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If you've been reading the headlines about the Kindle Fire lately, you might be surprised to learn that Amazon has already moved millions of units of its tablet and is now the proud creator of the best-selling Android tablet.

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen isn't a fan, and went so far as to say that he felt, "the Fire is going to be a failure."

Yesterday, GigaOm's Kevin Tofel kep the barrage going, lambasting Amazon for redirecting requests for the Android Market to Amazon's app store.

There's an obvious reason for this, of course - the Kindle Fire runs on a custom version of Android, so the average consumer probably won't recognise that an Android app from the Android Market won't run on a Kindle Fire. You can argue that Amazon's redirection isn't the most elegant way of dealing with this probably-not-mainstream scenario, but Tofel's argument is far too emotional.

But do critics like Tofel have a point?

The Kindle Fire might not be the best device ever created, and it certainly won't please everyone. But the question remains; why are so many technologists and blogfolk bashing the Fire? There are plenty of reasons. In most cases, it boils down to one thing - it's not the iPad!

Beyond the hype, here are some important things to keep in mind about the Kindle Fire. Many of these apply to other devices, like Barnes & Noble's NOOK Tablet and other media-centric tablet devices that are sure to be launched in the coming months and years.

It's $199!

The Kindle Fire has a magical price of just $199. This can't be stated enough. The cheapest iPad at $499 costs more than double the Kindle Fire, and is frankly out of reach for many consumers who either aren't interested in spending $500 for a tablet, or who simply can't afford to.

Is the iPad arguably a more capable and better made device if you look under the hood? Sure. But comparing the Kindle Fire to an iPad is sort of like comparing a $200,000 condo to a $500,000 house.

The Fire is a media consumption device, not a computing device.

The Kindle Fire is technically a 'tablet', but that's just a word that increasingly has little meaning. More importantly, the Kindle Fire is designed for one thing, consuming media. To that end, Amazon has built an impressive ecosystem around the Fire. Fire owners can choose from millions of ebooks and MP3s and an app store with plenty of games, and Amazon Prime members receive thousands of free ebooks, movies and television shows.

If you're looking for a computing device, these things are easy to ignore, but if you're not at all interested in content, you're not Amazon's target customer.

The critics have unrealistic expectations.

Some of those most critical of the Kindle Fire are iPad owners who can't seem to get their heads around the fact that the two devices are not designed for the same market. They've literally driven the tablet version of a Ferrari and expect a Toyota to deliver the same performance.

Of course, most Toyota owners probably haven't driven a Ferrari for any length of time, so their expectations aren't unrealistic.

The iPad's flaws are frequently overlooked.

Apple makes great products, but like Amazon, it isn't perfect. Unfortunately for companies competing with Apple (directly or indirectly), Apple's imperfections often get friendlier treatment. Take the fact that the iPad, at $499-plus, lacks a USB port. For iPad lovers, that's apparently not a big deal, but at $499, one could easily argue that the iPad should deliver far more than it does.

This market is bigger than Apple.

It's my belief that some are criticising the Kindle Fire because Amazon appears to be a competitive threat to Apple. In some respects, it is. But in reality, Amazon is extending the market for tablets, reaching consumers that Apple never would have been able to reach or serve anyway.

At the end of the day, Apple can continue to sell high-quality hardware like the iPad while companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will sell hardware to sell content. The latter may or may not displace some iPad sales, but one thing is for sure: if you're a technologist who loves the iPad, Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren't necessarily trying to convince you to love it any less.

Patricio Robles

Published 20 December, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2473 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Andrew Allsop

Andrew Allsop, Account Executive at Fusion Unlimited

They're providing technological critique not a consumer report. It's like saying a food critic doesn't understand McDonalds.

over 5 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy


Devices like the Kindle Fire and iPad are designed for consumers. You can't provide a thoughtful, honest and meaningful technological critique of these without looking at who they were designed for, what they were designed to do, the price-to-value equation, etc.

over 5 years ago



It's gadget snobbery pure and simple.

over 5 years ago



Price. Content. Amazon. = Kindle Fire!!! Enough said!! Got mine today! Whooo who!!!

over 5 years ago


Marian Johnson, Managing Partner at SIMPATICO Marketing Communications

I'm with you there on gadget snobbery. Told a web dev mate I was getting a Kindle. He said it was total crap not as good as an ipad. I said I just wanted to read books on it. He said but you can do so much more on iPad. I said you're not listening.

over 5 years ago

Andrew Lloyd Gordon

Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Digital Marketing Expert, Speaker and Trainer at New Terrain Limited

You're spot on with this post Patricio.

The day the iPad was launched, I running a training course to about 12 'digital specialists' (marketers, web designers, online PR etc). Over coffee, we watched a news update about Apple's much-awaited announcement.

To my surprise, almost everyone in the room mocked the device and stated that the iPad would be a huge failure. Indeed, it was the worst mistake Apple had ever made!

Why did they have this collective opinion?

Well, the iPad lacked a keyboard, it was product that no one actually needed, it was too expensive, you could do everything on a netbook or laptop etc etc blah, blah, blah.

How wrong were they?!

Thus, as per your point about the Kindle Fire, I think that specialists can sometimes become so 'expert' that their expertise actually narrows rather than widens their views.

over 5 years ago

Nico Koepke

Nico Koepke, CEO at KODIME LtdSmall Business

The Kindle Fire will also do ok in the UK, although having missed the Christmas slot was not great launch.

For some Android tablet apps this may prove to become an important platform, and we certainly can't wait to get going - Amazon is a formidable player, and competition is good - especially since Google (Android) have completely messed up the "store" experience in Android Marketplace by allowing basically everyone and everything to publish and sell apps that in many if not most cases do not meet even basic quality requirements.

Amazon will curate and review apps, and make sure they work on Kindle Fire before being approved for their store - GOOD.

over 5 years ago


Jacob Saaby Nielsen

I'm sorry. Gadget snobbery. Really guys ?

I own both an iPad 2 and a Kindle (not fire, the E-Ink one).

I don't like reading on the iPad that much. I mean, I can, and it's fine. Problem is light hitting my eyes, so if I read for a prolonged period of time, my eyes are wasted afterwards.

I love reading on the kindle, due to the E-Ink display. I can read for as long as I want to, without my eyes getting tired.

The iPad is a fantastic device, but it's not as good as the Kindle for reading.

The ONE thing the Kindle brand has going for it, that the iDevices don't have, is the E-Ink.

That's what sets it apart.

Now. As far as Amazon entering the tablet market.

They enter a market dominated by a tablet that IS the de facto standard, for what a great tablet must be like.

A lot of people know tablets from knowing the iPad/2 in some way. So when they're presented with a smaller screen tablet, which is laggy (I've tried one) and does not perform like the iPad/2, does not play games as well, etc. - they get disappointed.

$199 or not, to stay with the car analogy Patricio uses, if you put a new car on a racetrack dominated by a Ferrari, you damn well better make sure it can compete, or people will keep looking at the Ferrari.

The Fire may be a media consumption device. But so is the iPad/2. As well as a gaming console and a lot of other things.

The iPad's flaws are often overlooked. Of course. And it does have flaws. But people overlook them because they LOVE the device. It does a lot for them, so they live with it. Same thing goes for wives - and us. Nobody's perfect, but if you love something/-one - you'll cope.

The market is bigger than Apple. Of course it is. But when Apple defines the tablet, and basically dominates that market, Apple is ever present in peoples minds. As long as Apple is present in peoples minds, and defines the gold standard - there isn't room for your device, if it's any less great.

So, do the critics have unrealistic expectations ? I don't think so. I think Amazon delivered an unrealistically underpowered device, to a market which expects better and more, using technology that basically ditches the one great technology they can use to define their products: E-Ink displays.

Amazon basically ended up delivering a device that can't even compete hardwarewise, and therefore to a great extend also when it comes to experience and building a relationship with the devices user, with the other devices it has to compete with, in its own segment.

They have the content ecosystem. It's just that the Kindle Fire is a really lousy interface to that ecosystem.

There. My two cents dropped.

over 5 years ago


Bill Wessel

I think Jacob is doing a great job of proving Patricio's point.

Know your market and launch your device at that. If you create a compelling reason to buy the product and provide a suitable experience, you have a good chance of success. I wrote about this at length earlier this month (click my name for the article).

There's simply no point comparing the Fire and the iPad, they're aimed at completely different markets. So to continue the overstretched car analogy, you won't be taking it onto the racetrack, you'll probably just be using it to get from A to B. Something a Toyota does just as well as a Ferrari and for a fraction of the cost.

Jacob says: "The market is bigger than Apple. Of course it is. But when Apple defines the tablet, and basically dominates that market, Apple is ever present in peoples minds. As long as Apple is present in peoples minds, and defines the gold standard - there isn't room for your device, if it's any less great."

I guess Google should have given up on Android back in 2008 then.

Although it's this point that really underlines the way technologists think:
"So, do the critics have unrealistic expectations ? I don't think so. I think Amazon delivered an unrealistically underpowered device, to a market which expects better and more"

Does it? I don't think so. If you're an iPad owner you probably expect more. Fair enough, it's a great device, with a remarkable amount of care and attention put into the experience of using it. But the Fire isn't targeted at iPad owners. It's targeted at everyone else.

over 5 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy


You wrote:

"$199 or not, to stay with the car analogy Patricio uses, if you put a new car on a racetrack dominated by a Ferrari, you damn well better make sure it can compete, or people will keep looking at the Ferrari."

The Kindle Fire is not racing on the same race track as the iPad. The biggest mistake you can make when looking at any product category is to assume that there's only one "race track."

Finally, you can look at Ferraris all you want, but at the end of the day, window shopping isn't shopping. You may like looking at the Ferrari, but what do you buy when you can't afford it?

over 5 years ago


Jacob Saaby Nielsen

@Bill: No, Google shouldn't have given up. Nor should they. They just need to get it right. Like I wrote "as long as Apple defines the gold standard".

Definition of what's the gold standard is of course largely subjective. The gold standard can be redefined. It just won't be, when there's really no contender to do so.

I think you underestimate the experience of the iPad. If I'd played around with an iPad, and then got a Fire, I'd be sorely disappointed, no matter what it's targeted at.

I do agree to your point on different markets, largely, but in the end, to go back to the car analogy: If you just create a simple means of transport, you'll fall short on love.

And love, is what sets the iPad apart. The users love it. Hell, I love my iPad. It does what it does, performs fantastic, and looks great while doing it. I love the experience of using it.

I would not love the experience of just using a tool. Which is basically how you define the Fire (correct me if I'm wrong). Because it's just a means to an end. Bicycle, hammer, Kindle Fire. Meh.

@Patricio: I think, whether the Fire wants to or not, it's racing on iPads track.

I also think you'll see more Fires going up for sale on the 2nd hand market, because people will end up being disappointed.

The last point is, of course, just a guess.

Your arguments does not really convince me. I don't think it's that technlogists don't get the Kindle Fire.

I think it's that Amazon doesn't get its own products.

But - time will tell :)

over 5 years ago


Jacob Saaby Nielsen

Sorry, one thing I forgot to mention: It's also largely a question of identity.

While I don't think you'll sway many members of the nerdcrowd, or the opencrowd, the larger segment I'm sure will be persuaded by the "identity enhancement" an Apple device sells, as well as the word of mouth from iPad owners they already know.

My assumption is that in 95% of the cases, they'll hear something overly positive.

over 5 years ago

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