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.
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.