The tablet market feels like it's an old friend, when in reality it's still incredibly nascent. Apple (NAS: AAPL) kicked off the iPad in April 2010, so we're just barely past the one-and-a-half-year mark. The Kindle Fire has garnered mixed early reviews, with some praising its compelling value proposition for its impulsively tempting $199 price tag. Some see it as a viable threat to the iPad, while others put it in a category of its own.
While Apple may always be the tablet leader, it can't hold on to a 75% market share forever, especially with how quickly the market is growing. Plus, Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) hasn't even entered the picture yet with its promising Windows 8 OS.
Barnes & Noble's (NYS: BKS) Nook Color has occupied the lower-end price spectrum for a while at $249, and the first-generation model is being bumped to $199 as its new Nook Tablet, which also runs Google (NAS: GOOG) Android, will hold down the $249 spot.
The tablets that have gone head-to-head with the iPad on price have fallen short, including the Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) Xoom and Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) PlayBook. Apple has now sold a cumulative total of almost 40 million units since launch, while the Xoom has seen 790,000 shipments and only 700,000 PlayBooks have shipped. Take note that Apple reports sales, while Motorola and RIM report shipments.
Can Amazon succeed? The massive e-tailer has tricks up its sleeve that other non-Apple tablet makers can't match. While Apple even thinks the Kindle Fire will boost iPad sales due to continued fragmentation of the platform, Amazon has the capability to replicate Apple's integrated strategy.
Amazon has content down pat with Amazon Prime, which continues to grow, and MP3 store and cloud storage. It has its own Android Appstore and the Fire is sparking massive interest among developers. The Fire's forked version of Android is so unrecognizable that it's differentiated from its brethren. CEO Jeff Bezos has already said Amazon is building "millions more" of the devices.
Just about the only thing that the Fire doesn't have going for it is hardware. There has been talk that Amazon was in a time crunch to get the Fire out for the holiday shopping season, so it tapped Quanta as a shortcut, and it may have tapped iPad manufacturer Foxconn for the second generation. The second-generation hardware is rumored to have a 10-inch display and feature NVIDIA's (NAS: NVDA) quad-core Tegra 3.
The Kindle Fire is on track to receive a warm welcome to the tablet market, and be the best Android tablet out there to date.
Will the Kindle Fire truly be the best Android tablet so far? Are you buying one? Or are you waiting for the iPad 3? Let us know in the comments section below. Add Amazon to our free watchlist service to stay updated as the tablet hits the market.
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