Kindle Fire

Go Read This | Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX: power, with a helping hand | The Verge

You have to hand it to Amazon, its is just going at this market hard and not letting up and by the looks of things, it is learning as it goes:

Whether you’re in the market for an 8.9-inch or 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX is a hard device to beat. Not just for the screen resolution or the high-end processor, either: at $229 for the smaller model or $379 for the larger, the HDX is among the cheapest tablets on the market that we’d even consider recommending at those screen sizes. Even the LTE models, at $329 and $479 respectively and available for Verizon and AT&T, are as cheap as you’ll find for their kind. (And they’re not even the cheapest of Amazon’s new tablets.)

If Amazon can deliver on all its promises with its core apps, from email to the updated Silk browser, and can make the HDX into both the best vessel for Amazon content and something more besides, these two tablets are going to be hard to beat. And Mayday’s going to have a lot of customers this fall.

via Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX: power, with a helping hand | The Verge.

The Extent Of B&N’s Weakness In The Tablet Space

Pretty much everyone knows that Barnes & Noble had a bad holiday season in terms of selling tablets, even the company acknowledged it.

I was inclined to let it lie, I did wonder why B&N had under-performed, after all the  company seemed to have perfectly fine tablet devices on offer, but perhaps it was just one of those quirks that sometimes happens. But then I saw the IDC figures for tablet shipments in quarter four, 2012 and, even if we take those figures as close to accurate, the news  is really quite bad news for B&N:

Worldwide tablet shipments outpaced predictions reaching a record total of 52.5 million units worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2012 (4Q12), according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. The tablet market grew 75.3% year over year in 4Q12 (up from 29.9 million units in 4Q11) and increased 74.3% from the previous quarter’s total of 30.1 million units. Lower average selling prices (ASPs), a wide range of new product offerings, and increased holiday spending all acted as catalysts to push the already climbing tablet market to record levels.

via Tablet Shipments Soar to Record Levels During Strong Holiday Quarter, According to IDC – prUS23926713.

B&N went from shipping 1.4 million tablets in 2011, to shipping only 1 million in 2012 (an almost 28% drop in units shipped). That would be bad enough in a stable or falling market, but the market GREW by some 75% over the same period.

B&N was crushed by its closest competitor, ASUS who went from shipping 0.6 million units to shipping 3.1 million units! Or from less less than half of what B&N sold to shipping three times more.

Amazon moved decisively away from B&N, shipping six times as many units. Samsung, who only sold 600,000 more tablets than B&N in 2011, shipped 6.9 million more tablets than B&N in 2012.

Even Microsoft, whose tablets were new entries to the market (and who have partnered with B&N in the Nook/Newco venture) is said to have shipped 900,000 units.

The only sensible analysis of these figures is that B&N is losing ground and facing vibrant, effective and tough competitors. Unless the deal with Microsoft yields fruit soon and enables the Nook/Newco venture to grow shipments and sales aggressively, we have seen the peak of the Nook tablet business.

 

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Story title edited from Failure to Weakness. I felt using failure was unfairly harsh on the company, given the success they had in selling 1 million units, no mean feat for a bookseller!

This Scares Me >> Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12

It’s a slightly unsettling and sinking feeling I get whenever I hear discussion about booksellers and others moving away from E-Ink based ereaders towards tablets. It’s not a hatred of backlit screens and the like, in fact I like them quite a bit.

Rather it’s that such a move is an implicit acceptance that the stand-alone ereader device is moving from a top priority to a secondary one. The concern for me is that as apps, movies, tv shows, music and games become bigger and better businesses for these players, books become less and less important. With such a shift, books become simply PART of a larger media mix as opposed to being the MAJOR element.

This is not a spurious concern either. B&N indicated that their Tablet device was proving a more successful product for them than their E-Ink device was. Especially because it opened up more opportunities and markets. I’ve written a bit about this previously, particularly around the launch of the Kindle Fire:

There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.

The possibility then that the Kindle Fire presents is one where the dedicated device that has done so much to build the digital book market is, however distantly, headed for a quiet retirement and the publishers who think they have it all so sorted now are going to faced a changed game yet again.

So perhaps you understand why the brace of DigiTimes reports on the topic read this morning left me cold:
ONE

Amazon shipped 3.98 million Kindle Fire tablet PCs in the fourth quarter of 2011, taking up a 14% share of the global tablet PC market as well as the second position in the vendor rankings, according to market data.

Due to strong sales of Kindle Fire, Amazon has shifted its focus from e-book readers to tablet PCs, and so plans to launch a 10-inch model in the second half, instead of an 8.9-inch model projected previously, the sources revealed.

via Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12, say sources.

TWO

Global shipments of e-book readers are expected to reach only two million units in the first quarter of 2012, down from nine million shipped the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Digitimes Research.

Via Digitimes Research: Global shipments of e-book readers to slip to 2 million units in 1Q12

Why The Kindle Fire Worries Me

The Kindle Fire is a beautiful device (and by that I mean it looks pretty nice from a distance). What’s more, it’s at the right price and has a library of content to beat the best on offer. Yet I find it worrying, exceptionally worrying.

Worrying because it marks a shift away from a singular focus on digital books and towards other media forms. Digital books (and their publishers, traditional and self) have benefitted from Amazon’s desire to move their consumers towards digital consumption and purchasing. Benefitted enormously.

Amazon’s strategy though, as the launch of Fire makes clear, is about ALL media forms not just books. As the company builds digital sales of those media (a MUCH bigger market than books), digital books will become less important overall. At some point it may just be the case that they will cease development of a dedicated ereader, just as Apple is close to ceasing the development of a dedicated music player (or at least has relegated the music only devices to the bottom rung of its offering).

More importantly, Amazon is popularising mobile, digital media consumption and at relatively cheap prices. This long-term strategy is all the time building the competition plain text ebooks face.

There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.

The possibility then that the Kindle Fire presents is one where the dedicated device that has done so much to build the digital book market is, however distantly, headed for a quiet retirement and the publishers who think they have it all so sorted now are going to faced a changed game yet again.

But maybe these are just wasted fears! I certainly hope so.
Eoin

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* I’m a pessimist on this score and think that possible is a definite.