Early reviews are in. And they are a bit mixed. But most, including me, do not think the Kindle Fire from Amazon looks like it will be the iPad killer. This is doubly the case for the business world.
Kindle Fire – The Good
- Price – The best place to start is with price. At least this is what everyone who talks about why Kindle Fire has legs is really touting. The price, starting at $199 US, is significantly less than the iPad. Jameson Berkow from the Financial Post in an article yesterday warns Apple to watch out: “Amazon.com could soon usurp your throne as global tablet market monarch”. Agustino Fontevecchia from Forbes writes that the Kindle Fire from Amazon will be the first real iPad contender in the tablet market. His basis for this claim is that the pre-launch demand for the Kindle Fire has exceeded that of the iPad when it was first released. To me, this point seems dubious. When the iPad was launched, it was unclear as to whether the tablet concept would be a winner. Tablets had been tried in the past and had failed miserably. The tablet “craze” had yet to begin. The iPad has certainly set the stage for the entry of the Kindle Fire. The comparison of this pre-launch to the iPad pre-launch doesn’t feel right.
That said, in today’s economy, especially in the consumer world, price is a huge driver. A tablet that is half decent and half the price of the iPad will certainly be compelling. My feeling though, based on my years in selling technology products and services, is that when your #1 best feature is price, you are in trouble.
- Integration – The most compelling feature of the Kindle Fire is the integrated shopping experience with Amazon Prime. And more importantly, the way the Fire serves content. Sam Bittle from Gizmodo sums it up well in his article here: “Reading, watching, browsing, and listening on the Fire are all tremendous, easy fun. Books, even very long ones, spring open quickly; page turning is, most of the time, very responsive. Typeface settings allow a variety of visual tweaks to set each page the way you like it, and whether in landscape or portrait mode, books look great on the dense, 1024×600 screen.” Since Amazon is in the media business, it makes sense that this is the best feature. This is especially true if you are already an Amazon user. In one of the more positive Kindle Fire reviews, Biddle continues that “It sounds horribly corny, but you’ll feel a little powerful using the Fire, in a consumer couch potato kind of way. The volume of stuff that’s available for your brain to munch on is so immense and easy to grab that the Fire feels massive beyond its small-ish frame–which, by the way, is sturdy and satisfying to hold, like a good paperback.” From a consumer perspective, if content is your thing (which of course for may it certainly is) then the Fire could be the way to go. Or something to try. But not so much in the Business world. And here’s why.
Why the Kindle Fire is Not a Threat to the iPad in the Enterprise
- Performance – One of the great features of the iPad is how unbelievable the experience is for the end user. Performance plays a very significant role in make the experience so great. And, as use cases emerge for the iPad in the way that we at Propelics think they will, performance will become even more important. Here’s the point, if you are using a tablet for reading a book or magazine and the performance is a little slow, it’s no big deal. But, if you using the tablet in front of a customer to explain your product, to book an appointment or to close a deal, performance is crucial. If performance gets in the way of the customer experience, you risk angering the customer. Never a good thing. In Melissa Penerson’s review today in PC World magazine, she states that “Amazon uses a Texas Instruments OMAP 4 dual-core processor; but in use, the Fire didn’t feel like it was a dual-core tablet. It lagged on transitions, even simple ones like turning pages in books or rotating orientation; it produced jerky animations; and video playback was repeatedly pixillated… Software optimization could also be part of the issue here; after all, Amazon’s custom build of the Android 2.3 operating system could have some kinks, too. But in use, I became all too familiar with the spinning ball wait indicator as something loaded, and I felt as if I paid with my time what I saved in money on the Fire’s modest price.”
- Screen Size – The size of the iPad screen is 10 inches. The Kindle Fire – 7 inches. This is only a 3 inch difference of course, but it is extremely significant. It might make Amazon’s product easier to carry around, but from a business perspective, compared to the iPad, it takes away from the user experience. Jon Phillips from Wired writes in his review that “The Fire’s 7-inch, 1024×600 screen is too small for many key tablet activities.” And, in his consumer focused comment, “It all sounds good in theory, but the Kindle’s 7-inch screen is still too small for any semblance of an immersive reading experience — even if that reading experience mostly involves looking at pictures”. Now translate this to the business world. When you walk into a car dealership and the sales person is armed with a tablet to explain to you the features of the new cars, to immerse you in the experience of the car, would a 7 inch screen suffice? It might be ok, but the 10 inch experience provides a better forum for interactivity.
- Missing Features, Limited Storage, and Low Battery Life – I’m clumping together a few points in this bullet. The Kindle Fire simply isn’t business ready. The Fire has no Camera, no microphone, no 3G – meaning no connectivity through mobile carriers, a maximum storage capacity of 8 GB (compared to a 64 GB max on the iPad), a a battery life that is significantly worse than the iPad. Wison Rothman from MSNBC sums up this point (in a very positive review for the Kindle fire) by saying that: “the Kindle Fire is not anywhere close to being the precision machine that the iPad 2 is. There are no cameras and no microphone. The Fire’s screen is half the size of the iPad’s, and the Fire’s battery life isn’t as good, yet the Fire is still a hair thicker. The Fire interface, while seductively simple, lacks the nuances — the futuristic animations and fades — that keep Apple on top”. This is clearly not the device that will make an impact in the business world. Because of this, the Kindle Fire will be unable to satisfy key business use cases, thus making it a sure loser in any tablet bake-off.
- Enterprise Focus – There are folks out there (rightly so) criticizing Apple’s lack of Enterprise Focus. One of the biggest knocks on the iPad, and one of the reasons many are still weary of adopting the iPad in the Enterprise is the traditional lack of an Apple legacy in the business world. Apple is no Microsoft. No IBM. Apple lacks a real enterprise sales force. Many criticize Apple’s approach to security and worry about data encryption. Flexibility of the iPad to connect to major Enterprise systems has been a major concern. The dissenters are still out there in force. But Apple does have inroads into the Enterprise, mostly thanks the iPhone and huge BYOD craze / uprising for Enterprises to support Apple products. Anyone who criticizes Apple for lacking the Enterprise zeal will have a field day with Amazon. Amazon is just not ready to play in the Enterprise. One day they could emerge, but not anytime soon.
To be fair, most of the talk about the Fire has been focused on consumer adoption. Amazon isn’t making a hard push for Enterprise business. But with the Consumerization of IT, we all know that if the Kindle Fire takes off, talks of it entering the Enterprise will not be far off. The points mentioned above should, at least for now, kill these talks. The Kindle Fire is nowhere near a threat to the iPad in the Enterprise. Yet.