Will the Kindle Fire up tablet competition? Yes.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth
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So, yesterday James Tye, CEO of Dennis in the UK [had a question for me](https://twitter.com/#!/jamesatye/status/119370536005550080):
And the answer is “no”. 
I remember the incident very clearly, because I remember picking my words *very* carefully indeed. And this is what I said, as best I recall it:
The Kindle? At that price point, in that form factor? It’s stuffed. *(pause for laughter)* Amazon needs to become a platform, selling ebooks on all devices.
Media Week [reported what I said](http://www.mediaweek.co.uk/News/MostEmailed/1000167/PPA-Conference-2010-Publishers-struggling-generate-revenue-apps/), but directly quoted only one word. I bet you can guess which one. 🙂 So, James, the reason I don’t regret saying that the Kindle would be dead in a year is because, well, I never predicted that. I just pointed out that the Kindle, as it existed then, was unsustainable. 
**Here’s why I gave that answer**: back then, the [Kindle was *expensive*](http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2011/02/free_kindle_thi.php). It was half the price of the iPad, for a tiny fraction of the features. It was uncompetitive. And sure enough, a month after that conference, the price came down, and has been on a steady downwards trend ever since.
In the light of iPad, Amazon had three options:
1. Make the Kindle a lot cheaper 2. Make the Kindle a lot better 3. Become a device-agnostic platform
At the time of the conference, Amazon was clearly following the third path, which is why I highlighted it. That said, I did think it was possible that Amazon wasn’t really interested in the hardware business long term, and would slowly wind down their own Kindles as the software spread. Then the price came down, and it became clear that Amazon was pushing towards option 1, too.
What the announcements earlier in the week make amply clear is that actually, Amazon was taking *all three* options. I didn’t expect that. I’m not sure anyone did.
Amazon is clearly protecting its own future as more and more media shifts to digital not just by becoming a digital storefront, but by pushing as hard as it can to make cheap, accessible content consumption devices and get them into the hands of the general public, tying them into Amazon’s ecosystem. And that’s what differentiates both Amazon and Apple from other players in the tablet field: they both have content ecosystems to support their devices. The key difference, for those who care, is that Apple uses content sales to encourage hardware sales. Amazon uses hardware sales to encourage content sales. 
In the last few months, I’ve been an enthusiastic Kindle user. I went on holiday to Florida over the New Year period, and went *sans* the normal huge pile of paperbacks, carrying all but one book with me on my iPad. That pushed me over into full-on ebook enthusiasm, but also made it clear to me that a cheaper, [eInk](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_Ink "E Ink") device had a place in my life. I wouldn’t take my iPad down to the pool or onto the beach, but I would a much, much cheaper Kindle. Within a few months, I was [a happy Kindle owner](http://www.onemanandhisblog.com/archives/2011/07/i_give_up_you_win_amazon.html). 
**On a personal level**, I’m delighted by the new Kindles. The one I’m lusting after is actually the Kindle Touch. The physical buttons of the Kindle I have are just *terrible*. Awful. The sooner I have a simple, touch-screen eInk device in my hands, the happier I’ll be. The second it becomes available for pre-order in the UK, I’ll be there. I’m a lot less interested in the Kindle Fire, because I have an iPad, and am perfectly happy with it. There isn’t space for a content consumption only device between my iPhone and Kindle and my iPad right now. I am not the target customer for it. Also, I have one very significant caveat about the Fire, while I’ll discuss in another post. 
**On a professional level**, I’m possibly even more delighted. For the first time, Apple has a real, viable competitor in the tablet space. It’s not a direct competition, because the Kindle Fire fits quite neatly between two Apple products: the iPad and the iPod touch. I’m sure it will nibble away sales from both devices in the coming years. And that’s a good thing. Because competition drives innovation. The waves of Android tablets that came before the Kindle Fire weren’t (and aren’t) strong competition. They’re pricey knock-offs of the iPad. Amazon has done something different. And something cheaper. And that’s much more interesting. 
But, still on a professional level, it’s also challenging. It throws another form factor and platform to figure into our publishing plans. And it’s almost certainly speeded up the shift to digital content. It’s gonna be a wild ride…
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.