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September 8, 2012

"The Best Tablet at Any Price"


With Amazon releasing it's new line of Kindle tablets this week, the comparisons with the market leader iPad have emerged once again. Spec-for-spec, price-for-price, etc. Let's undress The Kindle Fire HD for a bit and see what it's packing. The Kindle Fire HD comes in two models: The 7" & 8.9" versions. Since the 8.9" is the closest to the iPad in terms of size I'll use that in my analysis.

Coming right off the bat the 16 GB Kindle Fire HD comes in at $299, whereas the 16 GB iPad starts at $499––That's a significant $200 price difference. But is it really about price? I'm not going to compare feature for feature with the iPad because I believe it all comes down to the overall experience of the device (and that includes software). But here are the standouts anyway, the Kindle Fire HD comes with a 1920x1200 HD display, a 1.5Ghz dual core processor, a dual band Wi-Fi antenna (faster speeds), and an HD front-facing camera. Shockingly, it doesn't come with a rear-end camera. Say what you want about people looking stupid when taking photos with their iPads, or not using their iPad as the primary photo/video capturing tool. But watching the Olympics, I could count a decent amount of folks using their iPads to shoot Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt breaking records. And what if you have to capture that special moment for example, of your baby taking her first steps, and all your have is your iPad? I think a rear facing camera on a tablet is good to have, just-in-case. 

If you watched the keynote, you got some insight into Amazon's Kindle Fire business model. They are obviously selling this thing at slim margins--if any margins at all. But the Kindle Fire according to Bezos is not being sold to make money on a device basis, it's a front door to Amazon's vast world of content. It's a smart model if you think about it: Sell the hardware (for cheap) as access points to your content, and then let the consumer roam free in the store. After all, Amazon is first and foremost an e-commerce company. And if there's one thing I know, one doesn't' buy just a piece of item on amazon.com to never return. Their prices are so much lower than the competition that you can't help but come back for more shopping. In the keynote address, Jeff Bezos mentioned that they have built the best tablet at "any" price. I don't agree with this assessment. Maybe the best tablet for an uninformed consumer. If you own an iPhone and a Mac and you're a going to buy the Kindle Fire HD as your first tablet, I would love to hear your reasoning. And if the sole purpose of the Kindle Fire line is to bring users into the Amazon content ecosystem, then stepping up to the iPad with comparisons talk is kind of crazy from my point of view.

Amazon has apps on iOS for their Amazon store, Kindle books and Amazon Instant Video streaming content. Again, you can buy almost anything with their app, from books to microwaves and lawnmowers. Plus if you're an Amazon Prime member you can stream all your Prime movies on the iPad. The only downside to the Amazon Instant Video app is that one can not purchase a movie through the app, but rather have to do so on the Amazon website--that's easy to do with mobile Safari. So for $200 less you are losing owning a well engineered (and designed) device with the best app ecosystem in the world. Not forgetting the best mobile software in iOS. I was having an interesting conversation with a friend and he made a comment about users possibly "switching" to the Kindle Fire HD because of specs and the lower price tag--I really don't see that happening. Why would anyone throw away the superior Apple software experience to grab a Kindle Fire HD running a modified version of Android? Mind you, Apple refreshes it's iOS devices annually if you're a spec-seeking consumer. And with the imminent release of iOS 6 next week, a user can start reading an article on Safari with their iPhone, and catch up on their iPad. Just like magic. Not really, it's called iCloud. And the Kindle Fire doesn't have that. Again, I don't see anybody giving away the app ecosystem, intuitive design, iCloud experience and beautiful Retina-display of an iPad 3 for a Kindle Fire HD. The Amazon apps on the iPad gets the job done.

It's a no-brainer, the iPad is still the best tablet at any price.

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