Amazon Kindle Fire: Playing to a niche, it re-draws rules in the Tablet segment
The $199 pricing from Amazon, is one of the best examples of penetrative pricing- where by Amazon can make more money later by selling books, movies, music, apps through its app store. The reason Amazon can do it is because it has an offering very similar to Apple where it’s controlling the device, platform (it has a modified version of Android) and app store. Hence, it’s looking at a long term revenue by following a penetration pricing strategy. In doing so, it’s also utilizing its existing capacity of billions of gigabytes of cloud storage combined with Amazon Silk interface for faster loading of webpages to provide a better user experience.The reason other tablet players in the market such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola among others can’t follow this strategy, with the exception of apple, is because they only control the device part and have very little control over Android platform (controlled by Google) or app store (again influenced by Google).
On the flip side, Kindle Fire isn’t proper Android tablet. It is a forked version which means, whatever updates Google does will not make it to the Fire. It will Amazon’s prerogative to get the updates. Even the Android Market is out of bounds on the Kindle Fire. What really is unexplainable is the absence of HSPA capabilities on the tablet. Is it cost? For a mobile device which is heavily dependent on anytime available cloud service, not having a innate mobile connection capability is befuddling. And then there is the lack of Camera? Surely That wasn’t a huge investment that Amazon opted out of. It was hygiene.
Kindle Fire has shown us that a successful tablet launch isn’t all about the greatest hardware. It’s the apps and the ecosystem. Without which the brightest of the tablets are destined to fail. And don’t make the mistake of considering this a success for Android tablets. Because it is not. This is a tablet which only an Amazon could have pulled of. In fact Kindle Fire would be a nemesis of Android tablets. Now they have to compete with both iPad and Kindle Fire – one at the top end and one and the lower end of the spectrum.
Amazon has done a brilliant job of picking its niche and playing to its strength – content: gaming, video, music or eBooks and build an ecosystem around it and then start selling. That in essence is the purpose and motto of tablets- Tablet happens to be a conduit to digital consumption. And Amazon has seems to have hit the nail quite on its head.
…is there some way that we can bring all these things (Amazon web services, Prime, Kindle, Instant video, the MP3 store and the Amazon appstore for Android) together into a remarkable product offering that customers would love.The answer is yes. It’s called Kindle Fire.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Did the penny drop or the cookie crumble on Wednesday, the 28th September 2011 in the new wonder segment of devices: Tablets? It was about time.. users were waiting for a credible challenge to Apple’s iPad in the tablet segment. And while the 7” Android Kindle Fire doesnot exactly go head to head with iPad2, it does set the tablet segment up nicely. That was something that Androids and Blackberrys in spite of a considerable smart-phone presence have not been able to establish in the last 2 years. For starters, Kindle Fire sells for $200 (as against $400-$500 tag for 7” tablets), but it’s the little details that count and for Amazon, it’s the fact that this is an end-to-end device that really makes it outstanding. Kindle Fire is about the content and the content defines the Fire.
For starters, Amazon forked out a huge amount of customization on Android somewhere between Froyo 2.2 and Gingerbread 2.3 to a point where the Android interface seems to look very different from what it really is. Heavy modifications and kitsch on the Android platform apart Amazon made sure the mash-up works and works well. Amazon the great integrator balanced the Android topwork along with seamless integration with Amazon services.
Kindle Fire comes with a 1 GHz dual core processor, 7-inch capacitive touch screen with IPS display and a resolution of 1024×600, free cloud storage, 8 GB internal memory, battery life for 8 hours reading or 7.5 hours of watching videos and WiFi- nothing ground breaking in terms of device…. Except for the service integration- The cloud service which Amazon offers is the brightest part of Kindle Fire. 10,000 movies and popular TV shows, 800,000 books which cost $9.99 or less and 2 million free books – that’s the US customers get access to when they buy Kindle Fire. Amazon has also introduced a Silk Browser which is purported to be a new way of doing things on a tablet.
Industries evolve, Industries mature and the products and technologies travel through their lifecycles through intriguing phases such as Question Marks to Stars to Cash Cows till the die out (The BCG way of explaining things).Heeding industry trends, companies are often forced to give up on once-premiere products and offerings in order to survive.
Examples abound: In Case of Nokia dropping the ageing Symbian for Wp in smartphones, IBM and HP spinning out its hardware business to focuss on software consultancy and Netflix splitting its DVD subscriptions into Qwikster and staking its future on streaming content.
However, there are cases where managers and boards stick on to old products and platforms and forget evolving to the new paradigms and then go out of business… the all familiar example “Frog in Burning Water” example.
A classic example is that of the Flash from Adobe. Adobe, which last week doubled down its efforts on Flash, releasing Flash Player 11, Air 3, and ramping up its 3D and HD support–even as many critics argue the industry is shifting away from Flash and toward HTML5. With such a disruptive technology as HTML5, at what point does Adobe give up on its flagship Flash product, which has long been Adobe’s bread and butter? At what point is Adobe stubbornly ignoring the writing on the wall?
Danny Winokur, Adobe’s VP and GM of Flash has no plans to give up on Flash. Publishers and content creators, he says, are still “really excited” about the technology. However, that doesn’t mean Adobe is rooting against HTML5–in fact, the company has heavily invested in HTML5 with its Edge suite of tools. That would mean that while Adobe is working at Flash, it is also building its bridge to the future paradigm. As for now, Adobe continues to drive innovation on both fronts [of Flash and HTML5]. Not everyone shares Adobe’s long-term support for Flash. Top directors of Google Chrome and Internet Explorer have sung HTML5’s praises; Mozilla Firefox product VP Jay Sullivan is also betting short on Flash stating that HTML5 is the longer-term answer.
Winokur states that the capabilities of Flash will absolutely come to HTML5 over time. He argues that in each round of innovation that is happening across with both platforms, Flash has been trying as aggressively to drive HTML5 innovation–but there are always opportunities to go out and innovate ahead of the standards and bring content publishers the latest and greatest capabilities that are available on devices, and let them take advantage of those things even before they’ve been fully standardized.
Adobe is investing in both [HTML5 and Flash] and is readying both platforms. As and when HTML5 takes over, Adobe would move all its efforts on the HTML5 platform and let drift Flash. However, that might be a long way away to a time when when content publishers are not interested in ongoing investment in Flash.
Gartner estimates that tablets were a 17.6 million market in 2010 and are expected to be 63.6 million units strong in 2011.That is an incredible 261.4% growth. The growth figure is expected to touch 326.6 million units by 2015 according to Gartner.ISuppli puts the 2015 number at 275 million units. Gartner had reduced its forecast for growth in computers sales from 9.3 per cent to 3.2 percent in 2011 and from 12.8 per cent to 10.9 per cent in 2012. This dominance and takeover of the computing world by tablets has so long been good news only to Apple even as Android struggles to get better at the tablet game. iPad 2 single handedly outselling all competing tablets combined and is expected to account for 73.4 per cent of worldwide tablet sales in 2011, down from 83 per cent share in 2010. Gartner expects Apple to maintain 50% of the global tablet marketshare in 2015.. Android tablets are on pace to ship 11 million units in 2011, accounting for 17.3 per cent share in the market up from 14.3 percent market share in 2010. Gartner’s forecast for the Android has been lowered by 28 per cent from last quarter’s projection. The reduction would have been greater had it not been for the success of budget tablets in Asia, and the expectations around the launch of Amazon’s tablet. To many, the third front would be the Microsoft Windows tablets which aren’t yet there on the horizon (not yet!).And yet, late arrival might limit its appeal, especially to consumers, as Apple and Android will be well established in the market by then. The current buzz around Windows 8 driven by the demonstrations seen at the BUILD conference might be short-lived if Microsoft’s push to use the new OS across devices comes at a compromise in usability. Also, the late arrival might limit its appeal, especially to consumers, as Apple and Android will be well established in the market by then.
The relentless growth rate of Indian telecom subscriber addition finally seems to be tapering off. After 12 quarters of double digit sub adds, most of it in the range of 15 million and above, net subscriber adds have hit a 6.67 million figure in July 2011, which is equivalent to the May 2007 level. The GSM net sub adds have tumbled from a 17.16 mln in November 2010 to 5.34 mln (excluding Tata and reliance numbers) in August 2011. That is a drop of 2/3rds in 10 months. This would be putting serious pressure on the revenues and earnings of Telcos.While they have started increasing tariffs to shore up profits, slowdown in new users may yet affect their revenues going forward. The total GSM users base to 611.75 million at the end of August 2011 and the total mobility figure topped 858 million even as tele-population stands close to 900 million at 892.55 mln. In an earlier report Informa Telecoms and Media had predicted the number of active mobile subscriptions in India to rise to 1.159 billion by the end of 2012 making it the largest mobile marketin the world eclipsing China. The Indian telecom market already has a higher subscription penetration rate (75%) compared to China(69%). However, from a revenue perspective, the Indian and Chinese markets paint a very different picture. Informa Telecoms & Media projects that by the end of 2013, the Chinese mobile market will be worth approximately US$107.5 billion, as compared to India’s mobile market, which is set to be worth approximately US$35.5 billion. China’s mobile data market by the end of 2014 will be worth more than the entire Indian mobile market. The intense competition dominating India’s mobile market has made its impact on mobile ARPU, which is on average nationwide now US$3, as compared to China where mobile ARPU is just over US$10. Informa projects that India’s mobile data market will be worth approximately US$9 billion in 2014, up from US$2.3 billion in 2008 as subscribers in urban areas increasingly use their handsets to access multimedia services, and utility type services such as mobile payments and banking become more widespread in rural areas and smaller towns.
Key strategic initiatives by Telcos in India now revolves around data services – the operator views non-voice services as being intrinsic to its growth strategy as its customer base continues to grow and as it seeks to offset the ongoing fall in voice revenues. The rising popularity of messaging services, future availability of 3G/DO services and strong growth of mobile Internet and broadband will boost mobile data revenues in India during the next five years.
Out of the total 858.37 Million subscribers, 601.73 Million subscribers were active subscribers on the date of Peak VLR for the month of July 2011. The proportion of VLR subscribers is approximately 70.65% of the total wireless subscriber base reported by Telcos. Ever since the introduction of MNP, roughly 2% (15.54 mln subs) of the mobile population have opted out of their older service providers to join others.
Data: Informa, COAI, TRAI
In an earlier post about the growth rush on Tablets, I had mentioned how Android has lost ground to Blackberry and Apple in Tablets in Q3, 2011. Given the $99 gold rush on the HP Touchpad, Android is not expected to recover any ground in Q3, 2011 and it will only be Q4, 2011 before Androids make a pushback into market share for tablets. Amazon has already been battling its problems in platform fragmentation for a while now and hopes to put this to rest with the Android 4.0 Ice-cream Sandwich release. In that context, Amazon’s intent to sell its Kindle tablet with its custom built on Android platform was seen as another splinter in the multi-splinter Android platform. Read about fragmentation in Android platform
On second thoughts however, Amazon’s customisation of Android for its Kindle Tablet could actually be better for the tablet market. The full colour Amazon Kindle tablet will be based on Android 2.1, with layers of customization on top. The user interface, touch gestures and other features will be optimized for accessing Amazon content via its Website, which has just been upgraded with bigger buttons and spacing to make it more easily accessible using touch screens. Amazon’s brand could propel more development for its own content, creating a “better ecosystem” than currently exists for tablet users accessing Google’s Android Market store. Its reach is so broad that it can easily entice Android developers to create apps just for its version of the Android platform, sold exclusively through Amazon’s own Android store. There are over 100 Honeycomb applications, compared with over 100,000 apps for Apple’s iPad. With Amazon behind it, the Kindle Tablet ecosystem could foster tens of thousands of apps, if not more. The result, combined with a sub-$300 (£190) price point, is a product that folks would classify as a winner.
• Thanks to Amazon’s brand, the Kindle Tablet could quickly become the dominant Android tablet platform that developers support, with an Appstore that consumers will come to trust
• Amazon’s online expertise would make it harder for Samsung, HTC and other Android tablet vendors to compete with itself and Apple on the app store front.
• Arguably, Amazon with its DNA of online retail could ensure they would build a more competitive platform to take on Apple and Android.
• Amazon could worry Apple as the only tablet maker with considerable clout in brand, applications and content – where Apple is strongest.
2012 is the year of return of Android or rather the takeover of Android in tablets. However, Barclay’s has released a report predicting 6.4mln Android tablet sales in 2012 which is a few multiples of the 2011 Android numbers, but far less than the 50 million iPads that are expected to be sold in 2012. But it is nice to know someone else with staying power is trying. Amazon could make the run up to Christmas interesting.
Reference Posts on Android Fragmentations: Fragmentation versus Open Source
It is certainly a most tempting thought! Imaginations tend to get fired up in context of the Google-Moto acquisition even while,currently, Microsoft is most keen and focussed on WP mango launch and its success. If and when they are able to establish the WP consumer acceptance, there could be a scenario of taking over Nokia.I would endeavour to answer this Question on two levels
The Benefits of Microsoft acquiring Nokia
Mobility majors (Apple & Google) have in-house hardware competencies. In case of Google it was acquired through Motorola. The idea of having in-house hardware competencies was to have end to end capabilities in terms of service provision to consumers. Apple leads the way here with a seamless hardware and service coupling for creating an unparalleled user experience. It also gives them a global reach into consumer markets through were well tiered distribution channels. Also remember, Microsoft is not averse to forays into devices as in the case of Zune,XBox and Kinect. If WP acquires critical mass, Microsoft has a case for acquiring Nokia and staking out devices.
Why Microsoft wouldnt acquire Nokia
It is one thing to do end to end and quite another thing doing it well. More and more organizations are focussing on their competencies and getting out of the low margin hardware businesses. The example here is HP or even IBM for that matter. Microsoft could continue focusssing on creating software, services and unique consumer experiences (Kinect anyone?).Microsoft has enough and more discrete elements in terms of software services which if it is able to integrate will be revenue stream into future.
My guess on the future of the Microsoft-Nokia tie up is that if WP matches upto the scale that Microsoft envisions it to, we might see Microsoft acquiring Nokia.
Media tablet shipments grew at a solid pace in the second quarter, led by continued strong demand for Apple products. The growth in tablet shipments through Q2, 2011 continues unabated as shipments rose by 88.9 percent between the first and second quarters, or 303.8 percent year-over-year. Apple continued its stranglehold of the global tablet shipments by uping its market share from 65.7% in Q1, 2011 to 68.3% in Q2, 2011.RIM which entered the market during the second quarter with the BB Playbook cornered 4.9% of the market share and most of this gain was at the cost of Android tablets. Android tablets, which previously held 34 percent of the market during the first quarter of the year, fell to 26.8 percent in the second quarter.
Android which is ruling the smartphone charts is expected to loose a little more in Q3, 2011 due to the $99 HP Touchpad numbers. HP in the mean time is expected to do a 4.7% cameo in Tablet market shares in Q3,2011 before going out of the tablet markets altogether. Even if a recovery for Android’s is sighted in Q4,2011, Apple will hold on to a 40% delta/differential share between itself and Android.
However, what looks increasingly possible is the emergence of a third competitor to iPad dominance and its is expected that Windows 8 powered devices could take this position to themselves. The case for QNX powered Playbooks doesnt look strong and HP Touchpad will exit in Q4, 2011 giving Microsoft an opening of 10% market share if the WP OEMs are able to leverage Microsoft’s superior platform, robust OS, enterprise back-integration and the MS eco-system to market their devices best.
The tablet markets are still on their ascendance and the size of the pie is growing. Apple seems to have taken a pole position in terms of its exclusivity, unmatched user experience and its ability to connect through the alll other Apple devices. Android’s look increasingly like they would own up the consumer segment and would keep penetrating lower in terms of reach and pricing and thus the massification of the Android tablet. The WP tablet could take the enterprise leverage which Windows anyways has and would backward integrate with the legacy systems which thus could be a very strong position.
By March 2013, Deloitte expects that worldwide, 35% of the overall tablet PC base of around 100 million units will be delivered by iPhones, 40% by Android-based tablets, 15% by Windows-based tablets and the remaining by other technologies.