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Kindle Fire: The Device Microsoft Thought the iPad Was

By most accounts, Amazon's Kindle Fire looks like a nice piece of hardware.

Shipping Nov. 15, the $199 Android-powered device sports a new Amazon browser called Silk and is optimized for media consumption.

Industry speculation centers on whether this device is the iPad rival that all of Apple's would-be competitors have been trying to produce since the iPad exploded out of the gate in 2010.

For example, in his news story on the Kindle Fire, my colleague Jeffrey Schwartz quoted Forrester analyst Sarah Rottman Epps saying, "Apple's place as market leader is secure, but Amazon will be a strong number two, and we expect no other serious tablet competitors until Windows 8 tablets launch."

Amazon may be that strong number two, but the Kindle Fire is probably irrelevant to Microsoft's eventual success or failure with Windows 8-based tablets.

In my view, the Amazon Kindle Fire is the device that senior Microsoft executives like Steve Ballmer initially thought the Apple iPad was. As Ballmer quipped about the iPad in June 2010, "A guy tried to take notes on one in a meeting with me yesterday. That was fun. The meeting didn't go real fast."

Apple's iPad is a work-life balance device that is heavily weighted toward the life side of the scale. Microsoft's original mistake was in thinking that the iPad was entirely on the life/fun/entertainment side. In fact, corporate interest in the iPad's utility has been intense and business-focused apps for the iPad have proliferated.

Apple and Microsoft have related skill sets with Apple weighted toward consumer and Microsoft weighted toward business. If Microsoft can produce a great business device that's solid on the fun and entertainment side, it should be able to compete with Apple in the part of the market that Microsoft really cares about.

That would give Apple some fits in a two-front war. The Kindle Fire would be pressuring the iPad on price and consumer friendliness on one side and Windows 8 would be coming after the iPad's nascent business market on the other.

Apple, of course, is the one in the market already. Amazon and Microsoft still have a lot to prove and lot to execute on. But, at least they probably don't have to worry much about each other.

Posted by Scott Bekker on October 05, 2011