Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle Fire

Will consumers ever be delivered anything truly worthy of the (admittedly overused) title “iPad killer?” Only a handful of search terms surprise me more than the ones surrounding the most popular device in its market paired with the word “killer.” While pundits and industry leaders alike love to throw around the phrase, is any one gadget shipping from a different manufacturer ever really capable of completely destroying another’s market share to the point where it stops shipping? Some would argue that the success of the iPad “killed” the HP TouchPad. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The iPad was joined by a long list of Android tablets at better price points than the HP TouchPad, which stood on its own running webOS. If anything killed the HP TouchPad, it was a combination of high prices paired with a new tablet OS in its infancy.

Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle FireThe latest gadget to come under the microscope of the tech industry is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the latest and greatest version of the Kindle announced by Amazon on Wednesday. Could the Kindle “kill” the iPad?

If we’re going to take this route, let’s consider a kill shot to be the moment that the Kindle Fire gains enough market share to surpass the iPad’s current hold on the tablet market. In order to do this, a number of factors have to be at play.

Price is important. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’ve either got more money than they know what to do with, or they’re attempting to appear that way. At US$199, the Kindle Fire has a big advantage over the iPad. At roughly US$200 less than the iPad, the Kindle Fire delivers what is expected to be a solid Android experience with added features only Amazon could provide at a lower price. Even after being dealt a death blow by HP, the TouchPad outsold every other tablet on the market in the days following the announcement that it would be made available for US$99. This is proof positive that a reasonable price has a direct and dramatic impact on consumer choice. Could users break away from the iPad in favor of a less expensive Kindle Fire? It’s possible, but not likely.

Another important factor in determining whether one gadget is capable of surpassing another is existing user base. Apple has grown a strong following in the mobile market starting with the iPod. This following grew over the years as the iPod became extremely popular due in part to its ability to work with music purchased through iTunes, an online music store that featured music sold by the song rather than forcing users to pay for an entire album. This popularity increased with the release of the iPhone, a revolutionary new device that featured a capacitive screen and a robust operating system (iOS). Now, the iPad is currently dominating the tablet market. While Amazon certainly has a sizable customer base and an excellent pre-existing Kindle community, the two devices have been worlds apart for years. It is more likely that Amazon will thrive through continued coexistence rather than head-to-head competition. Existing Kindle customers may consider purchasing the Fire (or at the very least the Kindle Touch) as their eReader, but existing iPad users will likely stick with the iPad.

The Kindle Fire is arriving late to the game, and this could cost it some considerable points. Users of the iPad have already invested a significant amount of money in the platform through hardware and app purchases. To say they’ll jump ship and shift over to another robust platform would be a tall order for any company to fill. If anyone can do it, Amazon could.

The Kindle Fire will also see extreme competition from other Android tablets. This competition will no doubt dilute the potential market share gains made by the Kindle Fire, especially when other tablets are sure to be announced soon with better specs and capabilities. The Kindle Fire is actually lacking several key components, not the least of which being a camera.

Perhaps the most important factor is the Kindle itself. At its heart, the Kindle line has been and continues to be about reading eBooks. By creating a Kindle that has a color screen capable of displaying video, Amazon has really done little more than introduce another Android tablet to the market. It would be hard to expect the Fire to do much more than drive users away from the Nook.

Yes, the Kindle Fire is capable of being the best-selling Android tablet on the market. Could it compete across the aisle with iOS? That’s a tall order that the Kindle Fire isn’t likely to fill.

This is my opinion; what’s yours? Comments welcome.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson