December 2, 2011

Kindle Fire, Not the Netbook of the Tablet Market

J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz:

“We think that, over time, consumers may come away disappointed with the Kindle Fire’s lack of functionality and smaller screen size. In our view, the Kindle Fire is the current netbook of the media tablet market.”

[emphasis mine]

(Via All Things Digital.)

While arguably true today, does anyone doubt that Amazon will improve the Kindle Fire?

Recall that the original Kindle was oversized for the display it included, cheap-feeling and suffered from slow page turns. It carried a superfluous hardware keyboard that has only recently been eliminated.

Amazon took four years to deliver a touchscreen version of the Kindle, during which time Apple established that touch was the user interface of the future.

But also during those four years, the price of successive Kindle models declined from $400 to today’s $79 (non-touchscreen version with advertisements). Kindle’s build quality and user experience were improved.

We not only have a touchscreen version today, but a multimedia tablet version, as well.

And Amazon blazed the trail for an always connected, 3G network device without a monthly fee, making the Kindle useful outside WiFi coverage.

All of that spells innovation and iterated product improvement, on their own schedule. Sound familiar? It's a page from Apple's playbook.

Netbooks, on the other hand, started out undersized, underpowered and un-upgradeable. They were never much good for anything other than email and extremely casual, non-Flash web browsing.

They haven’t been improved over time because their raison d’être was high-volume sales, period. Low-end components in small, low-end enclosures make for low-end, disposable devices. They're more a photograph of a computer than a computer.

The Kindle Fire is not the netbook of tablets. It may not be a direct competitor to Apple’s iPad, but it’s easily the most interesting of the Android-based tablets, thanks largely to Amazon’s user interface overlay and their huge content catalog. The Kindle Fire’s best days are ahead of it.