How Amazon will win the tablet wars

How Amazon will win the tablet wars

Summary: And maybe even more. It's all about hearts and minds; and the ability to buy whatever you want.

TOPICS: Tablets, Amazon, Apple
Kindle Fire HD
Kindle Fire HD

Regardless of how you feel about Apple, much of their success comes from their very loyal fan base. Not that their fans are the only ones who buy their phones and tablets, but they do represent a vast, unpaid sales force, always eager to bring fresh bodies into the fold. It’s possible that Microsoft may someday be able to duplicate this effort with Surface, but that remains to be seen. Amazon, however, already has a similar fan base, though much of it is uninterested in technology. But what they do love is shopping and Amazon simply provides the best online experience for the shopper.  And there are far more people who consider themselves shoppers than Apple fans.

More: All Kindle Fire HD models ad-supported | What the analysts are saying | The highs and lows you need to know | Kindle Fire HD will give Apple's iPad fits | Amazon just put Android tablets on notice | Amazon's gadget as a service theme: Hardware becomes irrelevant soon | Amazon changes the game in tablet market with Kindle Fire HD pricing | Amazon Kindle Paperwhite might be most paper-like e-reader ever

And online shoppers love Amazon Prime. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from friends and relatives who can barely work the remote on their cable box, tell how they ordered something like a 50” TV from Amazon and had it delivered the next day for $4 at a price that was better than they could find elsewhere. Or the flipside, which is someone who has told me that they ordered a $20 product that they didn’t like and Amazon made the product return experience so easy that they turned a disappointed customer into a big fan.


So what we have is the proper audience for a company to topple Apple’s dominance in the tablet market.  And with the new Kindle Fire lineup what Amazon really needs to tip that first domino is just one thing; eTextbooks.

As anyone who has kids in college or has personally bought textbooks knows, the college textbook purchase scheme comes across as a major scam. Hundreds of dollars spent for textbooks that have only minimal changes from edition to edition. Changes made often only to make older (read “used” and inexpensive) version of the text outdated so that students need to buy the newest version.  My son, who started college this year, actually had one class where the textbook changed after class started to an updated version that could no longer be rented or found used.

eTextbooks would let the publishers still charge crazy amounts for their books, but would have the opportunity for prices to drop due to the reduced cost of publication. And Amazon can point out to these publishers that DRM would mean that the used book market would pretty much go away, especially if the publisher limited their distribution to the Kindle devices.  Interactive links and features that tied into the Kindle device environment would make Amazon hardware the tablet of choice for students.

The new Kindle hardware has the components in place that college students are already using on their smartphones and would use on their tablet; actual stereo speakers, HD quality video, and multiple social connectivity options. Purchasing the device also gets the buyer another 20 GB of free cloud storage added to their Amazon Cloud which doesn’t include the free storage of all content purchased from Amazon. If my children and their friends are good examples, moving their generation’s movie and music purchases to Amazon from iTunes would put Amazon at the top of the pack in media sales.

And since there are Amazon Kindle, Cloud, and Music clients for iOS and Android, everything that the buyer has becomes available on their desktop or notebook computer, smartphone of choice, or even a different tablet.

Now let me circle back to Amazon Prime. Over the last few years Amazon has offered either one year or six months free amazon prime to enrolled students with .edu email addresses. Amazon prime also includes Amazon streaming video access. After a year of free use, the majority of users would simply subscribe, if they like video services, or, as is likely, their buying habits have moved them more to online purchases via Amazon.

All of these things combined give Amazon the opportunity to build a generation of users who expect to be able to find services like these as standard; not as expensive add-ons or workarounds.  And with Amazon offering an end-to-end solution that addresses the way users are accessing and consuming information and purchasing physical product they would become not simply the next giant technology to take their place as number 1, but the first that combines technology and actual consumer purchasing for not just technology but everything else in their lives. 

Much like the way that catalogs changed the purchasing habits of the average American over a hundred years ago, Amazon can become the ‘wishbook' of a generation of Americans in the 21st Century

Topics: Tablets, Amazon, Apple

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  • There is no chance this happens

    Amazon has done nothing to cultivate a Kindle ecosystem outside of the United States. The Fire doesn't even run anywhere else.

    Apple, on the contrary, has carefully cultivated a viable apps, movies, and music ecosystem in every major developed market there is. And Amazon seems to underestimate how much the international market is in the driver's seat, especially with the weak US economy.

    Apple has alternatives when sales slump here. Amazon has not worked as hard at developing the same scenario.
    • Apple has also been at this longer

      Amazon is moving into the UK this year and has plans to keep expanding.
      • With only the smaller tablet, and a more modest set of capabilities

        Apple treats non-US markets as first class citizens, and that does make a difference in the eyes of potential customers. Does the vendor think of you as an afterthought? People don't feel that way about Apple, and they do about Amazon.

        I know a snowbird (Canadians who winter in Florida) who has a Kindle. In their Canada months, it is a doorstop. No content gets purchased, no use of it is made. Apple does not share that problem.
        • non-USA

          So frustrating. I understand that "Canada" is one tenth the size of the United States, population-wise. However, if it is approximately the size of California, isn't that still a worthwhile market? Right now I'm sitting in Toronto watching the Yankees-Orioles baseball game while the Blue Jays-Red Sox is on a rain delay. Canadians watch American TV in real time unlike people in the UK.

          As much as I have high expectations for Amazon, recognizing its Apple-like vertical integration, the lack of Canadian access to content is disconcerting, and betrays perhaps premature hubris on Amazon's part - Canada is a part of Apple's success, and growth for Amazon should include Canada.
          Non-techie Talk
          • I think they'll eventually expand

            but they seem to be doing ok. With 20% or so U.S. market share after one year with a mediocre tablet I'd say they're doing ok. These new tablets looks like huge improvements. I hope they move to other markets quickly to help stop Apple. The iPad is an amazing product(imo) but I don't like it due to it's closed nature.

            I'm more of a techie, so personally I'm more interested in a cheap tablet that I can root and do with what I want. Let's hope these tablets can be rooted to take advantage of more than the Amazon ecostystem(which is very nice to have access too). One the other hand if amazon is able to get more developers then there will be no reason to root it and install custom roms. In the past year they have done a tremendous job at this. I hope they can continue this.
            Sam Wagner
    • Umm

      Actually they have expanded to a few more markets since the launch of the kindle.
    • Well, it sounds good on paper... they say, because the paper usually dosnt deal with a lot of realities.

      I'm not saying hes dead wrong, no not at all. Its just that what hes saying relies totally on the theory that the things that Amazon will be able to offer by way of their tablets will not just be really great services and products that the public could warm up to for good reason, but that what they will be offering in totality will be enough that they will be perceived as the best choice for a tablet. Not always of course; just more than the second best seller is seen that way.

      And remember, we keep talking about reduction in total number of devices needed. Its actually one of the most interesting ideas in consumerist computing. Until new technology advances significantly, getting rid of our larger, at home or on the job computing devices like laptops and desktops is still a fairly long way from there. Its primarily in our stationary places in life, both at home and work where we do our most “serious” computing; even where the seriousness is a simple as a high end PC game. This type of stationary computing typically really requires, or at the very least benefits greatly by a fairly large screen.

      We are not talking 4, 5 or 6 inches…we are not talking about or ten inches...we are usually thinking in terms of fifteen inches being a bad minimum. So much so that for most people who are doing some ongoing serious computing, a 15 inch screen often means “needs to be way bigger.”

      Many people work on 17 inch laptops, home monitors are often 20 inches or better. Its hardly uncommon. Its hard to reduce the total number of devices one needs by eliminating ones serious stationary computing device. At least anytime soon. It’s a size problem. At some point most people still need that larger immobile machine. Reduction in devices has by far the most potential to be reduced in mobile devices. Mobile devices are much smaller, and still not able to do everything in one device yet. And what I am saying is that they are not able to do everything a higher powered That’s clear. I don’t think Im hearing from this article in the least that the Amazon Kindle Fire is necessarily replacing anything…in fact other things that I understand can do more over all, or at least better in some way.

      Apple made millions on the iPod, then practically killed it with the iPhone. Forget about the fact they seen it coming and figured out they better invent a smartphone quick. The point is, you do not necessarily need a separate cell phone and mp3 player anymore. The nature of the two products has become such that a fully functional smartphone can perfectly handle an entire iPod’s worth of mp3 or video as well as numerous other applications. Hardware reduction.

      He who conquers “mobile hardware minimization” rules mobile hardware.

      Its where the “mobile gadget” phase of mobile hardware history ends, at least until it moves beyond what we think of as gadgets and becomes much more.

      And that’s the real question for the not too far off term; who had the mobile hardware minimization figured out? Does anyone have something on the way?
    • It would have started

      already. The first Kindle Fire had all this magic at a super great price and yet it spiked and then fizzled.

      I have Amazon Prime, have had it for a while. The "two day" shipping has gotten progressively worse.
      • JeveSobs is a Liar

        JeveSobs says "I have Amazon Prime, have had it for a while. The "two day" shipping has gotten progressively worse."

        You are a liar. Two day shipping has been and still is free. Further, the packages always arrive in two days or less. The two day shipping has not gotten progressively worse. You are engaging in hyperbole...otherwise known as lying. The two shipping has actually gotten better, because Amazon has been making a concerted effort to conquer Saturday shipping as well.
    • Thanks for the Misinformation

      I'm sure it's easier to just make things up than to actually fact check, but Amazon does just fine internationally when it comes to e-books. I actually maintain a UK Amazon account (my home address is the US embassy...24 Grosvenor Street, London or some such) for the very real reason that there are a plethora of Kindle e-books that Amazon makes available to Europeans months earlier than they make them available to Americans. I'd even say that I've bought more Kindle books over the last eight months from my UK account. This is because Amazons provides stellar and separate services for the European book publishers and consumers.
  • The Kindle screens are too small

    for graphic and layout-rich college textbooks.
    • 14" Kno tablet

      Do I have that right? I was sorry when they went down the tubes because I wanted one and I am 4 decades from when I was a student. Can you imagine Nat geographic on one of those.
    • So is the iPad

      What's your point? Until they find a commercially viable way of "folding" a screen in half, like a book can be "folded" in half when you aren't reading it, all of these tablets are "too small".

        Your apendage, your IQ, your brain, your vocabulary, your income, your studio apartment, your hard-drive, your self-esteem and finally your diminutive stature...all "too small".
        • Very Small of You Orandy

          Ad hominem at its best...
        • Everything but..

          his ability to pose a statement you have no other method to use as an argument other than slander and childish retort. Come back when you have something of value to add. Ninth grade attacks are laughable here.
        • Are you the poster boy...

          ...for that old saying about the pot calling the kettle black?

          You. have to chill at least a little.

          You make it seem like the only reason you stopped is because you ran out of ideas.

          Thats over the top.
        • Speaking of too small, orandy

          your post wasn't what I would label as 'being big of you.'
          John Zern
      • You only read one page at a time.

        But I do think books are still superior to laptops or tablets in many ways when you need to present dense information.
    • RE: The Kindle screens are too small

      No, the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD will be fine for eTextbooks and large format magazines. These were among Amazon's primary drivers for a larger tablet.

      It's 7-inch form-factor tablets that are too small for eTextbooks (e.g., all of Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets, Kindle Fire 7-inch tablets).
      Rabid Howler Monkey