Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire 2 seem to be putting Amazon into a strong #2 Tablet Position this holiday season. My totally uneducated and random guesses would be -
- 12 to 19 million iPad Minis sold. Not sure at all about iPads.
- 4 million to 7 million Kindle Fire HDs and Kindle Fires sold.
- 1 million to 2 million Nook HD and Nook HD+s sold. If B&N is coming right out and saying sales were bad then it’s not inconceivable they were really bad. Note: I suspect there were 1 million to 2 million Nook Colors and Tablets sold on top of this.
- 2 million to 3.5 million Nexus 7s sold.
- 2 million or so Galaxy Tabs sold.
Basically, there’s a very high chance that Amazon will have the #2 Tablet Spot for this Holiday Season.
The questions that come up are -
- Will Amazon be able to maintain the #2 Spot?
- What does Amazon need to do to challenge iPad for the #1 Spot?
My guess is that both questions will be answered by the exact same things. That Amazon doesn’t really have a shot at maintaing the #2 spot if it doesn’t make a HUGE challenge for the #1 spot. That, in fact, Amazon will either beat the iPad Mini and get the #1 spot OR it will languish in the #3 spot.
Let’s take a look at why.
Hardware, Software, Infrastructure/Ecosystem
Looking at it from the company perspective, there are three big things Amazon has to master and deliver -
- Excellent Hardware. Amazon is doing a good job here. However, it has a way to go before it can beat iPad Mini. It is also, unfortunately, a bit behind the Nook HD+ and HD.
- Excellent Software. Amazon’s weakness is software. It tends to make software that is very stunted. This might well be a strategy. Make things that you don’t want users doing (surfing the web, arranging shelves, email) inconvenient. Make things you want users doing (shopping, reading, watching movies) easy.
- Excellent Infrastructure and Ecosystem. Amazon has a big advantage here over everyone other than Apple (ecosystem, Apple is far ahead; infrastructure, Amazon is slightly ahead).
Whether or not Kindle Fire can beat iPad Mini depends on whether or not Amazon can beat Apple in 2 out of these 3 areas. Apple will be forced to go with lower prices (it already has with iPad Mini) and the price advantage can’t be a competitive differentiator.
That leaves just – Software, Hardware, Infrastructure+Ecosystem.
Amazon has the best shot at beating Apple on Infrastructure+Ecosystem. After that software. Hardware is the toughest because Amazon can’t even beat Nook HD and Nexus 7 on hardware right now.
The #2 Spot is by no means safe
If B&N can keep improving its infrastructure and ecosystem (which is good but not great). If B&N can fix its software issues (its tendency to release its alpha software as its V1). Then B&N can take the #2 spot from Amazon. Frankly, I really don’t see B&N fixing its software issues. It’s just too hard to change your mindset after already shipping 3 generations of your Tablet. If you’re addicted to the idea that your users are your beta testers then you can’t switch to an ‘Our V1 is actually a V3′ mentality.
Nexus 7 is far more dangerous. Its software is improving even though it is both aesthetically challenged and ‘real users are not PhDs’ challenged. The hardware is good. Its big advantage is that it offers a huge, mostly free app and services ecosystem. The downside is that such an ecosystem tends to attract customers who don’t want to pay for things (to be honest, Google is probably happiest with users willing to trade personal information and data for free services).
Samsung keeps failing. It might, however, eventually succeed and release a Tablet that is actually markedly better than other Android Tablets.
There are dark horses like Microsoft Surface (the Pro version, not the RT version) and Nokia’s rumored Tablet.
Fundamentally, if Amazon doesn’t win in at least 2 of 3 areas over Android and Windows 8 Tablets and Nook, then it runs the risk of losing the #2 Spot it seems to have comfortably taken possession of (this holiday season).
Before we look at what Amazon needs to do to get the #1 Spot in Tablets, let’s look at the User Perspective on Tablets.
5 Main Tablet Uses
Looking at it from the end user perspective, there are 5 Main Tablet Uses Amazon has to deliver on. Since different users are different we actually have 10 Main Tablet Uses we’ll look at -
- Surfing the Web.
- Apps that are not Games.
- Feeling Good and In Control.
I find it interesting that the first link on the Kindle Fire HD is now ‘Shop’ and it lets you shop – Books, Videos, Apps, Audiobooks, Music, Newsstand, Games, Amazon Prime.
By Kindle Fire 4 we’ll see that this includes EVERYTHING you can buy at Amazon.
This is an important use case because a Tablet is much more convenient to buy things on than a Phone and it’s much more portable than a PC. Showrooming is going to be modified to be Showrooming+TabletBuying soon.
Reading includes books, magazines, and newspapers. It also, to an extent, includes reading websites and articles and PDFs.
There’s actually a TON of reading that we do and a device that makes reading easy and fun and pleasurable and convenient will ALWAYS have a big advantage over devices that don’t.
Movies are big for Tablets for a variety of reasons -
- Watching movies on Tablets.
- Second screen while watching TV.
- Using HDMI out to stream movies to TVs.
- Ease of Use.
Movie studios used to make it amazingly difficult to give them money. Now things are getting better and Tablets have a big role to play in making movie buying and renting and watching frictionless.
Smarphones are killing off dedicated music players. However, Tablets are really good for music too. In some ways they are better since you can search for information about artists easily and you can browse for and buy music more conveniently. Lots of things (making playlists, searching, buying) are easier on Tablets.
All that was missing was good speakers and a committment to high quality sound. Amazon has started on that.
Surfing the Web
This is a huge use case. One where Amazon is shooting itself in the foot.
Perhaps it’s because it wants to harvest browsing patterns. Perhaps it’s to deter users from surfing the web. Whatever the reason, Amazon is making a mess of its web surfing experience.
It has to fix this quickly or it will be the end of its hopes of being a #1 or a strong #2 in the Tablet Market.
This is a big use case. There are three categories we’ll look at (though there are more) -
- Casual Gamers. Bored people who just want something to interest them for a short duration. These are necessary to target since they are often the decision makers for Tablet purchases.
- Hardcore Gamers. A bit pointless really. They will tend to prefer platforms that are optimized for games.
- Babysitter Games. This is a big and necessary category to provide. Tablets are increasingly being used as ‘amusements’ for children. Towards that end Amazon must ensure it has all the bird throwing and rope cutting games it can get its hands on.
Games to keep Kids Occupied. Games to keep Bored Men and Women Entertained. These two categories of games are an absolute must-have. Without them no ‘Entertainment’ Tablet has a chance.
Apps that are not Games
Yes, there are actually people who prefer checking their financial accounts and stocks to finding water for OCD crocodiles.
Tablets have become a channel to various services and websites.
In effect a website is just a portal to a service. Tablets (or Tablet Apps if you want to be particular) are a portal to the service too.
People want portals to the services they use. It’s not enough that they can access the website (though that satisfies some users). The portal should be built for and optimized for the device.
So people want apps that provide the services they know and love.
Amazon has a lot of catching up to do here. Get enough users to force service providers to make apps. Get enough apps to entice users into choosing Kindle Fire HD.
Email is absolutely critical. One of the top three uses. Perhaps even a top two use.
Amazon needs to improve support for email providers of all types. It needs to make the Email app better.
Without an excellent Email App the Kindle Fire HD can’t really be the #1 Tablet.
Not my area of expertise. It seems to be a top 4 use case for tablets.
Feeling Good and in Control
I can’t explain this. You’re either a company that gets this or doesn’t. If you don’t get this then hire someone who can convince you that users value feeling good about themselves and feeling good about their devices more than anything else.
What does it mean to be excellent in the 5 Main Tablet Uses
Each user has a different set of ’5 Main Tablet Uses’. However, the above 10 items will show up for most users. Usually account for 3 or 4 of the Top 5.
If Amazon can excel in most or all of these 10, then most users will be HAPPY and SATISFIED with a Kindle Fire HD purchase.
For their next Tablet they’ll choose the Kindle Fire HD 2. They’ll tell their friends. They’ll gift Kindle Fires to their kids and wives and husbands and parents. They’ll go to websites and fight against wrong allegations and claims.
To be ‘excellent in the 5 Main Tablet Uses’ means that the user LOVES her experience with the device. That, for the 5 main things she does with the device, it just absolutely rocks.
Why is this necessary to be #1?
Firstly, because people aren’t buying the device to feel miserable or out of control or stupid or lost or disheartened. They are buying the Tablet for it to serve their needs, for the Tablet to be a loyal servant to their desires.
Secondly, because competitors are getting lots and lots of these things right. Apple gets 3 or 4 out of the 5 Main Tablet Uses right for lots of users. Samsung does it in phones and might figure out how to do it in Tablets (or it might get ‘inspired’). B&N might wake up one day and realize that software is just as important as store and hardware. Nokia might find some inspiration in its last few heartbeats.
Most importantly, Microsoft might deliver a Tablet that can be used for BOTH productivity things and the current ’5 Main Tablet Uses’. If that happens then ALL existing tablets get reduced to ‘Babysitting Tablets’ and ‘Entertainment Tablets’ – speciality tablets with a market of 100 to 200 million devices a year.
Kindle Fire HD has an excellent chance to solidify its grip on the #2 Tablet spot and fight for the #1 Tablet spot. At this point Jeff Bezos and Amazon need to get out of their ‘We are so smart. We can use path of least resistance to channel users away from what they want to do, and to where we want them to go’ thinking. Don’t give up on the chance to take over the Tablet Market because you are under the delusion that you can make horses drink water when they aren’t thirsty.
If Amazon can let go of its ’5 Best Uses for Amazon’ thinking and embrace ’5 Most Important Tablet Uses for Users’ thinking, then it really has a chance to take over the Tablet Market. Before the giant thrashing snake with its head cut off grows a new head. Before the monster bear that has been hibernating in its cave having dreams of ‘Developers, Developers, Developers’ wakes up and climbs out to the surface.
Filed under: evolution | Tagged: amazon strategy, kindle fire hd, kindle fire strategy | 6 Comments »