By: Spencer Burke
Industry analysts are now saying that Amazon has sold more than 3 million Kindles and ships more than a million a week. While this is only a fraction of Apple’s total iPad sales its an impressive sales figure considering it only came out 5 weeks ago.
The $199 price tag makes Amazon’s device appealing to the budget conscious and its integration with Amazon content targets Amazon’s millions of users. The Fire capitalizes on Amazon’s success with the e-book focused Kindle to start delivering other digital content like music and movies.
The Fire isn’t the first tablet on the market to price itself significantly below the iPad 2. It’s also not the first tablet that we’ve seen generate hype because of its price. HP had problems selling its WebOS device the TouchPad, then decided to stop making them and slap a $99 price tag on it. All of a sudden, TouchPads were selling out everywhere. Even recently, HP sold the tablet on EBay for the deeply discounted price. Clearly, there’s a demand for minimalist hardware at an insane price in the tablet market.
This leaves us with two groups: those willing to pay $500 or more for the market-leading iPad 2 and the skeptics who won’t fork out more than $200. Tablets that fall somewhere in the middle haven’t been as successful. I think the Galaxy Tab is a beautiful tablet, but let’s be honest it just hasn’t seen the same level of success (I’m sure Apple’s global lawsuits play some role in this). Besides the price point, why the demand for a tablet with an unsupported OS (WebOS) and an Android tablet with Amazon branding?
Since the Kindle Fire has been unleashed on the world, developers have been trying to undo the Amazon-labelled Android experience. Developers have already rooted the device, giving them access to the system files and recovery to flash new versions of Android. If you thought you’d have to buy a Galaxy Nexus to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich, you’re wrong.
Since Google released the source code, it’s been popping up on many Android devices, even the Kindle Fire. The functionality remains limited, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can download Google Apps to the Fire, overclock the processor, or install Cyanogen Mod (one of the most popular Android modifications). A similar set of events happened with the TouchPad, a donation driven bounty even showed up on the developer community XDA.
So why bother trying to undo what Amazon worked so hard to setup? Well, I’m sure Apple fans (and some Kindle Fire owners) would say a sub-par user experience. Amazon has already acknowledged that there’s an update in the works to add some polish to the Fire. I don’t think that’s the real answer though.
If you think about the typical Android user two defining features come to mind:
1) They’re cheap (sorry to say it, but Android offers cheaper apps and often free phones)
2) They like to customize and tinker with the UI.
Considering this, it’s no surprise that affordable devices, even ones customized by Amazon become popular in the development community. Android users who frequent these sites also want to have the latest Android experience. No one likes to read about the latest features of their OS, only to be locked down 2 or more releases ago. How would you feel if you were still running Windows ME or anything less than OS X Lion and your computer manufacturer said you couldn’t upgrade?
One challenge for Amazon is to sell a tablet that has access to some Android features, but remains more Amazon than Android. A device with these restrictions, begs to be broken into. Currently, mobile device makers and carriers tend to lock down devices, but there might be an opportunity here to make devices more accessible to this audience.
Of course, as an OS that already has concerns about security, this seems unlikely to become widespread. Would you like to see more open devices or will you jailbreak/root your phone anyway?