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Amazon Fire and iPad2: No Competition - Just Price vs. Performance

OK, OK!  This blog is almost definitely off topic, but not quite.  After all, the Amazon Fire, and the IPad2 tablets can download movies from the internet, and both devices can ultimately feed that to your home theater system, including your home theater projector.  Darn, looks like I'm somewhat on topic after all. I'm a huge tablet fan, and love my iPads.  So I thought some of you might care how I see the Amazon Fire vs. iPad2.  Now mind you, I've been reading various releases all morning, also visited to read their own story of the Amazon Fire tablet.   And I've been following the rumors for the last week or two. Let me note  I have an iPad2 (and also my old iPad).  I love my "2", and I love the integration with my iPhone, Mobile.ME (soon to be Apple Cloud or something), Macbook pro, my bluetooth receivers around the house, etc.  I love the integrated experience. But I also must disclose that I am a fan of the Kindles.  I purchased a Kindle very early on for my mom, who has vision problems that otherwise required her to find a library with large type books.  Libraries are getting hard to find these days, even in Florida.  The Kindle is her savior, as she loves to read.  (Mind you I've been trying to talk her into an iPad2 so she can Facetime and Skype with the rest of us.) First things first:  What's the core scoop on the Amazon Fire tablet, in features, compared to the iPad2: The short version, is the Amazon Fire is the Econo-box.  It may do many things well, but there are whole major abilities the iPad2 has, where the Fire simply doesn't play. Amazon Fire - Selling Price:  $199      Basic iPad2:  $499, $629 with 3G. Screen Size:  7"  1024x600           vs.  10"  1024x768 Battery life (claimed 8 hours of music or 7.5 hours of video)  vs. (similar) Internal memory 8G      vs. 16G (at the Apple prices above)  more expensive 32Gig and 64Gig models out there Time to charge: approx 4 hours  vs.  a bit longer Additional storage:  the cloud - free      vs. (associated cost) to be replaced by iCloud Interfacing:  Wifi, USB     vs.   Wifi, 3G (optional), USB Support for data cellular:  No     vs. No at $499, Yes at $629 Speakers:  Yes vs. Yes Microphone:  No vs. Yes Still Camera:  No      vs.  two - front and back Video Camera:  No  vs. Yes Operating System:  Version of Android   vs.  Apple ios Warranty:  1 year standard, 2nd year optional (US)  vs. similar - 1 year, 2 years optional Obviously the touted strengths of the Amazon Fire are its low cost, their "android" app store, and free data storage in the clouds.  And the big advantage Amazon has over other Android tablets; the ability to deliver content, which millions already use. I don't believe refurbished older iPads are still available, but they are obviously far more similar competitors to the Amazon Fire, than the iPad2 is, as the iPad2 has cameras, Facetime, video Skyping abilities, etc. that the Amazon Fire lacks.  The older iPad, also lacked the cameras, Facetime and a number of other features the iPad2 has that the Fire lacks. Before we start comparing some other aspects, here's the bit thing.   The Amazon Fire is strictly Wifi, there is only one model, and no indication at all that Amazon might later come out with a tablet that supports 3G, 4G, 4LTE, or any other Cellular Data solution. That means your Amazon Fire is most effective at home, or at your favorite Starbucks hot spot, and the occasional mall or other location with wifi.  (Watch out for hackers on those wifi networks that are open)  I remember not too long ago, Walt Mossberg, the tech guru of the Wall Street Journal wrote about Google's own not yet released Google Chrome laptop, which is cloud based.   Not having any access except at wifi points, he basically indicated, will drive a lot of folks crazy.    Now, the Amazon Fire isn't designed to be an ultimate end all in tablets as the Google device was supposed to be (per Google), the next thing in laptop computing.  The Fire is still a tablet, and must be judged on what it can, and cannot do, relative to what you'd like it to do. Now by comparison, the base iPad2, is $499, that's 2.5 times the price of Amazon's new Fire tablet. Both are Wifi only.  If you believe the Fire and the iPad2 are direct competitors (despite the huge feature difference), it would be the Amazon Fire vs. the base iPad2, that are closest The hype:  Amazon has done a fabulous job the last few weeks in terms of PR.  Once again the technical press (me too) is in a frenzy - can anyone challenge the Apple iPad2?  There have been all kinds of Amazon talking points in the press, most of the blogs and even some professional writers/reviewers, praising some mostly fancy wordsmithing.  My two favorites: The Fire can mimic a book, the iPad2 can't.   I haven't figured out what that means - The Fire displays words - ok, so does the iPad. They both download to get them. They both turn pages, they both can adjust font size, etc.   Someone explain to me what the Fire does to mimic a book, that the iPad2 can't do.   At least compared to the previous Kindle's most reviewers have favored the iPad over the Kindle as having a more booklike feel, from the way pages turn to... So, someone tell me what I'm missing. The other one is something on the Amazon site that I've now read in at least 5-6 blogs, or newspaper articles, including our local O.C. Register:   That is that since you can read a Kindle format book with the Kindle app on the ipad2, one can start reading a book on a regular Kindle, then continue on the new Fire, and finally, if needed finish reading it on an iPad.   Geez folks that's just wonderful.  Does anyone really care, though?   I do see the advantage, as an iPad2 owner, to also own an Amazon Fire, just for the smaller screen and overall smaller size (it's not enough lighter to matter).  Sometimes it would be easier to have a 7" device instead of a 10" (the 10" iPad2 has over twice the actual screen size, in square inches, centimeters, or your favorite method of measure.).  Remember, you can drop down to a smaller size with Apple products too - but it would be from 10" to the 3.5" size of the iPhone 4, or if the rumors are true, a 4" diagonal screen on the iPhone 5. No matter. But, how many people are really going to want to have both an iPad2 and a Fire - especially if Apple brings out a 6 or 7" screen, less expensive iPad.   Still it's true, you can't (yet) run a book from the iBooks store, and get a standard Kindle to play it.  Of course, if someone brings out an iBook app for the Amazon Fire, then you could claim the same thing the other way.   Buy it for Apple, and also use on an Amazon device although not the "Kindle"  - the Fire. OK, enough rambling, let's cut to the chase: Are they competitors?  Barely. Simply stated, the Fire may well open up a huge new segment in the tablet world.  A low cost, device with more limited abilities.  One could make the analogy of a netbook, compared to a full blown PC or laptop - that is, one will basically suit someone better than the other, but both?    One question:  Will someone seriously considering an iPad2, who can afford one, decide to save a few hundred, with the Fire? I don't think so, in most cases. The big differences favoring iPad2 Cellular versions available for the iPad2.  This will be the primary deal breaker for most people considering the Fire.  If all you are doing is reading books, watching videos, etc., sure, downloading from wifi is fine.  But what if you are between office and home, say at a restaurant, and want to do anything that requires acessing the web?  Sorry, only wifi, and wifi ISN'T in most places. (Yet!)   Want to check your stocks - forget it, if no wifi. I can't find numbers, but apparently the majority of iPad2's are bought with 3G, - data whatever you want to call it. I can barely survive 48 hours with my iPad2 if I didn't have cellular access to data.  (I'm an information junkie!)  I think most iPad2 owners I know would agree.   The single greatest complaint I hear from folks I know who have iPads or iPad2s, is usually:  "I wish I had bought a 3G model". The iPad2 has microphone, two cameras (still and video) it can be used to Facetime (easiest video phoning) when around wifi, and it can skype anywhere there's access to cellular.  As we do a lot of this in our family, it's a huge thing - video calling.  And of course, you can audio call only as well, if desired, but with the Amazon Fire - no mic, no camera...   Sounds like a lot of add ons, still no cellular, and a real pain if you want to do that stuff. And if you want to do real work, you get at minimum, twice the memory, faster processing, photo editing, and a ton of stuff that may never get to the current Fire.  Let's face it, the iPad2 is just far more capable. But the Fire has its strengths.  If you actually need more than a few million books, Amazon has the advantage (but you can download the Kindle app for the iPad2 and then enjoy the entire Amazon collection of books, movies and music (I note that Amazon has an advantage in those areas, and also in total book and movie content available).  If I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice on my iPad2, I might have to use my Kindle app. The smaller physical size, to me, is the single major strength of the Fire, (beyond price) where it could steal a bit from the iPad2.    I like the idea of a smaller tablet. As to their "free Amazon Prime" for 30 days, or use a paid for app for one day for free (who picks the app), nice touches, but I subscribe to Amazon Prime because I buy stuff from Amazon.  Since the Fire is all about downloading, getting free shipping on stuff isn't a factor.  But, that you do get thousands of TV shows, some movies, etc. for free downloading, is good.  May I suggest Amazon Prime for you iPad2 users.  It works for me too.  I'm not much of a downloader other than music, but I have the same ability with an iPad.  That Prime is free for 30 days, rates only a mild whoopie!  then no doubt, an auto renewing contract, just like so many other services from so many companies.  The Prime option is just that, a nice option, but one also available to other tablet users. The free one day use of a paid app has some real appeal - if we get to choose the app.  As someone who follows the stock market, I'll bet I can get some real value from some research apps (they can be very expensive), if I could use one for free.   We'll see what they really have in mind. So, while 30 day trials are nice, Amazon seems to always  beoffering free Amazon Prime trials) without any need to own a Kindle or Fire. But I was talking about strengths of the Fire:  Free Cloud storage - the Fire comes with 8Gig of memory, half of that of the least powerful iPad2.  That's a decent amount, but plan to use (the free) cloud storage if you are saving a lot of stuff.  Without cloud storage, you will run out of space quickly, as those apps keep eating up memory - my 8Gig old iPhone peaked out at a video, maybe 600 photos, and 1200 songs, lots of apps, etc.  Since much of that was overhead, only 3-4 Gig or so was for my "stuff".  With my 32 gig iPad2, I've got room for about 10 times what an 8 gig can hold, so I think it's great that Amazon provides free (unlimited?) storage in their Clould. The only downside of course - can be the loss of instant gratification.    I might have to track down a wifi hot spot to switch to my B side collection of Amy Winehouse, if I had swapped to to the cloud to make room for something else.    Again, wifi-only simply isn't for me, and isn't for most enthusastic users, I suspect.   Many of us just don't want to be without all our "stuff", and dependent on finding a hotspot.  And do you trust unsecure hot spots when you are killing several hours in an airport.  In almost all cases - I'll forgo open wifi spots for safety, because I can use my 3G. Since the iPad2 can do zillions of things the Fire can't (at least this first version), I believe that the bulk of the impact to the market will be the Fire hurting other Android, Blackberry, and Microsoft (when it ships) tablets.  The iPad market share will remain almost untouched due to the Fire. What the Amazon Fire will do, most likely is expand the tablet market, by reaching a lot of folks that simply can't budget an iPad.  (remember, the typical iPad owner spends more on extras - apps, accessories, and services, then they do on the hardware itself).  Amazon will also, certainly benefit from many Kindle owners upgrading. The Fire offers slightly lower cost services, which also helps grow the market.   But the Fire will steal most of its business from the other Kindles,  the Nook (a competitor to the Kindles), and the least expensive tablets, and likely have little effect on iPad sales at all. The Amazon Fire, if successful, could mean that Apple's tablet market share may drop significantly, but that's to be expected - almost all the other tablets that are being sold (none particularly successfully) are ones that are a lot less expensive than the iPads.   That said, it doesn't mean though, that Apple will sell significantly fewer iPad2's  once the Fire ships.  I seriously doubt that will happen.    What will be interesting is if Apple rolls out a smaller, less expensive iPad for Q1, to complement the iPad2, and to actually be a more direct competitor. Think this way, to use cars as an example.   Think of the iPad2 as a loaded Camry.  Think of the Fire to be a bare bones Kia.  That Kia is a fine vehicle for far less, but, it's not, as they say, Apples to Apples.  Apple never seemed to want to own the world (unlike Microsoft or Google - just my take).  They seem happy to do sales success by community.  People don't buy an apple product because of its specs, they buy into the Apple family.   I'm just typical.   It's another reason why the iPad2 isn't likely to take a real hit.  If, however, Apple does have, say a 7" $299 tablet in the works, that might be a different story. Well, whichever you choose, don't forget to use them to feed movies and games to your projectors!  -art Bottom line: Read books?  Want to stream TV shows,  don't need access to "the world" when you are moving around?  Like the smaller footprint?  The Fire really does look nice, "on paper" and the price is right. Hey, if Apple does not come out with a smaller iPad in the next 6 months, I expect I will add a smaller tablet to my collection, but I expect it will have to have cellular data, or I'll have to rig up my own portable wifi hot spot.  There are times my iPad2 is bigger than I'd like to carry, and my iPhone a bit smaller than I like for heavy surfing... Best of luck to Amazon. Can they do what everyone else has, so far, failed miserably at:  Taking on the iPads of Apple? No, the Amazon Fire can't do that.  But the Amazon Fire, thanks to cost and size, is going to try to carve out its own significant market share.  It stands the best chance of any non Apple tablet so far.   From one perspective - if Amazon doesn't supplement the Fire with larger - and more capable versions, they may well help Apple increase marketshare.   They could do that, by turning on millions more to tablet use, who can't afford the iPads.   A significant number of those, however, would likely upgrade in a year or two, to more capable devices, and most of those, it seems are iPads. Well, that was fun. Enough - back to projectors - and with that note, I remind you all, both these devices can stream video and audio, and they can output both.  That means that either can be used and hooked up to a home theater (or portable business) projector, rather easily.  I have already run movies from my iPad to a projector.  Piece of cake.  -art    

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