TechCrunch (again) had the scoop last night. Amazon’s much touted announcement tomorrow will be the launch of their new tablet, dubbed Kindle Fire.
Aside from ad copy that writes itself (Kindle Fire Sale, anyone?), the details are surprisingly underwhelming.
This is not a device to take an Apple’s all-conquering iPad, but a closer look indicates that Amazon may have a different target.
The big disappointment, leaked earlier in the month, is that there is no e-ink, and instead will be a backlit LCD screen. The development of color e-ink is still ongoing.
Indeed, according to gdgt.com, sources inside Amazon state that the Kindle development team (known internally as Lab 126) “opted not to take on the project, in favor of continuing to work solely on next-gen e-ink-based devices.”
Amazon were committed to bringing out a tablet for the Holiday season, especially given the (surprise) runaway success of Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color. So, they outsourced it to a company called Quanta that builds and designs hardware for name brands.
The tablet itself is a re-purposed PlayBook, which hardly set the world alight when it was first released. It will be powered by Android, although not, apparently, the advanced iteration that Barnes & Noble will be running their next Nook Color model on (rumored for release next month).
If both these sources have it right (and one has actually used the device), then it appears that Amazon has made the strategic decision that its better to get into the tablet game now with an inferior device, than to wait until color e-ink and all the other aspects of their wishlist were ready (which will be well into next year).
The big question you might be asking is this: why would anyone buy an inferior tablet? The answer is simple: content.
The software the Kindle Fire will be running will be superior to the PlayBook – Amazon have essentially redesigned Android – but it’s the content that will sell this device.
It won’t be positioned as an e-reader per se (although it will have that function), but as a device which can consume music, games, video, movies, and books.
The price point is a closely guarded secret (we will find out tomorrow), and there are two competing rumors: one that it will be priced at $250, or $300 with a free Amazon Prime subscription; the other that the price will be $250 with Prime (which costs $79 per year).
I think either will be a big draw, but the second would certainly grab headlines, as it would bring the effective price of the device down to $171. Also, Amazon have inked some last minute deals to make sure that bundling a Prime subscription is even more attractive.
Aside from free unlimited two-day shipping, members will also have access to a digital library of movies and television shows – all streamed for free – now bolstered by new content from Fox and digital magazines from three large publishers.
The device itself is said not to be available until November, but the timing is a clear shot at Barnes & Noble, who will launch the Nook Color 2 shortly. Clearly, Amazon’s aim is to get their prospective customers to hold off and wait for the Kindle Fire.
But that’s only part of their strategy; after all, Amazon sells a lot more than books. This device seems, to me, to be a gateway drug into the whole Amazon ecosystem, drawing customers away from all sorts of competitors.
After all, if you own a Kindle Fire (bundled with Prime), you have no real need for that Netflix subscription anymore. You won’t be ordering print books from anywhere else once you have free delivery. In fact, you will be ordering a lot more physical goods now from Amazon.
The device, although Android based, won’t even have access to Google’s Android App Marketplace – Amazon have built there own (and have several of the big app makers on board for the launch).
Essentially, the Kindle Fire will lock customers into the Amazon ecosystem. Or as PC Magazine puts it, “your entire life, one-click enabled” (h/t Passive Guy).