Kindle Fire off to a strong start?

Estimates show that the Fire will leap to second place in the tablet market with 4m shipments in Q4
Darren Allan
Darren Allan -

Kindle Fire

Amazon’s budget slate venture, the Kindle Fire, hasn’t disappointed in early sales, at least according to the firm’s own estimates, and an analyst company too.

Amazon reckons that sales of its whole Kindle range, including the e-readers, were quadruple what they were over the Black Friday sales weekend in 2010.

And analyst IHS iSuppli’s estimations for this quarter based on early shipments peg the Kindle Fire as the clear rival to the iPad, selling triple what the previous closest rival – the Samsung Galaxy Tab – will manage.

IHS sees the iPad’s global market share slipping from 70% to 65% in the fourth quarter of this year, with the Fire shipping 3.9 million units and taking 14% of the market.

Samsung will manage a whisker under 5%, just edging out the Barnes & Noble Nook by 0.1%. The Galaxy Tab has slipped from 8% in Q3, and is of course under legal threat from Apple which isn’t helping its cause.

Those are the big players in the tablet market, with HTC some distance behind in fifth place with just over 1% of the market.

This is pretty much what analysts predicted before the launch of the Fire – that it would storm up to quickly establish itself as the one true rival to the iPad. Will Apple be worried at this apparent sprint start? Probably not.

Not everything about the Fire’s launch has been a blazing success. Early reviews from critics have been a little mixed, with some finding the device pretty sluggish compared to the sort of speedy processor and slick experience the iPad or Galaxy Tab offer.

Others have complained that some of the e-books on their Kindle e-reader aren’t compatible with the Fire, and we even spotted an interesting complaint about the fact that Amazon pre-registers the tablet with your account details.

Someone had their Fire pinched from their front door – or at the delivery depot – and the box was there but empty. Worse still, said thief was able to happily run up purchases on their account with no need for a password. Which definitely seems odd – so be warned to take care of organising the delivery when ordering online.

Not that you can buy the Fire in the UK yet, of course.

Examining negative reviews on Amazon, CNN came to the conclusion that something like 500,000 of those millions of Fires sold in the fourth quarter could be returned. Of course, that’s pretty much complete guesswork, but Apple will take heart in the face of IHS’s estimates of its declining iPad market share.

Then, of course, there’s the iPad 3 on the horizon. As IHS points out, rather than bringing out a budget 7 inch “mini” iPad to compete with the Fire on cost grounds, Apple may well just keep the iPad 2 on and significantly lower the price when the third incarnation comes out.

There’s going to be considerably more difference between the iPad 3 and 2, compared to the sequel and the original, by all accounts – with a much higher res display on offer.

IHS notes: “This will provide a value alternative for entry-level users in the same way that the company continued to offer the iPhone 3 when it rolled out the iPhone 4.”

“This approach would allow Apple to maintain its target profit margins on both the iPad 3 and the iPad 2, while offering end-users an ever-expanding family of products.”

A fair point indeed.

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