The wait is almost over. The Kindle Fire tablet “will start arriving on customers’ doorsteps one day early,” according to a new statement released by Amazon. And Amazon also announced that its Kindle Touch will begin shipping out on Tuesday.
“We’re thrilled to be able to ship Kindle Fire to our customers earlier than we expected,” added an Amazon executive. Calling the tablet “a premium product at the non-premium price of only $199,” he noted that the demand has surprised Amazon, and they’re now “building millions more than we planned.”
But there’s a bigger question: whether people will love Amazon’s new color touchscreen tablets the way that they loved the black-and-white Kindles. The stakes are very high, as Amazon acknowledged with a quote from Fortune magazine. “The culmination of 17 years of work, the Kindle Fire is the missing piece of the company’s vast corporate puzzle, bringing into harmony nearly every discordant service the company has built since CEO Jeff Bezos first set up shop in his garage in 1994.”
Of course, the complete article included some caveats. (“It’s not what many expected exactly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not Amazon’s most important product ever,” reads the tagline.) Fortune notes that the Kindle Fire tablet “isn’t a revolutionary device,” but ultimately concludes that it’s most significant feature is the tablet’s integration with Amazon’s “cloud” of downloadable media and other services. “More than any other Kindle before it, the Fire is an initiation into an ecosystem where nearly every service is provided by Amazon.” Saying it’s often “a not-so-subtle initiation,” the article notes how the video library, for example, includes very prominent reminders that many “Instant Videos” are free to Amazon Prime members.
I’ve always seen the Kindle Fire tablets as a device that lets you buy more things from Amazon — not just ebooks, but also movies, music files, and games and other applications. Of course Amazon wants it to be cheap — because they’re assuming they’ll earn even more money when Kindle Fire owners begin shopping heavily in Amazon’s store. So the real question is whether the device can deliver a “compelling experience,” one that actually gets customers excited about making all those new purchases from Amazon. And according to Fortune‘s reporter, at least when reading a color magazine on the Kindle Fire tablet, “photos and other art pop.”
But how does it compare to Apple’s iPad? After testing Amazon’s new Silk web browser, the reporter concluded it’s “a hair quicker, but the difference was negligible.” And the Kindle Fire also seemed to require a
re-charge after 6.5 hours of use, which the reporter calls “acceptable, but not exceptional when compared to the iPad 2’s 10 hours with WiFi on or the Nook Tablet’s touted 11.5 hours with WiFi off.” And remember those ads last year, showing a Kindle being read in bright sunlight while the iPad suffered from a bright glare? With the new Kindle Fire, “just like the iPad, Nook Color, and other tablets, you may have trouble reading outdoors thanks to the device’s color screen…”
Of course, Amazon’s tablet is also $300 cheaper than the iPad, which is the biggest clue to Amazon’s strategy. They want the tablet to be affordable, because they’re not expecting profits just from the sales of the device itself. They’re hoping to earn a lot more when those Kindle Fire tablets finally start arriving — so their owners start shopping! Will Amazon’s strategy work?
In just a few days, they’re going to find out….