Microsoft is serious about making a go with its Surface tablet line. The second generation models look good and the firm in Redmond is already pushing them hard. There is a smaller, probably 8-inch, Surface tablet expected to appear soon, and that would likely be aimed at the consumer market that is currently buying the iPad mini.
Amazon just unveiled its latest Kindle Fire HDX tablet line along with its newest OS. ZDNet's Rachel King has all of the details of the new tablets and they look to continue Amazon's domination of the US Android tablet market. Figures from earlier this year show that fully a third of Android tablets in the US were Kindle Fires, far more than any other vendor's.
The new line of Kindle Fires should continue this dominance in the US as they are capable and competitively priced. That will likely keep the Kindle Fire the top tablet in the US behind the iPads for some time.
Microsoft shouldn't get fixated on just the iPad as the Kindle Fire HDX is a significant competitor in the US. Even though the Kindle Fire has a reputation as an entertainment tablet, and the Surface tablets are being pushed as work tablets with entertainment benefits, that may change.
Firstly, the small Surface tablet that Microsoft is expected to release soon will surely be touted as entertainment first and work second. The 8-inch (or thereabouts) display is not really suited for a full-time work system. It won't be suitable for a keyboard cover like its larger siblings so it's better marketed as a play tablet that can be used for simple work tasks, either.
Secondly, Amazon has updated its latest OS version, aka Mojito, to include a number of features that make the Kindle Fire better suited for the cubicle. Those updates include 70 controls for IT managers to administer the Kindle Fire in the workplace along with better Exchange support, among others. As Rachel King reports, Amazon has the enterprise and BYOD firmly in its sights.
That new focus pits the Kindle Fire directly against the Microsoft Surface tablets, especially the "Surface mini". Amazon sees Kindle Fire owners bringing their entertainment tablet into the workplace in typical BYOD fashion. The new IT admin features have been implemented to get the corporate world to allow this to happen.
Microsoft needs to keep its eye on the Fire for this reason. Once Kindle Fires start slipping into the cubicle and owners start using them for work tasks they will compete directly with the Surface tablets from Microsoft. The folks in Redmond may find Amazon and the Kindle Fire to be a more formidable opponent than Apple's iPad.