Kindle Fire HD International – Kindle Fire HD in 170 countries

Kindle Fire HD is going international. Kindle Fire HD is available for pre-order in a massive 170 countries.

Amazon expanding to 170 countries is very impressive. Kindle Fire HD was only available in US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, and Italy. Going international to 170 countries should do a lot for Kindle Fire HD sales and should increase the chance Amazon can keep competing with iPad and with Android Tablets.

TechCrunch had the news on Kindle Fire HD International. The key details are –

  1. Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ will be available in 170 countries on June 13th.
  2. Preorders for Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ are open today.
  3. Kindle Fire HD International will be $214 – converted to local currency.
  4. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ International will be $284 – again, converted to local currency.
  5. Kindle Fire App Store (Amazon App Store) will be available in 200 countries.
  6. Kindle Fire App Store will have following two games free today and tomorrow – Fruit Ninja and Cut the Rope: Experiments. Update: It seems these are free only in countries the App Store is expanding to.

You can buy Kindle Fire HD at Amazon.

You can see all the details in the Kindle Fire HD International Press Release.

Why Kindle Fire HD International Expansion is critical to Amazon’s Hopes

Amazon is in a tough spot.

  1. Kindle Fire HD did well last Holiday season and is showing life. However, it still trails iPad and iPad Mini sales by a lot.
  2. iPad Mini is eating into the 7″ Tablet Market. A new iPad Mini, perhaps with Retina Display, might arrive this year.
  3. iPad Mini and iPad have much better economies of scale.
  4. Android Tablets keep improving. There are rumors of a new Google Nexus 7 2 with Retina level display.
  5. If Amazon doesn’t expand fast, and increase sales fast, then the conversation will become iPad vs Android (perhaps even iPad vs Samsung Tablets).
  6. If Amazon doesn’t sell more, and get economies of scale going, then iPad and Nexus 7 will be able to destroy it on Value for Money. They already have massive App Stores and Amazon is playing catch-up there. If Amazon can’t keep prices competitive (i.e. lower) then it’ll lose the Tablet Wars.
  7. A lot of Amazon’s plans of transitioning from selling CDs, DVDs, paper books to selling Digital Content depend on it controlling the channel to customers. If it doesn’t, then it’ll exist at the mercy of other Ecosystems.

Kindle Fire HD isn’t just a Tablet, and winning the Tablet Wars for Amazon isn’t just about being the best-selling Tablet. Kindle Fire HD is Amazon’s storefront of the future. If Amazon loses the Tablet Wars, it’ll eventually lose the ‘selling digital content’ wars.

How will Kindle Fire HD International do?

Amazon’s move is interesting and the pricing is even more interesting.

  1. iPad Mini and Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab have much larger App Stores. Amazon is carefully building up its App Store, but it’s still far behind. This move will help develop the App Store in the long run. Why? It’ll add more Kindle Fire HD owners. That will give developers more incentive to make apps for Kindle Fire HD. However, as of today, Amazon is at a disadvantage when it comes to App Store range and choice and size.
  2. Apple and Google have much stronger brands worldwide. Amazon is strong in some countries like US, UK, Canada, and perhaps 5-6 more. However, it has very little presence beyond the 8-10 countries where it has subsidiaries.
  3. The price of $214 for the Kindle Fire HD is not compelling. It was different with the eInk Kindle as there were very few other established eReader companies. There are lots of Tablet giants like Apple, Samsung, and Google. They can easily compete with a $214 Kindle Fire HD International.
  4. It’s interesting that Amazon is pushing the ‘Kindle Fire is a Service’ concept. Amazon mentions in the Kindle Fire HD International Press Release that ‘Kindle is a service, and not just a device’. How strong is the service outside the US and UK? Do these new countries have things like Amazon Prime and Amazon Instant Video?
  5. The HD Display and the Speakers are two big strengths. However, Samsung keeps churning out Tablets, a new iPad Mini might arrive this year, and Google’s Nexus 7 2 is rumored to have a much better display. What happens then? Will Kindle Fire HD be attractive? Is it attractive now? What reason would a user in Swaziland have for choosing a $214 Kindle Fire HD over a $329 iPad Mini or a $229 Nexus 7?
  6. Perhaps Amazon has a lot of stock and wants to expand sales worldwide to sell stock? Perhaps Amazon feels expanding worldwide is necessary for hitting economies of scale? Perhaps Amazon was forced into Kindle Fire HD international expansion sooner than it would like. The way all of this is set up is very strange – a sudden announcement, a price of $214, no grand strategy, using a Kindle Fire HD from 6-7 months ago.
  7. Amazon seems to be using its standard ‘Preorders in advance’ trick. It likes to announce a product a month or so in advance. This allows it to gauge demand and adjust production accordingly.

I honestly don’t know how Kindle Fire HD will do. I wasn’t expecting it to be the #2 Tablet in Holiday Season 2012. It might very well end up being the #2 Tablet after iPad Mini worldwide. The only thing is, worldwide is a different kettle of fish. In the US, Amazon has a huge share of online retail sales. During Holiday Season it can really leverage its traffic and push Kindle Fire sales. It also has so many customers in the US – customers that trust it. Worldwide, Amazon doesn’t have the same advantages.

It’ll be really good if Kindle Fire HD International takes off. It’s the scrappy little fighters like Nook Color that start off trends. If Kindle Fire HD International takes off, then it pushes Apple and Google and Samsung to improve their Tablets. Additionally, Amazon’s policy of ‘price low, make money from services’ forces other Tablet makers to price their own tablets lower. Let’s hope Kindle Fire HD International is a hit, and it allows Amazon to scale up and continue to chase iPad Mini and Samsung Tab and Google Nexus 7. That’ll force the entire Tablet Market to improve and innovate. Better for all of us.

Would Google Play, Google Apps be a negative for Kindle Fire HD Owners?

It’s very interesting to see the reaction of existing Nook HD and HD+ owners to the addition of Google Play to Nook HD and HD+.

How Nook owners react to Google Play is important and relevant because Amazon MIGHT (and the key word is MIGHT) add Google Play to Kindle Fire HD at some point of time in the future. It has to either add Google Play or cut the price or come up with some other means to compete effectively.

Kindle Fire HD needs to find some competitive advantages.

The 30-40-30 Divide – Some Nook Owners actually don’t want Google Play

While the reaction in the Press has been almost unanimous.

Nook HD with Google Play is now the best Android Tablet. Nook HD with Google Play is ‘One of the Best’ Android Tablets now. Nook HD is so open its battery and processor are falling out.

The reaction from users, actual users who paid $199 to buy the Nook HD before it had Google Play, is mixed.

  1. Approximately 30% love it. They think it makes Nook HD and HD+ a better device. Some of them talk about buying more Nook HDs for their family. Note: These are people who think it’s a definite improvement. They seem to be veering towards either splitting purchases between B&N and Google or shifting over to Google.
  2. Approximately 40% like it but prefer the Nook Store. What does that mean? They like having Google Play as an option. They still consider the in-built Nook ebook store and the Nook Videos Store and the Nook App Store as their first choice.
  3. The most interesting group are the 30% who don’t like the change. There are many reasons (which we’ll get into later). However, there is a very clear group of users that doesn’t like the addition of Google Play.

Let’s start by understanding the pros and cons of adding Google Play to a device. This will set the tone for the rest of the post.

What Google Play actually brings to the Tablet

There are a lot of good things about having Google Play added to a Tablet –

  1. Choice in App Stores. You get the existing App Store plus you get Google Play.
  2. Choice in eBook Stores. You get apps for Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Blio, etc. via Google Play. Suddenly your device can access all the major ebook stores. Kindle Fire HD owners would be able to buy and read books from B&N and Kobo and any ebook store that makes an Android App.
  3. Choice in Movie and Music Stores. You get Google Videos and Music. That forces the device maker to improve their own offerings.
  4. Wider Range of Apps. Amazon’s Kindle Fire Store has 50,000 to 60,000 Apps. Perhaps 500 to 1,500 of those are top quality. Android Store has 700,000 Apps. Perhaps 3,000 of them are top quality, optimized for Tablets, and not yet available in Kindle Fire App Store. An increase from 1,500 top quality apps to 4,500 top quality apps is a tripling and very significant. This is especially important if you want a niche app or a local app. Those are mostly made for Apple App Store and Android App Store.
  5. Official Google Apps. If you want GMail or Google Maps or another official Google App, now you get it.
  6. Lots of Free Apps. Android is an advertising based platform. Amazon is a mix of advertising and paid. The number of free apps in the Android Store is massive. So you can now, if you choose so, stop paying for apps completely.
  7. Increase in Value of the Tablet. The resale value just went up because there will now be a lot more people interested in the Tablet.

There are, unfortunately, some bad things about getting Google Play (it might be hard to believe, but it isn’t all unicorns and puppies) –

  1. The inclusion of Google Play is only allowed if a bunch of Google Apps are also installed. Some are set as defaults. These Apps are a problem because they run in the background and do all sorts of strange things. They send data to Google’s Cloud and download ads and eat up battery life. Nook owners have reported huge decreases in battery life (cut to 1/4th, cut to 1/2). Decreases that went away when these Nook owners disabled the default Google Apps. Note: This is possible due to Nook HD and HD+ having a profiles feature that lets you disable apps for certain profiles. Not sure if a similar feature exists for Kindle Fire HD.
  2. The default browser gets replaced by Chrome. This is perhaps a requirement for getting Google Play store. This creates two problems – you are switched to a browser you might not be familiar with, the Tablet version of Chrome is terrible (it’s the only version I’ve used). It’s interesting how many Nook users are switching to another browser (over 50% of them). Makes me wonder how Chrome managed to get a large market share on the Desktop.
  3. Google Play has more high quality Tablet optimized apps (4,000 or more versus 1,500 or so for Amazon Store). However, the signal to noise ratio is poor. You have to weed through 700,000 Apps to get to those 4,000 Apps. At least with the Kindle Fire App Store you know there’s some level of curation. Finding 4,000 top-notch apps in a store of 700,000 (approximately 1 out of 200) is a bit of a pain. By comparison, in the Kindle Fire App Store, you can find 1,500 top-notch apps out of the 60,000 available (1 out of 40). So it’s roughly 4-5 times tougher to find good apps in the Android Store.
  4. Google Play Store is not curated. Hello Viruses & Malware! Google Play Store is Open. You can just write your app, bundle any virus or malware you like into the App, and submit it. There’s no human curation or human check. Recently, tens of millions of Android devices got the ‘Bad News’ malware through Android Apps. You need an Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware program. Which has to run all the time to work well. There goes performance and speed.
  5. Loss of Familiarity. You go from the nice closed Amazon ecosystem that you are used to, to an ecosystem that’s very open and a bit wild. Google software is very aggressive about things like checking for updates. There are lots of options everywhere. It’s a lot more technical. It’s not as user-friendly. One thing that Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD did very well is hide a lot of the complexity and make things dead simple to use. Add back Google Apps and Google Play and you run into problems. Firstly, it’s new and unfamiliar. Secondly, it’s not that simple to use. Thirdly, the Google Play store and apps will clash with the Kindle App Store and Apps for resources.
  6. Google gets to track you. Keep in mind that this is a company that hopes to one day ‘tell you what you should do, even before you realize it yourself’. It gets a wealth of information about you and your behavior. You can minimize this by not using a Google browser and by avoiding the in-built Google Apps. I doubt Google has access to user data from non-Google Browsers and from non-Google Apps.
  7. Lots of Android Apps track your data and sell it. Since the focus is on free Apps, it creates incentives for the developers to find other ways to make money. One is Advertisements. Another is In-App Purchases (watch out if you have kids). The most dangerous is ‘Selling User Data’. There are lots of companies willing to buy user data profiles and user data. Quite a few Android developers do collect and sell data. A study found that even some of the big brands do this on Android.

As you can see, it’s not all peaches and cream in the Open Land of the Free Everything.

Whether it be the battery life and wireless costs of apps running in the background and downloading ads. Whether it be the privacy lost as apps track you and upload your usage data. Whether it be the always running Google Apps and their own data collection. Whether it be the risk of viruses. You’ve suddenly gone from a nice, safe ecosystem to a wildly open and openly wild ecosystem.

Revisiting the 40-30-30 Divide

Now, the 40-30-30 divide makes more sense –

  1. The first 30% either don’t care about or don’t know about the hidden costs of having Google’s Open and Benevolent App Store. For them, all that matters is the wider choice of apps, and the fact that most of them are free.
  2. The second 40% like having the choice. However, either due to familiarity with, and preference for, the in-built App Store, or due to a good understanding of the risks of the Android Store, these users prefer the in-built store. Google Play is just a good second option.
  3. The third 30% are the users who either just don’t need, or just don’t like, the Google App Store. Perhaps some of them understand the drawbacks of having an uncurated, open, and wild App Store and the downsides of always running Google Apps. Perhaps they simply don’t like the trade-off.

What was stunning to me was that 70% of Nook HD owners didn’t care very much about the addition of Google Play Store. Even more stunning was that 30% of users disliked it. Sometimes we take what the tech press preaches as gospel. Then we’re hit by actual users’ reality.

Of course, we aren’t addressing all the people who will buy Nook HD and HD+ now, due to the availability of the Google Play Store. Perhaps millions. However, if we look at the 1 million or so users who bought Nook HD and HD+, it’s very interesting to see that Google Play matters a lot to only 30%.

Perhaps it’s self-selection bias. Those most likely to get a Kindle Fire HD or a Nook HD are probably the users who care least about the Google Play Store.

Whatever the reason, the reaction of Nook HD owners to Google Play Store might hold some important lessons for Amazon.

Existing Kindle Fire HD users might not care very much about Google Play Store

If Kindle Fire HD owners are similar to Nook HD owners (and there is a lot of similarity), 70% of Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire owners don’t care very much about having Google Play Store.

30% of existing Kindle Fire HD owners might actively dislike the addition of the Google Play Store. 40% might not care very much whether or not it exists.

It’s important to note that all/most of these users bought Kindle Fire HD knowing that it didn’t have Google Play Store.

Thus, the question changes from

  • What should Amazon do to compete with Nook HD? Should it add Google Play Store?


  • What percentage of future Kindle Fire HD owners want Google Play? What percentage consider the lack of availability of Google Play Store on Kindle Fire HD a deal breaker?

My assumption would be that only 30% of current Kindle Fire HD owners, and only 35% to 40% of prospective Kindle Fire HD owners, care deeply about Google Play Store.

That’s a pretty big number. No company in the Tablet Space can afford to turn away 35% to 40% of prospective customers. However, what’s really surprising to me is the other part of the equation.

  1. That 60% to 65% of people who will EVER buy a Kindle Fire HD or any Kindle Fire don’t care. They simply don’t care enough about Google Play for it to be a deal breaker.
  2. That nearly half of these people consider the absence of Google Play and Google Apps on the Kindle Fire HD a good thing.

Of course, there’s another twist. What type of customers is Amazon after? Does Amazon want Google Android type customers or does it want Apple iPad type customers?

Adding Google Play might be the death knell for Amazon’s hopes of competing with iPad and iPad Mini

In the above discussions we’ve considered ‘People looking to buy an Android Tablet’.

What about ‘People looking to buy the Best Tablet’?

That’s where things get really interesting. All the negatives of adding Google Play Store to the Kindle Fire HD matter to these people.

Quick Reminder – Google Apps are preinstalled and forced on users, Chrome browser is forced on users, it’s difficult to find high quality apps in the Google Play Store, there’s a risk of catching viruses and spyware, Google and some Android Apps track you and take your information.

Additional Note: Most Android software is not intuitive or user friendly (including Google’s own Apps). It’s not just the always running and always collecting data aspects, it’s also the lack of ease of use and the lack of simplicity.

These are all things that might not matter much to users looking for ‘The Cheapest Tablet with the most Free Apps’. They matter a lot to users looking for ‘The Best Tablet with the Best Experience and the Best Apps’.

Quite interestingly, users who want quality, and who are willing to pay for quality, are much likelier to want to avoid the downsides of the Google Android experience. That makes a lot of sense.

Please Note: It’s not an indictment of Android. Android is excellent for users who are tech-savvy or who are OK with the model of Free Software supported by advertising and data collection. Android is great for a particular set of users. We’re talking about a different set of users.

Users who are willing to pay $250 and $350 and $450 and $550 for Tablets. Well, they might not be too happy if Amazon moves away from the curated, safe, no-hassles ecosystem of Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and moves towards Google’s Open and Chaotic ecosystem.

In fact, they probably want the exact opposite – For Kindle Fire HD to become easier and higher quality and more curated. To save them even more times and hassle. To be even more intuitive.

Think about the idea Tablet Experience if you don’t have tight budgetary restrictions and aren’t technologically inclined – Extreme Ease of Use, High Quality Curation, Complete Protection against Malware and Viruses, More Simplicity, No Hassles, Not having to think too much to get things done.

Amazon has to pick who it competes against

I think Jeff Bezos had the right idea when he started the whole ‘The Best Tablet … At Any Price’ iPad vs Kindle Fire HD comparison last year.

He just had the wrong Tablet.

The Kindle Fire HD is still a long ways from competing against the iPad Mini and the iPad. Let alone winning. However, setting up the ‘Kindle Fire HD vs iPad’ comparison was excellent for a few reasons.

  1. It set the bar high. Why compete against the 2nd best Tablet when you can compete against the best.
  2. It creates a lot of buzz. The Press are all in a tizzy that someone would dare compete with their darling Apple.
  3. It goes after the best customers. Those who are willing to pay for quality in hardware, software, ecosystem and experience.

It’s interesting to notice that Microsoft is doing something similar. Surface Pro and RT aren’t aimed at the Android crowd. They’re aimed at the corporate and high-end markets.

Perhaps more and more companies are realizing that it’s better to get 80% of the Profits and 20% of the Overall Market. Let someone else take all the customers of low profitability. Perhaps companies are realizing that if Samsung can use Apple’s model to start eating up Apple’s profit streams, then so can they.

Amazon has a very interesting decision to make as Android gobbles up more and more Tablet Market Share. As B&N and other players capitulate to the Little Green Peeping Tom Robot. Does it want to replace Apple? Does it want to split Apple’s market? Does it want to replace Android?

Kindle Fire HD’s future direction, and its survival, will depend on what option Amazon chooses.

Kindle Fire HD thoughts – 10 Kindle Fire HD musings

Just Kindle Fire HD thoughts that have been on my mind –

  1. If Amazon is making a Kindle Phone 3D with holographic screen technology, and it is a big IF, then it would make sense to make a high-end Kindle Fire HD with the same technology. Surely, in a world where everyone is looking to Apple for innovation, and where Apple is stuck thinking flat design and thinner casing are innovations, a Tablet with holographic 3D technology would be a hit. It might even get some hipster baristas and ‘look, I can bump other Samsung Phones’ people to switch allegiance.
  2. Is Amazon too late to the smart phone market? TechCrunch shares a Gartner Report that says 75% of Smartphones shipped in Q1 were Android, with 30% being Samsung. Apple had 18% market share (although perhaps 57% of the profit share). Total sales were flat. So Kindle Phone might run into a few big problems – The Market stops growing, The Market has too much competition, There are entrenched ecosystems. On the other hand, it’s such a huge market. There also doesn’t seem to be any REAL innovation going on (things like Siri and bumping phones and NFC don’t seem revolutionary to me). It’s like we’re in 2007 and need a new envisioning of the phone. The actual Smart Phone Market Share Report from Gartner is worth reading – the tables are fascinating.
  3. Is Nook HD stealing Kindle Fire HD Sales? With B&N having added Google Play to Nook HD and with the Mother’s Day Sale at $149, Amazon was forced to reduce the price of the Kindle Fire HD to $179. However, that was just a Mother’s Day discount plus it doesn’t seem enough. Google Play is a big deal. Kindle Fire HD might need a permanent discount. At some point Amazon will have to make a move. Perhaps a permanent price cut to $159. Perhaps add Google Play. Amazon might be super reluctant to open up its ecosystem to Google, so the price cut seems the path it will take.
  4. Will the new Google Nexus 7 2 steal Kindle Fire HD Sales? If the rumors hold up, Nexus 7 2 will be a pretty compelling device. IGN claims a 1920 by 1200 screen resolution, a NFC chip, wireless charging, a HD front camera, and a 5MP rear camera. All this while keeping the price at $199. That screen sounds interesting and wireless charging doesn’t sound bad either.
  5. What iPad Mini will Apple release? How will it impact Kindle Fire HD? If Apple really releases an iPad Mini Retina this year, it will definitely have significant impact on Kindle Fire HD sales. Perhaps worse are the rumors that iPad Mini Retina is being delayed to 2014. Why? Because the rumors claim Apple will release a cheap iPad Mini 2 to make up for the delay of the iPad Mini Retina. A cheap $229 iPad Mini 2 would do a lot more damage to Kindle Fire HD sales than a $349 Retina iPad Mini.
  6. Amazon has a lot of patents that could be used to supply technology for future Kindle Fire HDs. The Foldable Tablet patent. The Gesture Recognition One. Eye Tracking. Advertisements inside eBooks. Amazon also bought Liquavista (Color eInk Technology for Color Kindle) and that screen might make it to a future Kindle Fire HD.
  7. There were rumors that Microsoft was looking to buy B&N’s Nook division. The rumors also claimed that Nook eReader and Tablet sales were a combined 10 million units. What does that say about Kindle and Kindle Fire sales? It suggests a range of 18 million to 30 million total sales for Kindles and Kindle Fires. Amazon still uses ‘millions of Kindle Fires’ when talking about the opportunity for Kindle Fire App developers. Why would it miss the opportunity to crow about ‘tens of millions of Kindle Fires’? Could Kindle Fire sales be less than 10 million? I would have thought perhaps 12 to 15 million Kindle Fires have been sold so far. Perhaps it’s less.
  8. At what point does increasing screen resolution for Tablets become too much? Kindle Fire HD has 1280 by 800 and it’s pretty good. Nook HD has 1440 by 900 and it’s better but not by much. If Google Nexus 7 2 really has 1920 by 1200 screen resolution that would mean it has roughly the same screen resolution on a 7″ Tablet as the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+ have on 9″ Tablets. Is it even meaningful? Do we really need to be able to see every eyelash?
  9. Is Wearable Computing going to arrive in 2014? How will it impact Kindle Fire HD and Tablets? There are very strong rumors that in addition to Google Glass we’ll see wearable computing from multiple other companies (Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Apple). We already have some smart watches available (the Pebble is one). Will these cut into Tablet sales? The argument is that they will be much more convenient and portable than Tablets. That they will have the ‘New’ and ‘Cool’ factor. The counter-argument is that the screen size will be too small.
  10. What is Amazon’s pain threshold for Kindle Fire Tablet Sales? Let’s suppose that wearable computing becomes big and/or some revolutionary new Tablet arrives (no, not with scented page turns). Kindle Fire HD Sales slow down. Would Amazon stick with the Kindle Fire? For how long?

The last point is one that’s been on my mind. Nook HD is rumored to be the last B&N Tablet. The opening up of Nook HD and HD+ to Google Play is already a capitulation of all the investment B&N put into the Nook. What if Amazon faces the same situation in 6 to 12 months? Kindle Fire HD sales slowing down. Unsold stock. Would it capitulate? Would it keep fighting the Tablet Wars? For how long?