Kindling Success

October 6th, 2011

Addendum: RIP Steve Jobs – You are this generation’s greatest innovator

Amazon recently introduced a new version of its trendsetting Kindle electronic reader. While the original ignited change in how books reach audiences, the latest intends to disrupt the momentum of Apple’s iPad. Kindle Fire has a bigger – color – screen, a faster browser the company believes will be as smooth as its Silk name and stores everything in the cloud. Since iPad hit the market 18 months ago – having sold more than 30 million units – competitors appeared and vanished quickly.

HP announced six weeks ago it is discontinuing TouchPad after determining it mistakenly tried to compete with Apple’s 83 percent market share. So what makes Amazon think it will succeed where others failed? Amazon is upfront that it’s not taking aim directly at iPad. Kindle Fire is WiFi only with no 3G access. There is no camera, nor can you create and edit documents. You can’t place a voice call. What you can do is access Amazon’s extensive digital library. As CEO Jeff Bezos noted in unveiling Fire: “What we’ve done is really integrate seamlessly all of our media offerings – video, movies, TV, apps, games, magazines and so on.’

Most importantly, you can buy Kindle Fire for $199. The entry-level iPad is $500. Amazon is betting the digital content it sells will make up for the low price. That’s an advantage other Apple competitors aren’t able to utilize.

Anytime there is innovation, copycats follow. The key to not ending up in the product graveyard is to provide enough differentiation that consumers have a viable choice. As someone who purchased the original Kindle several years ago and has read many books on it, I’m glad to see Amazon take the next step in improving its device. Someday – in our lifetimes, I’m guessing – hard copies of books will be collector’s items and nothing more.

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