Sep 302011

Nor can the iPad kill the Kindle Fire. Saying one will kill another is just like saying that Pacquiao can beat Klitschko. They can’t compete with each other because of the category mismatch. (In response to yesterday’s post at CNET by Molly Wood, one of my favorite video tech show hosts.)

Kindle Fire is the ordinary man’s iPad, a compromise tablet. Many consumers who didn’t want to waste over half a grand on a tablet that is mostly a high tech toy (although a very nice one), will now consider it again. For $550-$1,000 which is what people pay for the iPad with a few accessories, you can buy an excellent laptop or a big screen HDTV. $200 sounds about right and hopefully it will be selling for less during the holiday season. It would be fair and I’ll show you why in the further text.

Dethrone Apple in Their Own Game? I Don’t Think So

I’m so far from being an Apple fanboy that I actually refuse to buy their products (here’s a good article explaining why). However, I keep repeating that Apple has always been a visionary trend-setter and a niche player. They start a product, then keep the best and most profitable customers, ditching others in the process. This pattern has been repeating itself for many years. Heck, I’ve just realized they’ve been “genetically engineering” and conditioning Apple fanboys for decades.

Joking aside, Apple computers are not in majority. Most laptops and desktops, at least 90% of them, (last time I checked it was about 95%) are still PCs. Apple doesn’t dare nor does it care to fight in the bloody rings of many similarly priced, sized and configured opponents. They wisely choose their category, stick to it and rule it.

Although the iPhone is still very popular, the Android phones are taking over the market and that trend will continue unless Apple and Microsoft succeed in their maneuvers to choke the competition by squeezing the legal life out of it instead of doing it with better products. Still, Apple will retain most of their loyal customers.

Similarly, although Apple has been luckily and indisputably leading on the tablet market for all this time, their targeted consumer base is slowly reaching saturation and the end of expansion. So now some will attribute the slowdown to the appearance of the Kindle Fire just because these events are about to coincide.

However, this does bring tablet into the mainstream market, and Amazon is doing it the right way. Among other things, it seems they won’t be a “jailbreak Nazi” like Apple. They know people like us will unlock the Fire and load stock Android on it in any case, so they don’t want to waste their resources on preventing it. I believe Amazon is aiming for the best of both worlds, a controlled environment taking advantage of their cloud for average users, while getting technical enthusiasts excited to mess and alter the device’s firmware and the OS flavor. HP did this very well with webOS community and they gained a lot of free support and good publicity (too bad Touchpad wasn’t good enough). That’s a smart way to get popular.

I also have to admit that Apple leaders do their research well and make wise decisions – 4:3 screen aspect ratio makes the screen more usable for reading articles in portrait view. A tablet with 16:9 ratio would be quite narrow in portrait mode at 9.7 inches, but at 7 inches it must be close to unusable. I also agree very much with Apple’s decision to chose the 9.7 instead of 7 inch screen size and here’s why:

Screen Area Rant

Fellow engineering major editors: nobody does the math! Strange, I searched for at least half an hour and couldn’t find the actual screen size on both the iPad and the Kindle Fire, so I had to use some trigonometry to calculate it myself.

The iPad with 9.7 inch at 4:3 aspect ratio has approximately 45 square inch or 291 cm² of screen area.

Amazon Kindle Fire with 7 inch screen size and 16:9 aspect ratio turns to have about 21 square inch or 135 cm² (or 22 square inch or 142 cm² if its aspect ratio is 16:10)

Clearly, the Kindle Fire’s screen has less than half of the display real estate of the iPad (21-22 vs. 45 square inches or 135 vs. 291 cm²). It should be less than half price. Considering that it lacks other goodies the iPad has, perhaps it should be even cheaper than $200, but that’s a simplistic view.

Movie Watching Rant

Why on Earth would you want to watch a movie on a 7 inch screen?! Even a 10 inch screen is way too small. All the great late movie directors must be turning in their graves nowadays. To fully undergo a movie experience you need a big screen. Until they come up with glasses that have a full resolution (and virtual distance) of the movie screen, I’ll rather watch movies in the theater or on a a Blu-ray with a big screen HDTV and a good surround sound system. Everything else is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Music Is Amazon’s Strength

Unlike the iPad which heavily depends on connection to a computer and iTunes, the Kindle Fire doesn’t need all that. It needs a WiFi internet connection, though. Apple’s iTunes are totally closed while the Amazon Cloud Player is open for uploading and downloading songs back and forth, both to the device and the internet, as well as buying from Amazon and either keeping it in the cloud or downloading whenever you want. Instead of counting on people viewing movies on this little screen, they need to market their flexible music player far more.

The Kindle Fire And The iPad Aren’t Competitors

Just like Bentley and Mercedes don’t compete with Hyundai or Toyota, these two devices can and will coexist. In better times our home would be equipped with both the iPad and Kindle Fire, but nowadays we have to stick to our $100 HP Touchpad (which will be eons ahead of the Kindle Fire if Android gets ported to it).

I disagree with most sensationalist titles that we have a new iPad-killer. The upcoming Kindle Fire won’t make people throw away their iPads. No way Jose, not before there’s a super fast and feature-richer 10 inch color e-ink touch-screen Kindle Ice (I just coined the name) with all the bells and whistles of the iPad, and then some more. Amazon is for now wisely targeting a market where they don’t have to beat the iPad, while they can slowly build a consumer base and an app store infrastructure similar to what Apple had thanks to iPhone before releasing the iPad. Just like Apple, Amazon has selected their own niche to rule. The ultimate fight of the tablet titans will have to wait until they start targeting the same consumer base, which will happen when either one device loses or the other gains in price and size. I can’t wait to see that. Until then, enjoy your Kindles and your iPad.

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