Why the Kindle Fire as you know it will never come to the UK

The Kindle Fire has been a success for Amazon in the US, so why hasn't the online retailer brought the device to the UK, and will it ever?

Still waiting for the Kindle Fire to hit UK shelves? Keep waiting — the Kindle Fire as we know it is unlikely to ever wash up on these shores.

The device was launched in the US in November 2011, and saw strong sales for the first three months after it went on sale. However, more recent financial figures show cooling demand for the device. "The performance we saw in Q4 [2011] has certainly not been sustained into Q1 and Q2," Carolina Milanesi, mobile analyst at Gartner, told me on Monday.

Kindle Fire
Why won't Amazon bring the Kindle Fire to the UK? Image credit: Amazon

Last month saw the debut of the Nexus 7 — and it's the launch of Google's tablet, combined with the lack of accompanying ecosystem for the Fire in the UK, that will mean British users are unlikely to ever get their hands on the Amazon device.

While Amazon in the US has a full entertainment service to go with the Fire — offering video, music downloads, books and apps — its reach does not generally extend beyond the US, making the Kindle Fire a much harder sell in other territories, especially given the Fire runs a modified version of Android that doesn't provide access to the full gamut of Android apps.

A similar situation has already played out in the market, in the battle between the iPad and the first wave of Android tablets.

Then, hardware manufacturers sought to compete with Apple's tablet and ecosystem by delivering better specced devices for around the same price as the iPad. It's not a strategy that has delivered success to date, and Apple continues to massively outsell other tablet vendors.

Essentially, the same problem now faces Amazon in the battle between the Fire and the Nexus 7. Without that crucial content ecosystem to go with it in the UK, the Fire would be left trying to compete with the Nexus 7 on hardware specs and price alone — and it can't win that battle either.

"With the arrival of the Nexus 7 and other 7-inch tablets Amazon will be pushed to deliver a Fire that has no hardware compromises," Milanesi said.

The Fire's hardware does not measure up to that of the Nexus 7 in terms of processor, camera, display resolution and specific OS features like near-field communication (NFC); in addition, Amazon's difficulties are compounded by the lack of ecosystem. "So for Amazon moving into a market like Europe, where content offerings would be weaker than in the US, it would make it much harder to compete," Milanesi added.

Should Amazon ever want to bring a Kindle Fire successor to markets outside of the US (at least ones where the Nexus 7 is available) it will not only need to revamp its hardware first, but also make sure it has the right content licensing agreements in place, if it is to have any hope of making an impact.

After all, if I went out to buy a Nexus 7 right now in the UK, I'd be able to take it home, hop onto the Google Play store and download a film or TV show to watch.

I simply couldn't do that with a Fire, and with a negligible difference in the price tag, I'm struggling to work out why I would want to.


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