Kindle Fire

Amazon to shake up mobile tech world with new Kindle devices, content deals

Bloomberg | The Verge | CNN Money
Amazon will make waves in the world of tablets, e-readers and possibly even smartphones today when it announces new devices at a 1:30 ET event. Here is what you can expect.

The Amazon devices

The star of today’s show is expected to be the Kindle Fire 2 — a refresh of the original Fire that debuted in November and lit up holiday sales. Amazon claims the Kindle Fire holds 22 percent of the U.S. tablet market, but sales have slipped recently and Amazon is looking for a fresh spark to consumer interest. Read more


New wave of tablet devices could accelerate news-reading trend

The class of semi-portable, two-hands-required, touch-screen devices we generically refer to as “tablets” really contains two distinct species.

There are the 10-inch screens, where the $499-and-up iPad dominates and has reigned all tablets as best-in-class.

And then there is the insurgent class of 7-inch screens led by the Amazon Kindle Fire. Are they as good as the iPad? No. But they’re more than half as good for less than half the price — and so they offer a compelling value to the budget-conscious consumer.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet goes on sale this month.

In the next month or two, expect to see a new wave of impressive innovation in this smaller class of tablets.

Amazon is expected to debut the Kindle Fire 2 by August. This month Google will launch its own Nexus 7, which critics say is “the best 7-inch tablet yet” and “Applesque in its fluid touch response.” And if you believe the less-certain rumors from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, Apple may launch its own “iPad mini” later this year.

These cheaper, lighter 7-inch devices have the potential to accelerate the tablet market to critical mass much more quickly than the iPad alone. The introduction of the first 7-inch Kindle Fire late last year contributed to total tablet ownership among U.S. adults nearly doubling in one month.

These trends are notable for the long-term future of journalism. A new study by Gartner finds about seven in 10 tablet owners use them for news consumption, and most “prefer to read news, magazines and books on screen, rather than on paper.” Some of the shift shows up in the times of day people use different devices, with tablet use peaking in the evenings.

Night owls prefer to read on tablets; Earlier in the day, computer use is more common.

This study seems more credible than many other recent ones, because participants kept a week-long diary of their device usage rather than just answer survey questions about how they think they use them.

Earlier: Steve Jobs hated the idea of a 7-inch tablet | Tablet users more likely to buy magazines, e-books than news, newspapers | Tablet owners use them to keep up with the news | Night owls read news on tablets as mobile overtakes computer for at-home browsing Read more


Amazon, Kindle Fire users buying lots of content through apps

Flurry | China Economic News Service
More evidence that Amazon’s Kindle Fire is pulling far ahead of other Android-powered tablets: A study finds the average Amazon app store user spent almost four times more money on in-app purchases than a user of Google’s standard Android app store. Mobile analytics company Flurry measured purchases through popular apps available across iTunes, Google Play and Amazon:

Meanwhile, a report out of Taiwan says Amazon is preparing to roll out three new Kindle Fire models this year — a “low-end” model like the current one, another 7-inch model with higher screen resolution, and a high-end model with a larger 8.9-inch screen.

Related: Personalized news aggregator Zite launches Android app (Zite) | Smartphones are half of all U.S. mobile phones, and growing fast (Nielsen) || Earlier: Tablet ownership nearly doubled in January (Poynter) Read more

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Afternoon digest, Nov. 17, 2011


Amazon’s Kindles may open new business opportunities for publishers

Monday Note
Frédéric Filloux speculates how publishers could take advantage of opportunities presented by Amazon’s new lineup of Kindle products. One idea is for publishers to give readers an e-ink Kindle (any model except the new Fire) with a two-year subscription — if Amazon lets them sell the “Special ScreenSavers Offers” ads that display when the device is idle. Another idea is for the device to come pre-loaded with with free e-books or trial subscriptions in order to retain new Kindle owners as long-term customers. Neither of these is possible now, but Filloux writes that publishers willing to work creatively with Amazon might be able to enact programs like this. || Earlier: Media companies may have a love-hate relationship with Amazon; 5 key questions about the Kindle Fire Read more


Media companies may have a love-hate relationship with Amazon’s Kindle Fire

Nieman Journalism Lab | paidContent | GigaOM
Amazon’s new, inexpensive tablet may pose as many challenges as opportunities for publishers and media companies. Mark Mulligan at paidContent compares the relationship between Amazon and the Kindle Fire to Apple and the iPad:

Put simply, Apple is in the business of selling content to help sell devices whereas Amazon is in the business of selling devices to help sell content. There is a poetic symmetry [in] the identical yet polar opposite strategies of the two companies.

Amazon’s role in selling content could give media companies pause, considering that Apple generally leaves content companies to their own interests. Mathew Ingram at GigaOM explains: Read more


Amazon Kindle Fire tablet to cost only $199, regular Kindle drops to $79

Citing interviews with Amazon executives, Bloomberg reports that the new Amazon tablet, the Kindle Fire, will sell for only $199. That’s less than the $299 and $250 rumored prices, and an even starker contrast to the iPad, which starts at $499. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said during the announcement that the regular e-ink Kindle will drop to just $79, and a touchscreen Kindle will cost $20 more. The aggressive pricing makes it more likely these devices will spread widely, giving e-books and tablet news products a bigger audience. “The digital divide between haves and have-nots just potentially got a lot smaller,” declares Tim Carmody at Wired. || Related: 5 key questions for journalists and publishers about the Kindle Fire Read more

The Kindle Fire holds magazines, books and video.

5 key questions journalists and publishers should ask about the new Amazon tablet

Amazon shows off a new touchscreen tablet today that is expected to be the first serious competitor to the iPad since Apple created the tablet market in early 2010.

The Kindle Fire holds magazines, books and video.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday in New York, Amazon will unveil what is expected to be branded the Kindle Fire. There are several reasons that news publishers and other content creators should watch this product closely (more on that below).

First, the press leaks have been flowing pretty heavily in advance of the announcement. Here’s the consensus on what to expect from the Fire:

  • A 7-inch color touchscreen, not e-ink like previous Kindles. A bigger version may come in 2012.
  • A form factor similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook.
  • An operating system compatible with Android apps but significantly rebuilt by Amazon and using Amazon’s own app store, not Google’s Android Market.
  • A content-focused operating system. TechCrunch reports: “The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device. This includes books, apps, movies, etc.”
  • Priced under $300, perhaps with a version as low as $250. Turns out it’s only $199. That’s a huge discount from the iPad, which starts at $499. The Nook Color costs $250, but it has fewer features.
  • Not available right away. The first ones may ship in November.
  • Major magazine publishers Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith (but not Time) selling digital version of their publications.

That’s what the Fire is. But what does it mean? Here are the key questions that people in the news industry should consider.

How will Amazon handle customer data and revenue sharing? All Things D’s Peter Kafka reports that Amazon’s “terms will roughly mirror the ones that Apple has established with most magazines this year: Publishers will keep around 70 percent of all Amazon sales, and the retailer will share some customer data with the publishers.” But some large publishers can cut special deals, according to Kafka, to keep a little more than 70 percent of revenue.

A revenue share comparable to Apple’s probably won’t hurt the Fire, but Amazon could be missing an opportunity to help itself out by undercutting Apple. As for customers, we’ll want to see if Amazon will be more forthcoming with customer data. Apple customers must opt in to share their personal information, which is a big reason some publishers are working around the iTunes Store.

Can publishers subsidize the purchase of this device for subscribers? Several newspaper companies have been looking to give subscribers low-cost Android-powered tablets in exchange for long-term subscription commitments.

Philadelphia Media Network recently announced plans to sell customized tablets pre-loaded with its apps. Tribune Co. is said to be planning to give free or subsidized tablets to people committing to a long-term subscription.

The Inquirer is asking tablet recipients for a two-year subscription at about $10 a month. That comes to about $240, nearly more than enough to give a Kindle Fire away for free. The Fire could also become a better-known, more-desirable brand among consumers than the generic Arnova 10 G2 models the Inquirer is using now.

Is this another app-development headache? The dual demand of Apple and Android app development is already too much for some publishers. Amazon’s new tablet may make that worse.

While its operating system is based on the open-source Android and initially will be compatible with existing Android apps, that compatibility is not assured in the future. Amazon is “forking” the OS down its own path; as Android and Amazon continue to develop, it’s conceivable that some features or apps could become incompatible.

That uncertainty may be another incentive for publishers to turn to HTML5 websites for a main news product that works on all devices, supplementing them with niche apps if desired.

Can Amazon give a boost to paid content? As the world’s largest e-commerce company and largest e-book seller, Amazon knows quite a bit about selling things.

The company has millions of users with credit cards on file who trust it as a commercial broker. It has been selling e-books and newspapers on its Kindles for years. These are reasons to hope that Amazon can work with publishers to maximize purchases of digital newspapers and magazines. It could also help the growing trend of news publishers selling e-books.

Will it grow the tablet audience? The most interesting question is not whether the Fire will appeal to iPad owners, but whether it will appeal to large numbers of the 90 percent of the public that does not own an iPad. For now, tablets are luxury devices, not mass-market products.

Forrester Research is bullish, predicting 3 million to 5 million Amazon tablet sales by the end of the year. The price point is aggressively low. It’s going on sale just in time for holiday shopping. And Amazon has over 80 million monthly website visitors in the U.S. to whom it can heavily promote the Fire.

A little water on that Fire

There are some reasons for skepticism.

First, because Amazon diverged from the official Google-led development path of Android, the Fire may lose access to Google’s apps. Google Maps, Gmail, Google Voice and YouTube are among the most popular and well-executed programs for Android. If the Fire lacks these, it may feel less complete than the iPad or other Android devices.

Second, the tablet market remains difficult to crack. The HP Touchpad failed. The BlackBerry PlayBook has struggled.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is expected to release the second version of its Nook Color e-reader in November, perhaps with more features and powerful hardware that could challenge the Fire.

As everyone else scrambles to catch up, the iPad is the undisputed champion now and for at least a few years to come, unless and until a competitor firmly proves otherwise. The Kindle Fire may have the best shot, but Amazon still must execute and innovate over time to make it a success.

Among the issues to figure out is, will the Fire be a smaller, cheaper iPad? Or something substantially different? Besides being a device for media consumption, the iPad does many things, from games and note-taking to music creation, medical record storage and cockpit data.

Perhaps Amazon will position its tablet more narrowly as the ultimate media device. At 7 inches, it’s more portable than an iPad. The size and the operating system design suggest this will be a product for reading, watching video and playing music, as well as some light Web browsing or emailing.

If so, it may be Amazon, not Apple, that brings tablet newspapers, magazines and video to the masses. Read more


Analyst: Upcoming Amazon tablet will give iPad its first real competition

Forrester Research | Reuters
The iPad has dominated the tablet market since its debut in 2010, but its first strong competitor should emerge this fall in Amazon’s forthcoming device. The key, according to a new Forrester Research report, is Amazon’s willingness to sell the hardware at a loss, perhaps under $300, as a means to sell more e-books and other products. Forrester anticipates Amazon selling 3 million to 5 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2011. By 2012, Amazon’s tablet will be “synonymous with ‘Android’ on tablets” and “a strong second” to the iPad, writes Sarah Rotman Epps. || Related: Analyst underestimated the iPad in 2010 || Earlier: Amazon launches its own Android app store Read more


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