Is the Kindle Fire an iPad Killer? After seeing two posts in quick succession from different sources, one saying it is and one saying it isn’t, I couldn’t resist the chance to compare the two points of view.

For the “Yes, it is an iPad killer” side, we have Molly Wood, a CNet commentator, saying (in the headline no less), “Yes. It’s the price, stupid.” She admits that the Fire has “almost literally half the features” of the iPad—smaller screen, no camera, half the on-board memory, and so on. But compared to considerations of price, Wood posits, features aren’t as important.

At $199, virtually any mainstream consumer is going to stand next to these two devices, look at them side-by-side, and make a price-conscious decision–and that decision is easier than you might think, as tablet usage starts to sort itself out. Sure, the Kindle Fire lacks a camera for video chat and movie-making. So what? Hardly anyone is doing that with their tablets anyway. No GPS? That’s what your phone is for. No Bluetooth? Shrug. It’s one hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

She points out that the iPad still has the fundamental problem that very few people actually need one, and that the Fire can do most of what people really want to do with tablets (light web browsing, casual gaming, e-reading, video streaming, etc.) for a significantly smaller chunk of change. Indeed, not only has the Fire sounded the death knell for the iPad, writes Wood, but it has also “unquestionably slaughtered every Android tablet on the market.”

For the opposing view, John Paul Titlow writes on ReadWriteWeb that the iPad still has considerably more features, is a more general-purpose device as opposed to the Fire’s content-centric composition, and is part of a dedicated “ecosystem” of devices that provide more benefit overall than Amazon’s Kindle Fire does by itself.

The more tightly Apple ties those devices together, the more challenging it will for any competitor to pluck away users from any one device. Amazon has a tablet. But Apple has a tablet that fits in perfectly with its smartphone, music player, desktops and laptops. They’re even rumored to have an HDTV on the way.

Titlow holds that, while the Fire might attract a chunk of the tablet market away from Apple, he doubts that it will “kill” the device. He does suggest it might entice Apple to consider further end-of-year price cuts to its older iPads, if it hadn’t been thinking about them already, and that future iterations of the Fire might be more of a threat. “After all, the first iPad didn’t have a camera either.”

Of these two points of view, I have to admit I find Wood’s slightly more compelling, just because I know what it’s like to make decisions from a price-based point of view. If I didn’t have an iPad and were given the choice between buying a Kindle Fire, a Nook Color, and an iPad today, with my own money, I would probably choose the Kindle Fire based on the intersection of what I would want to do with it and how much I’d be willing to pay.

And perhaps Titlow should bear in mind that when people talk about “iPad-killers” they don’t expect something that will make the iPad go the way of HP’s TouchPad. They’re just talking about something that will knock it off the top-selling spot in the market, even if it continues selling well enough to turn a profit for years to come. (The way that, for example, the iPod Touch has “killed” the iPod Classic that used to be Apple’s best-selling item, but is still available for sale and sells decently well—though, granted, the Classic might be about to die the final death this year.) From that perspective, Apple might very well have something to worry about.


  1. I don’t think the Fire is an iPad killer, but I think it’s going to do extremely well in its niche. I never bought an iPad for the very reason given above – I don’t need one. If it had been priced lower I would have likely purchased one just for kicks, but could not justify it for the going rate. “light web browsing, casual gaming, e-reading, video streaming, etc.” PERFECTLY describes what I want a tablet to do for my son, and a Fire is already on pre-order to be hidden in his Christmas stocking. But Amazon did not take my money away from Apple, as Apple was never going to get that money in the first place. But people who want to do more with a tablet will continue to buy the iPad, and it will coexist just fine with the Fire.

  2. I hate the whole killer meme; the iPad isn’t going away because of the Fire, anymore than the Kindle went away because of the iPad. However, it is true that for me personally, I could never bring myself to buy an iPad, yet I preordered a Fire this morning. Either one would essentially be a toy for me; the iPad won’t replace my laptop, and neither will the Fire. As a toy, $199 beats $499, I’m already a Prime member, and have more invested in the Amazon ecosystem than the Apple ecosystem anyway.

  3. I’m seriously concerned with cloud storage accent in Kindle Fire: if you only have 8 Gb for all your content, that’s not going to be enough, and accessing stuff from the cloud means a) having a working internet connection, which is not always granted; b) your battery will die very fast (if 8 hours of reading means 8 hours of reading with wi-fi off, it means like 5 hours with wi-fi on).

  4. My neighbor was looking for a gift for her 10 year old and the iPad was too expensive. But when I mentioned the Kindle Fire she said that would make a perfect gift. Her daughter can read books, play games, browse the web and watch an occasional movie (for slightly more than Redbox but more convenient).

    For myself I ordered a Kindle Fire because it the size and price I want with Amazon services I use. While a mini-SD would be nice I would really prefer bluetooth for listening to music, books, etc. It would be nice to listen without using cabled headphones.

  5. Although ‘killer’ is a crass term, the iPad is history. iPad is not a business machine, but merely a very fun yet expensive toy. With that, a $300 savings and smaller package for travel, everyone will certainly purchase the Amazon fire. In fact, one could have the basic Kindle for $79 + the Fire and still save $220… iPad is way overpriced. Use a Macbook Pro, so much better…

  6. -spoiler alert-

    Amazon’s suppliers can only supply 3-4 million devices for the holiday quarter this year. Apple is up to 9 million in just Last quarter.

    So, no. Ipad will remain number 1 for at least a year.

    The fun part will be watching all the chatterers after next Christmas trying to figure out why Kindle isn’t number 1, and assuming it has something to do with the customer experience.

  7. Yes, Molly Wood is correct, price is the killer feature. That’s why the 24″ HDTV outsells all the larger and more costly models, and why the Tata $2500 car is the world’s biggest seller. That’s also why Apple is languishing and near bankruptcy, its laptops failing to sell alongside $250 netbooks from Acer and Asus.

    What is not mentioned here so far is: education. The iPad is making huge inroads not only in the business world (sorry ChimChim but you are being proved wrong) but also in schools from unis to grade schools. Amazon should be able to entice educational app makers to their Amazon Kindle App Store, and win textbook adaptations as well as children’s picture books (with sound and video). In the public education market where ‘1 to 1 computing’ (one device for every student) is an ideal the OLPC has so far failed to achieve, the Fire should do very well.

    I have long considered, Steve Jobs’s comments notwithstanding, that Apple will come out with a 7″ slate device. It won’t be an iPad jr., but rather an iPod Touch grande. Now Amazon has taken that market (or probably will in the next 6 months).

    Both Apple and Amazon should do very well here. Amazon will carry on with the tradition that they began with the creation of their company, losing money to build market share and, they hope, eventual market dominance. Apple will carry on with their own tradition of sleek, elegant, rich devices they sell in large numbers at bigger margins than any of their competitors can hope to achieve.

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