Kindle Fire: Amazon Learns From Netflix And Apple

September 28, 2011

Amazon just announced the Kindle Fire: a color tablet device that plays video and music along with reading books. I’ll go on record right now saying it’ll be a hit.

First, bargain-bin pricing: The Kindle Fire is $199, the Kindle Touch at an impulse-buy $99, and the original recipe Kindle for $79. Amazon’s close to giving these things away. Because, of course, Amazon makes their money from the content.

And in the big picture, this is where Amazon could be compared to Netflix. Amazon’s primary business is books, but they also sell CDs, DVDs, electronics, groceries, etc. – physical goods. But the future indicates anything that can be digitized stands a good chance of being distributed over the Internet as opposed to traditional snail mail. And with eBooks, music, video, and cloud services, Amazon has been preparing for the adjustment to their business for quite some time. The last piece to tie all this stuff together is the Kindle Fire, a hardware device in the customer’s hands that in a sense, replaces that shipping warehouse.

Amazon also follows Netflix’s strategy of deploying on as many hardware devices as possible, yet keeping the user experience the same. So you aren’t limited to reading eBooks on a Kindle – you can use your iPhone, iPad, and even computers. And like Netflix’s streaming service, the place you’re at is remembered across devices.

(As a result, I’ve purchased more Kindle eBooks than Apple’s own iBooks, since you can’t read iBooks on a computer – plus Kindle books are cheaper on average, probably due to Amazon’s pre-existing publisher relationships.)

Amazon has also taken some cues from Apple. First, the Kindle concept is dead simple – really important for selling technology to mainstream consumers. I’d describe the Kindle as an “iPod for books.” So its purpose is clear: You want to read. The Kindle has books in electronic form. That’s it. And from that, everything else falls into place. The limited monochrome eInk display becomes a selling point because most books are in black and white. The Kindle Fire has no camera, but I doubt anyone will care, since that has little purpose in regard to reading. That it runs Android  and contains a web browser is almost irrelevant.

Sure, this is all marketing, but that’s one place where other Apple competitors have stumbled, and Amazon is doing well. The Kindle commercials strike me as similar to Apple’s Mac vs. PC theme – a conversation between two people against a white background, but instead of a nerdy John Hodgman we have an eBook skeptic, won over by a smug not-that-nerdy guy with his futuristic eBook device.

So: the Kindle Fire looks hot. And yeah, I want one – even though I already have and love my iPad.

Maybe I’ll stick some Apple stickers on the thing and pretend it’s an iPad Nano.

Additional Reading: BusinessWeek – The Omnivore