At US$199, the price of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet is a tempting purchase for some iPad owners, who are wondering whether the tablets will coexist or compete.
Amazon on Wednesday introduced its first tablet, the Kindle Fire, which is now available for order on Amazon's retail site. The tablet has a 7-inch multitouch LCD display and Google's Android OS, and provides easy access to Amazon's application store and music, video and cloud services.
Kindle Fire joins a tablet market dominated by Apple's iPad, which is projected to have a 73.4 percent market share by year end, according to research firm Gartner. While some analysts have argued that Kindle Fire could pose a competitive threat to the iPad, others have argued that Amazon's tablet is more of a threat to other Android tablets, which cannot compete with Amazon on services, entertainment and cloud offerings.
The iPad has an established following that's hard to shake, said David Daoud, research director at IDC. But at $199, the Kindle Fire is $300 cheaper than the entry-level iPad 2, and could be an attractive companion device.
Beyond the price, some potential buyers cited Kindle Fire's browser, called Silk, which uses a cloud service to pre-process Web pages to make browsing faster.
Dave Winer, one of the pioneers of RSS and podcasting, and now a visiting scholar at New York University, has already ordered the Kindle Fire. He is appreciative of Amazon's investment in making the Web better and creating a new browser.
"They've really worked well to make the Web work on this device," Winer said.
Winer noted that Apple's lack of Flash support doesn't help browsing on the iPad, which he uses for Web activity and email, among other tasks.
Winer found Kindle Fire's price economical, but he already owns an iPad and is not really sure how the two tablets would compete head-to-head. The Kindle Fire has yet to be tested, so it's hard to set expectations for the device, but he is an active customer of Amazon and also a member of Amazon Prime, which offers unlimited instant movie and TV show streaming as one of the benefits.
"They are offering competition for Apple, and that's good. Maybe users will come out ahead," Winer said.
Combining Silk with Kindle Fire will speed up browsing, said Michael Vorel, CEO of Vastplanet. Vorel already owns an iPad and wants to buy the Kindle Fire tablet.
"I never enjoyed reading on the iPad; I think [Kindle Fire] would fill in as a way to read books, but, number two, I really like the cloud integration," Vorel said. With the iPad, Vorel felt trapped with content on one tablet and having to use iTunes to sync. Amazon has said it will offer free cloud storage for Amazon content, and Vorel said he likes the idea of having content available anytime through the cloud.
But Vorel believes the two tablets can coexist. The iPad is "hands down" great for entertainment, Vorel said, and he would like his daughter to have the iPad on a trip. At the same time, Amazon's Kindle Fire will provide access to Amazon's cloud and video services, which is valuable, Vorel said.
Rick Mathieson, a noted writer and creative strategist, said at $199, the Kindle Fire might be a good purchase as a media consumption device for his family.
But as cool as the Kindle Fire might sound, he loves the iPad, and is keeping that for himself.
"I own an iPad 2 and nothing's going to replace that," Mathieson said.
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