Amazon's Kindle Fire doesn't hold a candle to the iPad

The blogosphere is abuzz about the impending 'iPad-killer,' missing the real point of Amazon.com's new tablet

Today, Amazon.com unveiled its Android-derived Kindle Fire tablet. For days now, silly bloggers have been suggesting this could be the iPad-killer. You remember the iPad-killer, right? First it was the Dell Streak, then the HP Slate 500, then the LG Optimus, then the JooJoo (aka "CrunchPad"), then the Motorola Mobility Xoom, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (admittedly the first to register with the market in terms of sales to customers and get good reviews), then the Acer Iconia, then the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, and most recently the HP TouchPad. I'm sure I missed a few!

So when you see anyone claim "iPad-killer," move on. Certainly, at some point Android tablets will become competitive to the iPad, but even when they do the Amazon Kindle tablet won't be part of the iPad's competitive landscape.

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Based on the first look of a Kindle tablet prototype done by TechCrunch's MG Siegler (one of the few writers at that site who hasn't self-immolated with tragicomic antics and whose claims on the Kindle tablet I believe), it already was clear that the 7-inch Amazon.com tablet is a media tablet through and through. Now we know for sure, as Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos took the wraps off today.

The $200 color Kindle Fire is designed for reading books and magazines, playing videos and games, listening to music and audiobooks, and surfing the Web (Amazon's EC2 cloud storage service essentially pre-renders the Web pages offline, then delivers them to the Kindle Fire, so the Fire doesn't have to do all the HTML processing) using an iPad-like touch interface. It also has an email client, which you can use to bring in non-Amazon content such as PDF and Word files into the Kindle Fire -- but not PowerPoints or Excel spreadsheets. It won't have significant storage or 3G communications when it ships in November, and it won't have the internal sensors or connectivity capabilities the iPad has brought to the market that lets it expand into a computing and creation device.

In other words, it's a competitor to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reading tablet, not the iPad. (In the context of Apple's product line, Gartner's Michael Gartenberg rightfully describes it as more of an iPod Touch competitor, though the iPod Touch supports the same apps and non-Apple content as an iPhone.)

And that's a good thing. There's a real place for such media tablets, and I fully expect the Kindle Fire media tablet to follow in the footsteps of the original Kindle as a popular mobile media device. The Nook Color showed there was demand for more than a book-only reader such as the original Kindle, and of course Amazon.com wants to satisfy that demand. It fits squarely in Amazon.com's digital media strategy, with Kindle books, video downloads, and its tentative forays into Android apps and games. In fact, it gives users a platform well suited for such media.

Yes, the iPad stands as a compelling media tablet. Its Video app and the iTunes Store make it easy to watch movies and TV shows when you're on the road or want to watch a different show than what the rest of the family has on the living room TV. It's also great for college students in dorms due to its private viewing capabilities. And I believe its 10-inch screen is better suited for viewing shows than the Kindle tablet's 7-inch display.

Apple's iBooks app is a really good ePub reader -- better, I believe, than the Kindle and Nook apps on the iPad. Though it appears that iBooks has captured the ePub market, the simpler Kindle holds the vast majority of the e-book market (using the proprietary Mobi format, not ePub). The track record on digital magazines on the iPad is also very mixed, and it's unclear if iOS 5's Newsstand app and the subscriptions it presents will get publishers past the unsatisying glorified PDFs that unfortunately dominate on the iPad today, perpetuated by services such as Zinio and publishing tools such as QuarkXPress.

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