The Amazon Kindle Fire 7-inch tablet aims to take on the Apple iPad, but will the Fire catch fire with consumers? Amazon has loyal Kindle e-reader users, but part of its draw is the e-ink screen which works in direct sunlight for beach book reading. It's the one-up Amazon had over the iPad which doesn't do so well in direct sunlight.
The new Kindle Fire is a color screen and not e-ink, so it loses that advantage. Further, the new Kindle Fire doesn't have a camera! What? No camera? It also doesn't have 3G. What? No 3G? Oh and no microphone either, so no Skype or other VoIP apps. How is this an iPad killer? It does have WiFi, but skipping 3G and a camera makes this a limited home-bound gadget.
Amazon is subsidizing the cost of the tablet with the expectation that it will recoup the money when owners buy content. This allows Amazon to undercut Apple on price, but at a risk if the Fire doesn't catch fire. Sorry, can't resist that pun! One nice thing (depending on your perspective) about the Fire is that they hide the underlying Android OS and put a nice slick UI on it to make it easy to use. Thus, this might make a nice gift for less technically-savvy folks like grandparents or something.
Amazon is selling the Fire for $199 and will include a one-month trial for its $79-a-year membership service Prime, which offers streaming video and free two-day shipping. It's important to note that starting this year Amazon started streaming movies for no extra charge to customers who've signed up for its Prime premium shipping program. Amazon prime currently has around 11,000 titles, which is about half of Netflix's (now Qwickster) streaming library. But that is not an accurate indicator or whether this tablet will become a popular choice for consumers. Netflix content is accessible on PCs and even embedded into Blu-ray players and newer TVs. So the comparison to Netflix on the content side is a bit misleading. Netflix still holds an advantage there until Amazon starts partnering with DVD player and TV manufacturers.
Really, there isn't anything an Amazon tablet could do that the iPad can't. Further, while the Kindle Fire might be able to run tablet apps from Google's marketplace, the number of apps is much less than Apple's App Store. If Amazon is going to try and compete solely on price, they will certainly lose!
The new Toshiba Thrive, also announced today, is also a 7" tablet, costs around $400 and it sports TWO cameras, Bluetooth, supports Skype, and can run the Kindle app. So why not pay $200 more for this tablet instead fr the greater functionality?
The Kindle Fire will ship Nov. 15 according to Amazon. Lastly, Amazon also released new versions of its e-book readers, including one that will sell for just $79. You can check out the Kindle Fire commercial below: