How will the Kindle Fire affect the tablet market?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: September 30, 2011

I will be the first to admit that during Amazon's press event on Wednesday, I really didn't find myself too interested in what Amazon had to say. Another tablet? Okay, great. Only $199? Cool. Next. It just didn't move me like it did everyone else. Colleagues were freaking out, and some still are, saying Amazon is the only tablet that can compete with the iPad. That the Kindle Fire will reshape the tablet market. This is what a tablet should be. It's all about consumption and content.

I think it's great that Amazon has decided to take a different route than the current crop of tablet manufacturers. I really do. But I don't believe its success will be quite so easy. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about sales. The price is right and these things will literally fly off (virtual) shelves, if they can even make it to them before getting snatched up. Instead, I'm talking about Amazon's content push as a whole, which is Amazon's entire purpose behind the Fire. It's not about the tablet.

Unlike many who praised Amazon for fitting their tablet with Android 2.3 (instead of the tablet-ready Honeycomb), and likely skipping out on Ice Cream Sandwich (for now, at least), I see this as a problem. Running Android 2.3, the Fire will not show a tablet-optimized interface in applications. Instead, it will show the same interface that you see on your phone, yielding a lot of wasted space and a aesthetically unpleasing UI. Currently, the only way around this is for developers to create Fire-specific applications.

The development support behind this initiative, however, not only relies on the acceptance of the Fire, but the mass adoption of the Amazon Appstore. Christina Warren of Mashable wrote, "the Amazon Appstore is a fundamental part of the operating system." That's the problem; if the Appstore doesn't gain any more traction as a viable application store instead of "the place to get your free apps," the Fire will face a major hurdle from the get go.

That said, the Kindle Fire brings more to the table than an easy way to tap in to Amazon's services. It brings are seriously competitive price point – one that's finally hard to argue with. Since the kick-start of the tablet market last year with the iPad, people have relentlessly complained about the price of tablets. $400 and up for a so-called novelty item is a bit outrageous. But ever since the TouchPad fire sale, things have changed. RIM has started discounting their PlayBook and prices have started slowly creeping down across the board. Promptly following the Kindle Fire announcement, other tablet manufacturers have begun to reevaluate their pricing structure. The HTC Flyer, currently priced at $499.99 will drop to $299.99 this Saturday at Best Buy.

In this respect, we all hope the Kindle Fire succeeds. Not only will it bring more true competition to the tablet market, it could bring down the average price as a result.

Apart from price, a major caveat of Android tablets has been a lack of premium content. Even though Amazon wants to distance themselves from the rest of the current crop of tablets, it's still an Android tablet at the core. With an Android-powered tablet finally in the limelight (for something other than a patent infringement), premium content like Hulu and other subscription services may finally make their way to Android. (I cannot express to you how bad I want NHL Gamecenter support on my Galaxy Tab.) It's a long shot ... but not worth discounting just yet.

The last and potentially the most important thing worth noting about the Kindle Fire is that it is an Amazon tablet. Though powered by Android, it caters to Amazon's every service and leaves virtually no remnants of Android in the interface. Users who buy the tablet with hopes of Android Market support will be disappointed to find that there is no Android Market, no Google apps; it's a walled garden. Amazon has said that they will not stop users from rooting their tablet, but if they do, their Amazon services will not work. Sorry folks, no best of both worlds. You choose either Google or Amazon. That said, there is a choice and this is certainly a way for a lot of consumers to get their hands on a cheap Android tablet.

What say you, ladies and gents? Can the Kindle Fire bring down tablet prices single-handed? Will it finally bring some viability to Amazon's Appstore? Or will people solely buy the Fire for a cheap Android tablet option (post root)? I pre-ordered mine and am ready to check it out. But I'm still not quite sure about Amazon's content.

Image via Mashable

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