As Apple prepares to unveil its latest slate of iPad tablets next week, online retail giant Amazon is already shipping its newest flagship device, the Kindle Fire HDX. The launch follows Amazon's pattern of trying to steal the hardware giant's thunder.
Pouring on Mojito
On Oct. 22 Apple is expected to unveil an iPad mini with an improved retina display and a next-generation full size iPad that is lighter and thiner.
The 7” Kindle Fire HDX uses a brand-new operating system, Mojito, and packs X-Ray for Music, Prime Instant Video downloads, and the Mayday button for live tech support.
“With a beautiful 323 ppi perfect-color HDX display, three times the processing power, twice the memory, four times the graphics performance, and Fire OS 3.0, we think customers are going to love the new Kindle Fire HDX,” said Peter Larsen, Vice President, Amazon Kindle in a statement.
ABI Research tablet expert Jeff Orr told us the "HDX is similar to other contemporary tablets from Amazon and brings them up in par with other seven-inch tablets released so far, such as Google's Nexus.
"The comparison to Apple will be very much around Apple's similar-sized product, the iPad mini," he said.
New tablet releases inevitably lead to discussion about whether Apple can hold onto its lead in the global tablet market. Second-quarter numbers from IDC showed that Apple's share dramatically dropped from 60.3 percent during the same quarter last year to 32.4 percent while all top competitors gained ground. But it's tough to tell how Amazon is stacking up.
"Amazon does not release figures, so it is impossible to know how big an impact they are having on the market," Avi Greengart, consumer devices expert for Current Analysis, told us. "However, Amazon’s business model of selling hardware at cost as a way to help monetize content is certainly threatening to vendors like Apple who monetize their hardware."
Orr said it was unusual that Amazon did not hold a launch event this time to showcase the Fire HDX as it has with previous products. Apple has set the standard for such high-publicity events.
"That had me wondering what the company's strategy is," Orr added. "Perhaps they have spent too much money on the event portions of the launch and want to spend more on operations-related expenses instead."
Orr noted that Amazon has a disadvantage in selling its devices primarily online since consumers prefer hands-on demonstrations before making their selections.
"For tablets to be successful there has to be a personal assessment of value, to create that personal connection," he said, noting that consumers who have responded to surveys indicate that they are increasingly including tablets among devices they won't leave home without, which previously included only smartphones.
Physical and Virtual Goods
Another advantage for Amazon is that its devices are not just readers, viewers and web browsers but portals into the world of Amazon merchandise.
"Both [companies] have a similar audience both heavily focused on consumers [rather than businesses]," Orr said. "What attracts people to Kindle versus the iOS products is the affinity the has with the greater brand, the physical as well as virtual products."