Last night Asia/Pacific time, Amazon released their much anticipated Kindle Fire tablet. Allow me to pontificate!
Looking at the machine, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the price. The iPad took what was essentially a dead market segment thanks to Microsoft's Windows Tablet PC initiative and reduced the price significantly, so much so that Android tablet makers have found it hard to compete on this metric at all. Amazon has reduced the price with the same order of magnitude.
One expects Amazon to be selling these as a loss leader in the hopes people will buy enough content from them to make up the difference. With the exception of Nintendo of late, most console manufacturers have been doing this for years, with mixed results.
If anything this serves to highlight the difference between the three companies. Google gives Android away to sell you to advertisers. Apple provides a media store to sell you hardware. Amazon provides the hardware to sell you media. Three entirely different business models, the latter of which I have to say excites me the most to be honest ^_^.
The Kindle Fire is based on Android, but with a completely different UI. While other OEMs have installed their own interfaces on Android to address some of the platform's usability issues and to differentiate their products from the hurd (sorry, bad joke even by my standards), Amazon have taken it one step further and created their own system with Android as a buried base, rather than a front-row-centre feature.
This means no Google Marketplace, their own browser and an entirely different interface written for content consumption. While I'm sure Google is pleased insofar that their software is being used on such a potentially lucrative device, you've got to think they're a little wary not getting a cut of any of the sales of media on the device, and no advertising revenue. To Google, this might be just as bad as companies taking Android and replacing all the Google branded products with Chanandler Bing.
Still, I suppose we can assume Amazon is one of the companies that's given access to the closed Android source thesedays, now that the platform doesn't even conform to Google's own definition of open. That's okay though, because they're not Apple.
Rather than taking on the Swiss Army Knife iPad which no manufacturer has been able to do without misrepresenting their sales numbers and "brazenly copying" the interface, Amazon has once again made a product that fits a specific niche. The Kindle did this with books; while the iPad can be used in this capacity the Kindle's eInk display arguably provided enough of a superior experience that they were able to sell well even when the iPad was introduced.
The question becomes whether their colour tablet will also fill enough of a perceived niche to compete with the iPad. The price already makes it far more attractive than the iPad if the device does all you need it to, and if Amazon can use some of their secret sauce to make it an ultimate media consumption device, potentially this could also be a hit.
That is, of course, if the creaky old publishing business doesn't get in the way, and they expand outside their core markets. There's no point selling a loss leading device in markets where they can't buy your content!
As for me, I'm more interested in getting one of their new non-touch eInk Kindles when they reach us here in Australia. As much as I've tried reading the epic Peter Hamilton and Michael McCollum on my iTelephone in bed, I just can't!