Amazon's tablet half price of iPad - but Kiwis marginalised
UPDATED: The US media has been split over Amazon's Kindle Fire, which has a killer price ($US199), but lacks a number of hardware features sported by the larger-screen Apple iPad (including a camera, microphone, GPS, Bluetooth and 3G).
NBR asked local digital publishing commentator Martin Taylor for his take.
"I think Amazon will find a decent sized niche of this smaller form factor," Mr Taylor said.
"It also buys them time and experience before they take on the iPad in the same way Apple used the Touch to build a base before taking on the phone market."
The Digital Strategies director doubted Amazon would release full-blown iPad competitor before Christmas 2012.
(Asked at today's launch of the 7-inch Kindle Fire about the possibility of a 10-inch, iPad-size model, an Amazon VP said only "Watch this space.")
Mr Taylor - who traditional book distributor Addenda as well as his new media consultancy - said publishers shouldn't wait for the Fire to arrive in NZ.
"The usual delayed New Zealand roll-out makes it even more important for local publishers to re-focus on the tens of millions in the international market," the eBook advocate said.
"And it's time for magazine publishers as well as book publishers to get on board. A lot of our great niche magazine publishers should look at international markets now, something that print logistics and local advertising requirements have made difficult in the past."
Amazon's new 7-inch tablet "Kindle Fire" tablet will sell for $US199 - half the price of Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, which starts at $US499 (or from $799 to $1289 in NZ, depending on specs); the same price as BlackBerry's 7-inch PlayBook tablet.)
CEO Jeff Bezos said the Fire would go onsale November 15. Amazon began taking pre-orders through its website this morning.
As expected, Mr Bezos outlined a strategy where Amazon will recoup its money on the cut-price tablet through selling content.
Kindle Fire customers will get discount access to Amazon's Prime Instant Video movie and TV streaming download service.
They will also be allocated free cloud (online) storage, to encourage them to use Amazon's cloud-based music service.
The free cloud storage is aimed squarely at Apple's coming cloud version of iTunes, which developer reports indicate will come with an annual fee (a plan that may now be revised). Many Apple fans will be hoping the company reviews the cost of its iPad, too.
The bad news: as expected, the Kindle Fire is US-only - a function of its associated movie, TV and music streaming services being confined to North America. New Zealanders could be in for a long wait (Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment).
Similarly, the Amazon AppStore for Android is, for the time being, restricted to US residents.
Amazon Kindle Fire - key features
- $US199 ($NZ260)
- 7-inch back-lit touchscreen display (over rumours of a 10-inch model, Amazon offered only "stay tuned")
- 413 grams (9.7-inch iPad 2: 601g; 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook: 425g)
- Google Android operating system software
- Free cloud (online) storage
- 8GB of internal storage (iPad: 16GB to 64GB)
- Wi-fi (but no 3G cellular)
- Dual core processor
- No camera
- No GPS
- No Bluetooth
- No microphone (= no Skype)
- Released November 15, US-only
The company says the Kindle Fire's "Silk" web browser utilises Amazon's EC2 cloud computing platform (an online service sold to business customers) for faster browsing.
Apple has sold around 29 million iPads since the first model was released in March 2010.
A recent survey put iPad's tablet market share at 80%. It competes against RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook (which has so far sold under 1 million units), plus Android-based tablets including Samsung's Tab and Motorola's Xoom.
New "old" Kindle
Amazon also launched new models in its original e-book-specific, mono screen Kindle range, adding touchscreen capability.
The 6-inch Kindle Touch costs $US99 with wi-fi, or $US149 with wi-fi and 3G. The non-touchscreen Kindle is also being refreshed and will cost $US79.
Sadly, none of the new models are availale for pre-order outside the US at this point - though we can grab the "international" Kindle at the now reduced price of $US109 (or $NZ144 at Amazon's exchange rate, plus $28 delivery. If you can't wait a week, local retailer Dick Smith sells it for $209.).
Amazon also offers its Kindle software reader as a free download for several platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Google Android and Apple iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad).