Wednesday, Amazon- the world’s largest online retail outlet, announced the latest upgrade of its original kindle e-reader. The company showed off a new, color kindle named the Kindle Fire and the tablet world has been ablaze ever since. Bloggers were very quick to introduce the moniker, IPAD KILLER into discussions of the 7 inch tablet’s future but I believe that most discussions have missed Amazon’s true intent, entirely. Most tech writers have focused on the potential sales profitability of the Kindle Fire but the sales potential of the new kindle is a short term concern,and Amazon is a company that plays the long game. Most tech blogs have missed the mark entirely. The Kindle Fire isn’t going to kill the iPad but it may save it’s competitors.
Most writers have asserted that the Kindle Fire is going to destroy the market of android tablets, but they are wrong. The Kindle Fire has opened the only window of opportunity any of the other android tablets have seen, since their failed debuts. Among tablet watchers, a saying has developed: ” There is no tablet market. There is an iPad market”. This hackneyed truism is unfortunately very accurate. When ever I happen to see a person with an android tablet, a small part of me whispers…..why? Why would you buy an android tablet? The interfaces have been clunky and confusing and most importantly, the content is largely lacking. Despite the potential of tablets for content creation, they have largely become synonymous with content consumption and any tablet without a robust ecosystem behind it, has seemed like an irrational purchase for most consumers. The non-iPad market has consisted largely of apple haters and android fanatics. Most consumers have not been willing to tolerate the smaller app choice, the chaotic google market, and the awkwardness of Android, in general. It is easy to see why analysts would see the phoenix-like rise of the Kindle Fire as the death of the other Android tablets, but this is short sighted.
What the analysts have missed is that Amazon solves most of the other the problems with the failing android tablet market. Instead of seeing amazon as the competitor, amazon will eventually be seen as the savior. Consumers crave content. They want apps in an easily navigable market. They want large music libraries,books and magazine subscriptions. And they want it from a company they can count on to supply that content, in the years to come. Whereas Samsung, HP, ASUS, Sony and all of the other manufacturers, lack satisfactory markets for content, I believe that amazon can, and eventually will supply the content that will make these alternative tablets a success.
Amazon has never envisioned itself as the next great computer manufacturer. The Kindle has always been a loss leader for the online supermarket. The kindle and now the kindle fire, are simply a means to an end. Amazon wants one thing only; a huge, consistent consumer base that relies entirely on amazon as a convenient-one stop shop for virtually every potential purchase. Even if consumers of the kindle fire or the amazon app store don’t consume large amounts of cloud based services, amazon wants them to have the habit of turning to the online store first. It is in Amazon’s best interest to offer it’s music, tv, and app services on as many devices as possible, if only to reinforce that habit. Instead of seeing Amazon as an apple competitor it makes more sense to see Amazon as a Netflix competitor or direct competitor with the iTunes division of apple. Netflix doesn’t care about being loyal to a particular device, they just want people to buy movies from them. Amazon will have much of the same attitude.
Amazon wants to sell millions of the Kindle Fire, but they want to sell many more movies, songs and apps. Supplying content is Amazon’s primary concern, not selling the hardware. Android tablet makers will eventually realize this and make amazon the defacto iTunes/App store for Android Tablets. Add to this the possibility that Amazon may eventually allow others to distribute and use it’s custom Silk Browser. Silk, is an advanced split web browser that offers consumers a faster web experience, but it offers amazon an unprecedented amount of data about the user of the browser. This data helps Silk predict user interests but it will likely help companies target adds to consumers. Amazon’s real interest with Silk is the information it provides them about consumers. The data is simply another product for Amazon to sell. Silk, like the Kindle Fire is simply a means to Amazon’s ultimate end. The only thing left for android tablet manufacturers to do, is follow Amazon’s lead, and fork android into an attractive user interface (amazon might even be willing to help).
In the near future, consumers will be less choosy about who they buy their tablets from because they will all function in much the same way and they will all have access to the same content. The Kindle Fire won’t kill the iPad, but it will make it possible for a real competition to ensue. Amazon will bring balance and equilibrium back to the computing market, essentially restoring consumer purchasing patterns to the way things were, before the iPad came along. In the end, Apple will once again become the manufacturer of the premium variety of the pc-like product, with Android tablets as the somewhat cheaper, mildly more accessible and less elitist alternative (at least until Windows 8 is finished).