced at $500, consumers have a clear choice: hardware versus content. “Amazon’s new Kindle HD is all about content and access to premium services. The hardware is just an all-access pass to fun,” Hellman said. “With Apple’s iPad, the elegantly designed, well-engineered hardware is a much larger piece of the product’s story, with a mixed bag of content offerings.”
Amazon’s unique data plan is the other killer feature for the Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE. It provides the plan itself, at a very affordable $50 a year for 250MB of data per month and 20GB of cloud storage. Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps wrote that it’s “a very disruptive move that puts pressure on carriers to offer their own lower-price plans.” Apple, for now, is still reliant on high-priced carrier data plans for its 4G tablet.
Although Amazon is playing in Apple’s sandbox now (with its own envious set of toys, we might add), Apple, for now, still has the upper hand.
“Given Apple’s iOS app selection and large ecosystem of its own,” Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted, “I don’t think iPad is under major threat. But Apple should not be complacent.”
It should be very interesting to see how Apple, who Hellman says is usually “one step ahead of the game,” handles the idea of not being complacent.