While customers have barely had time to wipe the first set of fingerprints off their brand new iPad 3 purchases, Amazon has prepared to take advantage of the improved screen quality that the device incorporates by updating their Kindle reading application. Users will find their reading experience in this release, Version 3.0, noticeably crisper, cleaner, and with a couple useful new features. Magazines and other publications that choose to use high resolution color imagery will be right at home on the platform now, thanks to these changes.
There is now a tab available at the bottom of the screen, clearly borrowed from the Kindle Fire’s native interface, which allows easy switching between locally stored and cloud based books currently available to the account. This should make it easier to manage content on the most basic level. Things are also displayed in the same grid view that the Kindle Fire interface relies on for eBook navigation. In terms of the general reading experience the update is a step forward and does good things for new iPad 3 owners.
That is not to say that there are no complaints about the new release, of course. While they made no real note of the alterations to the way the app works, a few useful features were quietly removed. Customers have been complaining, for example, that the ability to search from the dictionary to Wikipedia and Google has been removed since Version 2.9 of the app. This seems to be a very strange change given the potential usefulness of this feature and the seeming lack of effort that would have been required to maintain it once developed. It certainly has nothing to do with bringing the Kindle for iPad experience in line with the Kindle Fire, as the Fire still has this ability. There is also still no ability to organize one’s library via the app itself, as well as no folder or tag system. While this is true of everybody using anything Kindle related besides the eReaders themselves, which at least have the Collections system, it remains a source of frustration.
Overall the consensus is that this brought the new iPad a superior aesthetic experience compared to what is available elsewhere, but that it failed to improve functionality in any major way. Perhaps this is to be expected, given that with the need for a completely external iOS Kindle Store there must be little pressure to release innovations on that platform first, but it does lessen some of the enthusiasm for the first real app update to bring readers the advantages of the iPad’s improvements.
Realistically, especially with the second Kindle Fire release expected right around the corner, any major improvements along the lines of function will probably come through their Kindle for Android or Kindle Cloud Reader options first. The stylistic changes that bring the Kindle for iOS app closer to the Kindle Fire’s appearance only serve to highlight how important it is for Amazon to unify their platform. In the end we can probably expect to see any major changes radiating out from Kindle Fire updates except when, as in this case, those changes are to take advantage of hardware capabilities that the Kindle Fire simply lacks.
After months of speculation and rumor about Amazon and Apple going head to head in an all-out Kindle Fire vs iPad 3 (or Mini, or HD) confrontation, we finally have all of the information we’ve been waiting for and it turns out that Apple isn’t addressing their “competition” in any significant way. This should really surprise nobody given the different user bases being served, but it is worth taking a look at what the new iPad can do and how well it does for the price.
The big distinguishing feature of the iPad is that, unlike the Kindle Fire, it is in many ways a computer alternative. There is little that you can’t do on one, aside from truly hardware intensive tasks, if you are motivated enough to use the touch screen. The newest iteration of the hardware line is no exception and does a fair amount to improve the overall experience even further. New features include the move to a Retina Display like that of the iPhone 4, a new A5X Dual Core Processor, one 5 Megapixel camera situated on the rear of the device, Full 1080p HD video recording, 4G LTE connectivity through both AT&T and Verizon, and dictation capabilities. A fair list that expands on what the iPad 2 already did well.
What does this mean for the Kindle Fire’s future? Honestly, practically nothing. This was not, contrary to rumors, a release that intended to kill the Kindle. As any side by side comparison has long since proved, the iPad already had a larger screen, cameras, a microphone, cellular connectivity, and more processing power. If no other factors were considered besides simple hardware performance then Apple wins the iPad vs Kindle Fire matchup every time. The fact that Apple couldn’t help but be aware of this only serves to illustrate that their widening the gap in hardware performance was directed elsewhere; most likely at heading off Microsoft by increasing momentum before the first Windows 8 Tablets start hitting stores later this year.
The biggest factor is still going to be the price for most consumers. For all its impressive power, the iPad 3 still runs at least $499 for the cheapest model with no 4G connection. Even the iPad 2, the cheapest version of which has been kept on at least temporarily at a discount to consumers, is twice the price of the Kindle Fire at $399. None of the major advantages that the Kindle offers in terms of size, weight, or affordability have been addressed. While you can’t say that any of those is universally acknowledged as the most important factor in tablet purchasing (the iPad is not suffering a bit by most accounts, nor does anything from Amazon seem to indicate that they were expected to be by now), they are the things that people take into account when deciding on a new device purchase. For the moment, these remain two completely different types of tablet. The iPad works as a functional PC alternative while the Kindle Fire is all about the consumption. The next big chance to change the equation won’t be until the details are announced for the upcoming Kindle Fire 2.
I am writing this on the eve of the launch of the next generation iPad. So speculations on what new features the iPad 3 will offer and what it means for tablet competition is definitely on my mind. As anyone who keeps up with tech news knows, the rumors get pretty wild in the days leading up to big announcements like these.
Aside from the new launch, there are two speculations that might have a more direct implication for the Kindle Fire. The first is the possibility of a 7.85 inch iPad Mini. Honestly, I can’t really see this fitting into the scope of Apple’s products. I could be wrong, but right now, there is a big enough gulf between the iPad 2 and the iPhone that consumers can reconcile having both. They serve different functions.
An iPad Mini would blur the lines a bit and give consumers less of a reason to have both. So it would cause internal competition for Apple. However, it would add some worthy competition to the smaller tablet market.
The other option is a budget version of the iPad 2. This assumption seems more viable because Apple has done this in the past with the iPhone, and has had good success with it. This would be an 8GB version as opposed to 16 or 32GB.
It depends on how much cheaper the iPad 2 is, but this is what could really give the Kindle Fire a run for its money. Right now, Amazon’s bestselling tablet’s biggest asset is that it packs a lot of features for a rock bottom price. Competitors certainly recognize that. Just look at the recent price drop on the Nook Tablet.
In the next few years, I would love to see a tablet emerge that has computing power comparable to the PC. Apple has that ability to to that with the iPad, but isn’t quite there yet. That leaves room for the smaller tablets to serve consumers who want something more portable, inexpensive and multipurpose without too much processing power.
So, I don’t really think the iPad 3 will have too much effect on the Kindle Fire competition wise. It serves a different market. The thing to watch will be the introduction of either a budget iPad or a less probable iPad Mini. So, all we can do at this point is sit back and see what happens.
Over the past several weeks there has been significant speculation over the possibility of a newer, smaller iPad on the horizon that is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire. As much as it sounds plausible when looked at in a certain light, I just fail to see it in the end. There are a few reasons, but in the end it comes down to different audiences. For Apple to seriously put a stop to the popularity of the Kindle Fire, they would have to address Amazon on completely different terms than has previously been the case, and it is not a stretch to assume that Apple has no intention of fragmenting their product line in such a way.
The value of the Kindle Fire is precisely that it does not attempt to be a fully functional tablet. Sure, it can do a lot of what any other tablet can do, but in the end there are few competitors that fail to beat it out on paper in terms of performance. What it does do is provide a channel for Amazon’s digital services. Anything that Amazon wants to serve up to customers is immediately in front of them just a click away and always works on the first try. Everything else is just left hanging under the Apps tab to work with as best you can.
The iPad, on the other hand, is trying fairly successfully to replace the home desktop as a center for leisurely computing. Short of playing highly demanding games or manipulating images and video, there is little that Apple’s tablet is unable to take over with moderate success. You can even use it as a word processor thanks to various Bluetooth keyboards designed specifically for such a use. The iPad does serve as a conduit for digital purchases, but it is more than that. You can use it to create and manipulate various types of projects rather than simply consuming.
Yes, Apple could easily cut into Kindle Fire sales with a 7” iPad 3 priced in the $200-300 range, but it would take more than just having the hardware available. They would have to prove to customers that they could focus it entirely on convenient consumption. It is almost counter-intuitive to phrase it like that, but the focused experience is what Amazon successfully leverages in the lack of computing power and I think they would have to be beaten at the game they have helped to define.
This isn’t to say that a smaller iPad would not succeed. It would probably be huge and have a devastating effect on the emerging budget Android tablet market. Those most hit by it would be along the lines of the Samsung Galaxy Tab though, not the Kindle Fire. Until and unless Amazon goes out of their way to pick the fight in a Kindle vs iPad standoff, I think they are fairly safely entrenched for the immediate future.
If you are familiar with Apple’s PR strategy, you’ll recognize the hype that goes along with each potential new product release. Speculations fly while Apple stays tight lipped until the product is launched.
That trend continues with the much anticipated release of the next generation iPad. March 29 seems to be the latest “magic date” for the release of the iPad 3. This goes along with the usual spring release date of the highly sought after tablet. So I wouldn’t be surprised if this release date was at least close to the actual one.
So, what will this mean for the Kindle Fire? In the beginning, I don’t see it being affected too much because it seems to appeal to a different market than the iPad. A big reason for that is the price. The iPad is also geared more towards heavy duty computing, and includes a camera and bluetooth compatibility. The Kindle Fire is great for browsing the internet, videos, reading and games. It is just a matter of determining what you will use the tablet for and what you want it to do.
Apple has been known for top quality devices without too much cap on price. Despite the $500 price tag on the iPad, consumers know they are going to get a top notch product. Amazon designs the cheapest device they can that is still functional so that it can reach out to the biggest number of users possible. I don’t see the price of the iPad 3 dropping a whole lot, at least not anywhere near the price of the Fire.
The Kindle Fire is the second best selling tablet after the iPad, and has been the only tablet to show a margin of success comparable to the Apple tablet, but the iPad’s sales hit record numbers in recent months. So that just proves the point that both can exist and do extremely well.
Let’s take a look at a longer term effects. Now that so many consumers own a tablet, they will want to move up in features and quality. Amazon will need to continue to try to integrate more features at the lowest cost for the Kindle Fire to show strong sales figures. Another key factor is maintaining a strong Android Marketplace. So, once Amazon achieves that, then they can release a second generation Kindle Fire.
This is all speculation base on the 10″ iPad. If the rumored iPad Mini shows up, then Amazon will really need to get into gear to present a Kindle Fire version that can compete with it.
Until I see what the new iPad will look like and the price, it is hard to tell exactly how it will affect the status of the Kindle Fire. So, more concrete observations to come after March 29, or whenever the official release date is. Stay tuned.