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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Amazon's iPad slayer?

New Kindle Fire tablet computer boasts smaller size and cheaper price
The Straits Times - September 29, 2011
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Amazon's iPad slayer? Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos introducing the Kindle Fire tablet computer in New York yesterday. The device will sell for US$199 (S$260). -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK: Amazon.com unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet computer yesterday, taking aim at Apple's bestselling iPad with a device that is smaller and less than half the price.

The Kindle Fire has a 17.78cm screen, compared to the iPad's 24.6cm, and Wi-Fi connectivity, the Seattle-based online retail giant announced at a launch event in Manhattan.

Presenting the new tablet to the press, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said the Kindle Fire features a new Web browser, Amazon Silk. Kindle Fire owners would have access to 11,000 films and television shows in the Amazon library and 17 million songs, he said.

The device will sell for US$199 (S$260), compared with US$499 for Apple's cheapest iPad. It is a souped-up version of the Kindle e-book reader and will run on Google's Android software, Amazon said.

According to technology analysts, an Amazon tablet could pose the most serious challenge yet to Apple's dominance of the fast-growing market for touchscreen tablet computers. Mr Bezos is betting he can leverage Amazon's dominance in e-commerce, after tablets from rivals such as Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion have fallen short.

Analysts say Amazon is nearly unique in its ability to sell content such as e-books, movies and music suited for a tablet. The Kindle could also be a reminder to owners to buy merchandise from Amazon. Running out of toilet paper? Just add it to your Amazon shopping cart.

'In essence, the Kindle is a Trojan horse for Amazon's retail and media brands,' said Morgan Keegan analyst Justin Patterson.

Analyst Brian Blair, of Wedge Partners, said sales of Amazon's e-books, movies and music on the device may help make up for the narrower profit margins that will likely result from the low price.

'Amazon is really the only other guy, the only other potential tablet player, that has a similar offering to what Apple has,' Mr Blair said. 'If you look across their product offerings, they have content that none of the other tablet makers currently have because they have content on the media side.'

With the iPad, Apple created a whole new product category. It started selling the original iPad in April last year, and introduced the iPad 2 in March this year. The touchscreen device is already its biggest source of revenue after the iPhone. Apple sold 28.7 million iPads from April last year to June this year. Analysts at research firm Gartner expect it to account for three out of four tablet sales this year.

Apple also leads the market for mobile applications (apps), with more than 425,000. More than 100,000 apps are custom-designed for the iPad.

On this front, the Kindle Fire will thus start out at a big disadvantage, just like all the other iPad competitors. It might be able to run tablet apps from Google's marketplace, but both the selection and quality is lower than in Apple's store.

Two other tablets have failed to make a dent in Apple's dominance. Research In Motion's PlayBook, introduced in the second quarter shipped less than half of what analysts predicted. They have cut estimates for full-year PlayBook shipments to an average of 2.2 million, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, discontinued its TouchPad in August - only about a month after its debut. And Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, may not have its Windows operating system for tablets ready until next year.

 

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