Go to Amazon.com to buy a Kindle Fire, and you'll be directed to merchants selling used versions of the e-reader/tablet . But you can't get a new one. At least not yet.
A week before the expected launch of its successor, the world's leading online retailer announced that the $199 Kindle Fire, powered by a specialized version of Google's Android and made by Quanta Computer in Taiwan, is sold out, just nine months after its launch. Earlier in the week the company announced that the Kindle Touch e-reader was no longer available.
"This has been a big year for digital products on Amazon – all of the top 10 sellers on Amazon.com since Kindle Fire launched just less than a year ago are digital products," said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, in a statement. "Kindle Fire is sold out, but we have an exciting roadmap ahead."
The company did not disclose the number of units sold, nor did it cite a source for its claim that the device has snagged a 22 percent share of the U.S. tablet market.
According to IDC Research, the Fire was estimated at 5 percent of the U.S. market in the second-quarter sales.
The announcement fuels speculation that a new Fire, or more than one version, will be unveiled at a Sept. 6 launch event in California, adding to a busy few weeks that will likely see new products from Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Apple.
The depletion of Kindle Fire stock ahead of the successor launch is likely a case of "planned obsolescence," said Jeff Orr of ABI Research.
"Who knows if Amazon really ran out of its top two selling digital devices the week before announcing new ones?" Orr asked. "One must assume that some amount of inventory is on-hand for its retail channel partners as well as repair/replace supply for warranty. Hopefully, no warehouses stocked full of these devices will emerge in the coming months or significant write-downs need to be taken during the current fiscal quarter."
Orr said the Kindle Fire owed its success to "pent-up demand for a Wi-Fi -enabled handheld capable of audio and video playback, though it lacked any cameras, offered no mobile broadband options, and was generally not available outside the U.S. market."
But its innovation lay in the cloud -based browser enabling fast and easy content delivery, rather than in the hardware design.
With new tablets headed to market powered by Microsoft 's Windows 8, Android and Apple's iOS as the holiday season nears, the Kindle Fire is losing key advantages of timing and price.
"This suggests the company needs to assemble content partnerships that will be difficult for other vendors to match," Orr told us. "The success of Kindle Fire and Amazon's future in the tablet market entirely depends on attracting an audience that does something different or better than the competition, and Amazon's strengths lie in content relationships and cloud services."