Will Kindle Fire, Tablets be around in 5 years?

Blackberry CEO Thorsten Heins made quite a bold prediction regarding the future of tablets today (Courtesy Bloomberg) –

“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore,” Heins said in an interview yesterday at the Milken Institute conference in Los Angeles. “Maybe a big screen in your workspace, but not a tablet as such. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.”

At first glance, it seems to be wishful thinking. The CEO of a company that failed quite spectacularly in the Tablet Market (with the Blackberry Playbook) assumes that –

  1. In 5 Years there won’t be tablets. Though the precise statement he made was – In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet.
  2. Tablets themselves are not a good business model.

It’s interesting that Bloomberg didn’t choose to mention –

  1. The amount of profit Apple is making from the iPad.
  2. Whatever amount of money Microsoft is making from Android Tablet makers (Patent Licensing Fees).
  3. Whatever amount Google is making from iPad users and Android Tablet users via search revenues.

Surely, those are all ‘good business models’?

The Blackberry CEO’s statement seems like the Fox saying the Grapes are Sour and He never wanted them anyways.

Here’s the problem though – Tablets have never really had any Unique and Irreplaceable Function.

First, let’s try to play Devil’s Advocate and figure out if the Blackberry CEO’s wishful thinking might be closer to reality than we realize. Then, we’ll look at the opposite argument and see if Tablets have a very long future. Finally, we’ll look at whether Kindle Fire can survive or not.

What if the Blackberry CEO is right and Tablets won’t have a reason to exist in 5 years?

Here are a few points to think about –

  1. Apple made the Tablet Market viable. However, before that we had Microsoft and others (including Apple themselves, with the Newton) try and fail to make Tablets a viable market.
  2. No one is quite sure what Tablets’ unique irreplaceable functionality is. This is getting even harder to figure out now that Phones are getting bigger and bigger.
  3. Tablets don’t really have any ‘Killer App’ that makes them irreplaceable.
  4. Phones are much better for portability. Laptops are much better for ‘doing things’ when mobile. Desktops are much better for doing ‘intensive tasks’. Tablets are consumption oriented and mobility enhancing – However, phones and ‘Phablets’ are quickly becoming a viable alternative.
  5. What if Apple had simply become very good at creating ‘technological fashion trends’ and iPad was a supreme demonstration of that. What if the iPad and the subsequent success of 7″ Tablets and the iPad Mini are just a ‘technology trend’ and not some great step forward?

Perhaps the most striking thing about Tablets is that they are, for lack of a better word, a luxury. Could you survive without your phone? Probably Not. Without your Tablet? Sure. The inconvenience of not having a Tablet to browse stuff on while watching TV is not that big an inconvenience (contrary to whatever our first world problems obsessed minds might think).

There is no equivalent to ‘making a phone call’ for Tablets. Nothing that’s ‘absolutely necessary and no other device is as well made for’. Watching Netflix on the couch doesn’t really qualify as absolutely critical.

In terms of the future, the most dangerous threats for Tablets are –

  1. Larger Phones. Now that we’re getting into 5.5″ and 6″ screens, what real difference is there between Tablets and Phones?
  2. Projection Screens and New Screen Technologies. The minute someone makes a viable screen (perhaps a pico projector based screen projecting technology), Tablets suddenly lose their one big advantage over phones (a larger screen size).
  3. Things like Voice Based computing and Gesture Based Computing also threaten Tablets (for the exact same reason – Tablet’s only real advantage is screen size).
  4. Wearable computing like Watches and Google Glass are a threat.
  5. As laptops become thinner and lighter, and (perhaps most importantly) get better battery life, they are a threat.
  6. Hybrid devices like Microsoft Surface are a threat. Of course, if you love Tablets you could claim Surface is an evolution of the Tablet and not really a separate device.
  7. Most of all, the ‘technological fashion trends’ are a threat. My guess would be that at least 50% of Tablet owners bought a Tablet due to non-enduring factors such as ‘buying the new, new thing’ and ‘coolness’ and ‘showing off their financial means’ and ‘buying it because everyone else is buying it’ and ‘because it’s more convenient for some stuff than laptops’. If Apple were to come out with an iWatch, or if Google Glass were to become the ‘new, exciting technology’ – What real reason would these people have to buy Tablets in the future?

What are we driving towards?

The realization that Thorsten Heins may or may not be right in saying – In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.

However, we can’t really answer the question – What REAL reason do we have to have Tablets right now? Are they simply the result of Apple becoming super good at selling people stuff that makes them feel good and in possession of ‘technological coolness’? Are they simply a transition phase (like Netbooks before them were) to a more convenient personal computing device?

If we don’t have any REAL reasons, even right now, for Tablets to stick around. Well, then who knows what might happen in 5 years. Odds are that Tablets will become quite a bit less relevant.

Reasons why the Blackberry CEO might be wrong and Tablets might stick around for 10-20 years

There are actually quite a few good reasons that Tablets might stick around –

  1. The Momentum. We have a lot of Tablet sales plus we have lots of people who’ve been in the ‘I want a Tablet but can’t afford one’ bucket. It might take 10-20 years to fulfill that EVEN if much better technologies come out and make Tablets redundant.
  2. Worldwide Expansion. Tablets are still spreading. It’s worth nothing that there is one argument here in favor of ‘Tablets are going to go away in 5 years’ i.e. Tablet buying is limited to certain demographics and is not very widespread in countries where Tablets are popular.
  3. There might not be a new ‘super strong technological fashion trend’. Steve Jobs isn’t around to make iWatch or Google Glass or Talking iUnderwear the new must-have device. Who’s going to convince people desperate to find meaning and coolness from meaningless devices and Prada belts that this new Technology X is going to make them feel good and special and rich and beautiful (as Tablets supposedly make them feel)? Where are the cool dancing happy people convincing them to buy Technology Y? The Surface Ads do try. Wouldn’t that be crazy – Microsoft setting the new fashion trends in devices and making Surface RT the new conspicuous consumption flag bearer.
  4. Tablets might be the sweet spot for the 80% of the population that just wants to consume technology and not create anything. Perhaps the great next step in the evolution of the human race is a period of extended Entertainment Ingestion – where people sit around on couches all the time and watch reruns of Friends and marvel at how far humanity has evolved. That we can all sit around and do nothing with thousands of years’ worth of technological advancements.
  5. Tablets might be better than laptops and desktops for most people IF (and it is an IF) they mostly just surf the web and check email and check Facebook.
  6. People might want a device that is completely pointless. It’s like entertainment. The big winning advantage of Tablets might be that it’s the one device where you know there’s no danger of ‘work’ happening.
  7. Tablets might be the simplest thing ever invented for users unfamiliar or scared of technology. Again, Steve Jobs is gone so who’s going to create something that’s more ‘easy and accessible’ for normal human beings. Most technology people have the unique gift of thinking their grandmother had a time travel machine and used it to learn assembler coding.

Reasons 5 and 6 are the big ones. Tablets might be really good and might last precisely for the twin reasons everyone shafts them for – They are dead simple to use & They have no ‘productive’ use (perhaps most Tablet users want ZERO productive use from their entertainment Tablets/devices).

Tablets might survive for a long, long time precisely for those two reasons.

Quick Thought: My money is actually on Tablets going away in the long term. In 15-20 years. Keep in mind that we had a similar crazy ramp-up with Netbooks. They fell as soon as Tablets arrived on the scene. Technology cycles are getting shorter and shorter. PCs have stuck around for 30-40 years. Tablets might get just half of that – which would mean that by 2018 to 2021, Tablets might be completely gone. And then we will wish they hadn’t been beaten out by iContacts and StalkerGoggles.

What about Kindle Fire? Will Kindle Fire be around in 5 years?

That’s a really good question.

The reasons for it to be around in 5 years are –

  1. As long as there is a Tablet Market Amazon, is going to sell Tablets. That’s just my gut feeling.
  2. Kindle Fires are actually mini Amazon Stores. Amazon will keep selling them as long as people are willing to carry around a mini-Amazon store in their hands. Amazon’s motivations to sell Tablets are MUCH stronger than anyone else’s.
  3. Amazon isn’t a fashion company. What I mean is that Amazon doesn’t have to find the next technological fashion to survive. It can afford to sell uncool things like eReaders. It will perhaps sell Tablets long after people think Watches and Stalker Goggles are the Fashion of the Year.
  4. Amazon is going to cater to people who can’t afford the high-end Tablets and there are a lot more of those people. Which means Amazon’s Kindle Fire will have 5-10 years more life than high-end Tablets. Even if iPads die out in 10-15 years, Kindle Fires can go on for a further 10 years just by selling to people with lower incomes.
  5. Amazon might view Tablets as the best delivery device for digital items.

The reasons Kindle Fire might not be around in 5 years –

  1. Apple might, in a moment of desperation, release a very low priced iPad Mini. Apple has a terrible dilemma – Cut iPad and iPad Mini prices and lower profit margins OR Keep iPad and iPad Mini prices high and lose market share. We’ve already seen Apple is willing to massively lower its profit margins to prevent Android Tablets from doing a PC vs Mac repeat. It may very well do that again. If it comes down to $149 Kindle Fires Versus $199 iPad Mini 2s, Apple will probably decimate Kindle Fire.
  2. Android Tablets from Google might hit $99 within a year and that might really hurt Kindle Fire.
  3. Amazon might see more value in selling Phones and might shift focus to Kindle Phones. We just have to look at how Kindle eInk Readers are ignored currently – All the focus is on Kindle Fires. If Kindle Phone sells at 3-4 times the rate of Kindle Fire, Amazon would likely shift 100% to Kindle Phones.
  4. We might have World War III. There certainly seem to be enough global squabbles going on for something bigger to ignite. We’ll be sitting around bonfires and talking – Those were the days. We had running water and cheap electricity. Now this fancy smart phone makes for a nice paperweight.
  5. Amazon might cut costs and get rid of the Kindle Fire division. Not as inconceivable as it seems right now.

Interestingly enough, I think Kindle Fire might last a lot longer than the other Tablets. For a company like Apple or Microsoft – if it can’t make a big profit from hardware and/or software, then there’s little value in the market. For Amazon, it might just think of Kindle Fires as Customer Acquisition Devices and keep selling them long after everyone else.

Closing Thought – Is ‘Having No Valuable Use’ the Killer Feature for Tablets? Or are Tablets going to die out in 10-15 years?

Perhaps Tablets are popular precisely because they have no ‘Killer Feature’. Perhaps Tablets are popular because they are very malleable and are different things to different people.

Perhaps Tablets are the ‘Technological Flavor of the Year/Decade’. The PDAs of the 2010s? The Netbooks that followed Netbooks? Perhaps a testament to how much Technology has now become like the fashion industry.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that the Blackberry CEO might be on to something. He might be woefully wrong about the timeline (5 years). However, it’s hard to make a credible argument that Tablets (or for that matter any of today’s technology other than the Internet and things like desktop and laptop computers and phones) will be around in 10-15 years.

Word Search, Kriss Kross, Quote Falls, Hangman, Speed Words – Word Games Pack FREE! (Kindle Tablet Edition)

Word Games Pack App (Word Search, Kriss Kross, Quote Falls, Hangman, Speed Words) is now available for all Kindle Fires. Please download it and give it a try. Every download helps.

The Free version is, well, FREE. It has In-App Purchases to unlock locked categories. Approximately 8-10 categories in each of the 5 word games are free to play. For the rest, you can either buy stars to unlock them OR you can get the Paid version.

Please Note: The App lets you buy digital content using real money. You can turn off the ability to make In-App Purchases from the Amazon Store’s Settings Page.

The Paid Version of Word Games Pack is $1.

Word Games Pack Kindle Fire Game Apps
Word Games Pack – Word Search, Kriss Kross, Quotefalls, Hangman, Speed Words

Word Games Pack

Word Games Pack comes with 5 Word Games –

  1. Word Search – Search for Words in a Grid. Lots of options to make things very interesting.
  2. Kriss Kross. This is a word game where you have to fit words into a grid. It’s like Crosswords except you have no clues and no idea of what word goes where, but you know the words. It’s very fun and quite relaxing.
  3. Quote Falls. This is a logic puzzle word game where you have to figure out a quote by deciding where each letter ‘falls’ into place to make the ‘quote’.
  4. Hangman. Instead of saving a ‘Hangman’ you can save 10 interesting characters like Teddy the Bear, Lorelei the Mermaid, and Tiny the Elephant. Note: In the Free version just one character is available by default.
  5. Speed Words. This is a fun, fast game where you have a limited number of time to make X words from the letters of a given word. There are a bunch of game modes so you can pick the speed that you like most.

The Paid version of Word Games Pack in the Kindle Fire Store is rated 4.2 stars on 16 reviews in Kindle Fire Store. The rating is for the version that had just 2 games (Word Search, Hangman). There are 10 5-star reviews and 4 4-star reviews. Just a few complaints about things like it not working on all Kindle Fires (Note: this new version does work on all Kindle Fires).

The Paid version of Word Games Pack in the Nook Store (which has had 5 games for a while) has a 4.5 stars rating on 351 reviews.

Word Games Pack Screenshots & Features

The Main Page of Word Games Pack.

Word Games Pack Kindle Fire
Word Games Pack Main Page

Word Search.

Word Search Word Game for Kindle Fire
Word Search for Kindle Fire

Word Search comes with 50 different categories (10 are unlocked in the Free version). There are three difficulty levels. You can also choose to show only the first letter in each word to make it tougher, or even to hide the words. There are 17 trophies to win. You also get infinite hints to help you in case you get stuck.


Hangman for Kindle Fire
Hangman for Kindle Fire – Save Teddy! And 9 Others!

Hangman has two difficulty levels and 50 categories. There are 10 different characters to save.

You can choose 7 tries or 9 tries. You can use a single hint per word.

Kriss Kross.

Kriss Kross
Kriss Kross Word Game for Kindle Fire

Kriss Kross is a very interesting game where you have to a fill a grid with words. It’s different from Crosswords – you already know the words. You just don’t know where they go and there are no hints. There’s a very clear, illustrated ‘How to Play’ section to explain (same for all the other games).

Quote Falls.

Quote Falls for Kindle Fire
Quote Falls. Comes with Instructions. For Kindle Fires Only.

Quote Falls is a very interesting game. You get a quote except all the letters are jumbled up. You have to figure out what the quote is by unjumbling the letters. It helps to start with the shortest words.

Finally, Speed Words.

Speed Words Word Game for Kindle Fire
Speed Words. Beat the Clock. Make Words Fast!

Speed Words is a fast, fun word game. You’re given a long word. You have to make new words using the letters of that word. There’s a time limit. The higher up you go the faster and faster it gets.

Word Games Pack is Free to Play. There are 8-10 categories for each word game unlocked. If you like it, you can buy the Paid Version (which is just $1) or you can buy in-app stars to unlock the categories you want to play. Please download it and give it a try. Every download is a big help.

The Amazing Shrinking Price of Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+

Those efficiences of scale Amazon was talking about. They must really be kicking in.

Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ was on sale at Best Buy for Easter (via Slick Deals via Roger Knights) for the ridiculous price of $220.

That’s $79 less than the launch price just 4.5 months ago.

Let’s ask ourselves some questions.

Have Amazon or B&N massively cut prices on ANY Kindle or Nook in the past? Have they done so within 3-6 months of launch?

Yes, both have. However, these massive price cuts usually happened 1 to 2 years after the product launches. Price cuts that were usually done to clear the way for upcoming models. The price cuts didn’t happen on the newest models and didn’t happen within 3-6 months of launch.

To the best of my memory, and to the best of Google’s search abilities, there have never been price cuts on NEW Kindles, Kindle Fires, Nooks, Nook Tablets within the first 3 to 6 months of launch.

All of that changed with the new Kindle Fire HD and HD 8.9″ and the new Nook HD/HD+. These devices have been getting price cuts left, right, and center.

Just how often have there been sales on Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Nook HD, Nook HD+?

Off the top of my head (and confirmed via quick searches) we have seen the following sales –

  1. March 31st, 2013 – Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ down to $220 from its already reduced price of $269.
  2. Last week of March 2013 – Buy a Nook HD+ and get a free Nook Simple Touch eReader (price of $69).
  3. Last 2 weeks of March, 2013 – Nook HD+ came with a $50 gift card, making its price effectively $219.
  4. March 13th, 2013 – Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ LTE down $100 to $299. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ down $30 to $269.
  5. Nearly every weekend in February and March 2013 – $25 and $50 gift cards or price cuts on Nook HD+.
  6. February 4th, 2013 – $50 off and $30 off coupons on the Kindle Fire HDs.
  7. December 10th, 2012 – $50 off Kindle Fire HD Coupon.
  8. Black Friday Sales on new Kindle Fire. Note: Amazon usually NEVER puts the new Kindles on sale. 2012 was the first time.
  9. Black Friday Sales on new Nook HD and HD+. Again, B&N usually NEVER puts the new Nooks on sale. 2012 Black Friday was the first time.

Just to make things crystal clear –

  1. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ shipped on November 14th, 2012. So we are 4.5 months into its life. It’s down from $299 to $269 with sales of as low as $219. So we are already seeing price cuts up to 26%.
  2. Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ LTE was shipped the week of November 18th, 2012. We are 4.5 months into its life too. It is down from $499 to $399. So we are already seeing a permanent 25% price cut.
  3. Nook HD+ shipped in November 2012. We are 4.5 months into its life and already we have ‘Buy a Nook HD+, get a Nook eInk Reader free’ offers. Effective price is down $69. That’s a 25% price-cut.

These are pretty big price cuts to have on new models.

Most importantly, these devices were ALREADY competing on price and were priced MUCH lower than iPad. iPad was $499 and these were $299. At 60% of the price. Them having to cut prices by 25% already, just 4.5 months in, means they are now effectively at less than half the price of the iPad.

However, it’s not the iPad that’s killing Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+.

The Device killing Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+ is the same one that’s eating its way through iPad Sales

Hello, iPad Mini.

Apple decided that rather than letting 7″ Kindles and Nooks and Nexii eat into the iPad’s market, it might as well ship the iPad Mini and keep that market to itself. The plan might have worked too well.

Earlier we had –

  1. $499 iPad Versus $199 to $239 Nook and Kindle and Nexus 7 Tablets. Note: Nook Color was the first $199 Tablet that showed there is a Tablet market apart from the iPad Market.

Now we have –

  1. $329 iPad Mini Versus $199 to $299 Kindle and Nexus 7 and Nook Tablets.
  2. $329 iPad Mini Versus $499 iPads.

Guess what?

iPad Mini is winning all these battles. It is, for all practical purposes, a massacre.

People suddenly realized that the smaller form factor of the iPad Mini makes it much better than iPad, not to mention the lower price. People also realized that the larger app store, with lots and lots of Tablet optimized Apps, makes iPad Mini much more functional.

The price gap is too small now. $199 Tablets were 40% of the price of $499 iPads. The $329 iPad Mini is just $130 more than $199 Tablets and it is in the same price range as $269 and $299 9″ Tablets.

This might not end well for the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+

First, let’s think about what these tablets would need to be able to compete with iPad Mini –

  1. Lower Prices.
  2. More Apps made for Tablets.
  3. Smoother functionality.
  4. Better Usability.
  5. More reliability.
  6. Excellence in the core Tablet Functions.

Lower prices is tough because the prices are already dirt cheap with next to no profits. I’m pretty sure that at $219 the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ is selling for a loss (do we really believe Amazon’s ‘economies of scale’ argument? if so, then why isn’t the higher selling Kindle Fire HD seeing such ‘economies of scale’).

How much lower than $219 can they get?

More Apps made for Tablets. Let me hazard a guess here – Developers would rather make apps that work on iPad and iPad Mini and reach 100 million+ people. That sounds less complicated and more profitable than making apps that work on Fire, Nook, Nexus 7 and reach perhaps 15 to 25 million people.

We also have the additional bonus that there are –

  1. 4 different Kindle Fires.
  2. 4 different Nook Tablets.
  3. 3 different Nexus Tablets.

So, to reach 15-25 million people, a development company would have to support 11 different Tablets. They really are different – different screen sizes, different resolutions, different app stores.

Or a developer could support 2 (at most 4 if you stretch it) iPads and reach 100 million+ users. Plus it’s a market that is growing rapidly. Plus it’s a market where the App Stores haven’t trained the people to expect everything for free (something Google is an expert at, and Amazon is rapidly learning to be good at).

As far as ease of use and smoothness – Android is still struggling. It doesn’t help that Fire and Nook add their own skins on top of Android. The more the code and layers – the higher the chance of loss of speed and smoothness.

Excellence in the Core Tablet Functions – Not really. Both Fire and Nook struggle to achieve this. It would really help if they tied down the OS. However, the underlying version of Android keeps changing and that means Amazon and B&N are working with almost new OSes each release. Compare that with Apple’s iOS which has been relatively smooth and steady since the iPhone.

There is no Free Lunch. That free Android OS that Amazon and B&N are getting – It’s guaranteeing they can never beat Apple on user experience and smoothness.

The uphill battle for Amazon and B&N is getting tougher & Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and Nook HD+ might be the first casualties

You can’t envy Amazon and B&N’s position here – They were late to market, they haven’t yet made their devices better than iPad, they aren’t yet better at the core tablet functions, and the number of Tablet optimized apps they have doesn’t compare at all with iPad or iPad Mini.

You have to admire their ambition. It would have played out super well if Apple hadn’t released iPad Mini and killed the only real advantage the high-value tablets had – value for money (or, to be more blunt, low prices).

iPad Mini has hurt the smaller tablet market and almost decimated the larger Tablet Market. Yes, Android market share will improve. However, if it’s because of Amazon and B&N selling Tablets at below-cost prices, then that’s a pyrrhic victory.

What could Amazon and B&N do?

Firstly, they would do well to See Reality As It Is. People were not buying Nooks and Fires because of the range of apps or the smoothness or because they were the best Tablet. They were buying these tablets because they were 40% of the price of the iPad. Because they were reading tablets. Because they were plugged into the Kindle and Nook ecosystems.

40% of the $329 iPad Mini = $131.

The ONLY real solution for Kindle Fire and Nook is to release $100 to $125 ‘reading tablets’ and ‘general purpose tablets’ and compete via those. Meanwhile, they need to stay in the game long enough. So that when Apple loses direction and starts slipping, they can make their move.

The Final Twist

Being ‘better’ than the iPad and iPad Mini is a futile aim.

iPad and iPad Mini serve dual purposes – They are easy to use, useful Tablets with lots of Apps. Plus they are status indicators.

Amazon and B&N are not competing well on the first. They are non-existent on the second.

So going up head to head against iPad and iPad Mini serves no purpose. Even if Amazon and B&N beat iPad on core functionality and apps (and that’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination) how are they going to edge Apple on the ‘luxury/coolness/status signalling’ dimension.

Amazon and B&N have to change the battle. Apple’s ONLY real weakness is that it is wedded to profits. Its profits come from the devices. So it can’t fight on price and value for money. That’s the direction to go in for Amazon and B&N.

Apple is not going to get killed by someone trying to outdo Apple in Apple’s own strategy. Especially not if that company/person doesn’t even fully understand Apple’s strategy (to be fair, no one at Apple, after Steve Jobs, seems to understand it either). Perhaps Jeff Bezos and Leonard Riggio/William Lynch need to consider the truth in that statement and realize that they can’t win the Tablet Wars by fighting on Apple’s terms.