More iPad 2, Kindle 3 threads

From the Kindle forum we get this excellent comment about the iPad 2’s impact on the Kindle 3 -

I just read two articles on the Internet confirming a rumor to most likely come true that Apple is going to launch two new iPADS geared to the e-Reader market.

I knew Apple had something up its sleeve to monopolize the E-reader production and what a more better time than Christmas!

If the prices should be in the $300-400 price range for the new models, Apple will certainly have an anaconda that will crush Kindle.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to call a 7″ screen device an Anaconda. However, the line is pure magic.

Susan U. has a response -

I can sleep better at night now. What a weight off my mind.

Love it. 

Our kindle forum original commenter also has a crazy conspiracy/spy theory -

It’s amusing how companies have spies because the prices for Kindle and Nook along with Sony have all of a sudden dropped because they must have caught drift of Apple’s new iPADS coming out.

So it seems there can only be two possible reasons for eReader price cuts – to compete against the iPad, to prepare for the iPad 2. Things like economies of scale or releasing new models at lower prices or lowering prices to clear stock just don’t apply.

Apple will certainly have an anaconda that will crush Kindle

Let’s find out a little more about Apple’s Anaconda -

  1. Some rumors mention 7″ screens and others mention 7″ and 5.6″ screens.
  2. Arriving before Christmas.
  3. Chimmei Innolux will supply 7-inch IPS LCDs.
  4. DigiTimes and Economic Daily Times (two sources of iPad 2 rumors) differ on some details. DigiTimes thinks the iPad 2 will have a OLED screen.  
  5. Compal Electronics will be assembling the iPad 2. 
  6. Cando would supply the touchscreen technology.
  7. There’s no mention of FoxConn which is not surprising.  

Details courtesy lots of sources including Fast Company. Fast Company thinks size and price are the big two factors and would probably add weight to that. If also thinks iPad 2 will debut at $300 and that’s probably quite likely.

How much of a threat is Apple’s Anaconda?

Well, it depends on whether it is a cheap $250 to $300 Anaconda or an expensive $350 Anaconda.

The Kindle WiFi is pretty safe. There’s no way the iPad 2 is going to be anywhere near $139. Kindle 3 sales will be affected a bit if iPad 2 is around $250 but not much if it’s $300 or more.

There are four main factors that make the iPad 2 better for reading than the iPad -

  1. Lower weight so you can actually hold it easily when reading and your hands don’t get tired. 
  2. Lower price so it’s more affordable. The whole ‘value for money’ angle becomes stronger when you can club ‘does more than just read’ with ‘$300 price’.  
  3. The more compact size means it’s easier to carry and hold.  
  4. It might have the new Retina Display and perhaps that reduces the readability gap between eInk Pearl and LCDs significantly.  

It’ll be quite funny to see the Press finally admit the iPad’s size and weight make it unsuitable for reading. Of course, its only the arrival of a smaller iPad 2 that makes the Press realize this.

iPad 2 is definitely more of a threat than iPad 1. The one area that’s a big concern is the ‘holiday gift’ area. If iPad 2 is $250 to $300 then a significant number of people thinking of gifting a Kindle 3 or Nook 2 might be tempted to gift an iPad 2 instead.

The Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi and Nook 2 still have significant advantages -

  1. eInk Pearl is much better than LCD. 
  2. eInk is easy on the eyes and for most people LCD is not.
  3. Kindle 3 is readable in sunlight.
  4. Prices for eReaders have become really low.
  5. eReaders are built for reading with few distractions.

However, iPad 2 narrows the gap and forces eReaders to evolve faster.

It’s interesting that Apple are re-attacking the eReader market so soon

There’s lots of talk (mostly from DigiTimes) that the smaller iPad 2s are targeted at reading. It makes you wonder if Apple really does want to go after the eReader market.

If you saw a big emerging market and at the same time thought everyone in it was lost because they wanted to read on black and white screens and wanted to read books instead of throwing birds at pigs – Well, perhaps you might feel you ought to show them the true path. Perhaps Apple feels the iPad 2 will show people that reading without color and touch is a waste and that focusing on books isn’t really worthwhile.

The other possibility is that Apple, at some level, thinks it can steal off more and more readers by promising them more than just reading and take a bigger chunk of the eReader market. By it’s very nature the iPad steals generalists from various niches and Apple must feel that with a lower price and a smaller size it can get most casual readers to choose Apple over Amazon.

We’ll just have to wait and see what the iPad 2 is like and whether or not it affects the Kindle 3. It was a nice few weeks with no ‘Kindle is going to die’ articles – it might be 2011 before we see another stretch like it.

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini for reading

Note: This Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini for reading post is pure conjecture.

It ASSUMES there will be a Qualcomm Mirasol powered color Kindle 3 by end 2010/early 2011 and there will be an iPad Mini with a 5.6″ screen and $300 price. It also assumes that readers will be making a Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini decision for reading.

Mr. Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has said color Kindles are very far off so not only is this post conjecture it’s on the borderline between conjecture, fantasy, and sheer delusion. 

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini for Reading – Assumptions

Here are our assumptions regarding a color Kindle 3 -

  1. There will be a color Kindle 3 out by Feb 1st, 2011.
  2. Color Kindle 3 will be priced at $249.
  3. It will be powered by a Qualcomm Mirasol 5.6″ screen.
  4. It will have, as promised by Qualcomm, great battery life.
  5. The color eInk will allow for video support and color.
  6. There will not be a touchscreen.
  7. Kindle 3 will be focused on reading.
  8. Kindle 3 will come with all the benefits of the Kindle ecosystem.  
  9. The Kindle App Store will be open by the time the color Kindle 3 arrives.
  10. There will be at least a few, and possibly more, Killer Apps – Apps that add a lot to the color Kindle 3.

Here are our assumptions regarding the iPad Mini -

  1. There will be a 5.6″ version and a 7″ version. In this post we’ll consider only the 5.6″ screen version. 
  2. The 5.6″ iPad Mini will be out by Dec 2010 or Feb 2011.
  3. There will be an OLED 5.6″ screen with Retina Display.
  4. iPad Mini 5.6″ will be priced at $299.
  5. Apple will figure out 1 valuable and 1 marketing feature to add on. The valuable feature will probably be FaceTime and the marketing feature some ridiculous addition to iBooks like the addition of shelves that jiggle and dance.
  6. It will not be focused on reading though it will position itself as a reading device to readers. What this means is that it will also position itself as a communication device for teens and as a gaming device to gamers and as a work device to work people and so forth.
  7. It will work well with iPhone and iPad apps and claim both as existing apps. It will use iOS 4 and have Folders.
  8. iPhone and iPad Apps will continue to thrive and be at 300,000 plus and 15,000 plus respectively.

The size of these assumption lists should help make it clear that this entire post is PURE conjecture.

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini for Reading

Let’s consider the most important eReader qualities and see how a Color Kindle 3 and a $300 iPad Mini would compare -

  1. Readable Screen –  Kindle wins. If you’re LCD compatible then you think it’s a tie. If you’re LCD compatible and also are very impressed by Apple’s retina display then you might think Apple iPad Mini wins. Amazon will probably improve the screen readability – it’ll probably be balanced out by loss due to adding color.
  2. Readable in sunlight – Kindle wins.
  3. Readable in the dark – iPad wins if you don’t want to turn on a reading light. There are claims LCDs cause insomnia – However, until there’s hard proof or you start losing sleep they are just claims.  
  4. Color Screen – Both would have color screens. iPad would be brighter and prettier.
  5. TouchScreen – Color Kindle 3 might not have touch. iPad Mini definitely will.
  6. Battery Life – If iPad Mini uses OLED screens then the Kindle 3 would win this by a wide margin.
  7. Easy to use – Kindle wins in being simple and easy to use. Apple has very good user experience too so perhaps this is a tie.
  8. Doesn’t tire the eyes – Kindle wins. Only a few LCD compatibles actually read books at a stretch and they claim iPad screens don’t tire their eyes.
  9. Price – Kindle would win though probably not by much.
  10. Low Book Prices – Tie as both get Kindle Store.
  11. Total Cost of Ownership – Kindle wins by a huge margin. We are a consumer culture though so it’s impolite to bring up things like subscription fees.
  12. Value for Money – This is a tough one. It would depend on what Amazon has added. iPad Mini would probably win.
  13. Range of Books – Tie as both have Kindle Store. Also, if Google Editions has more range and is available iPad Mini might win this.
  14. Range of eBook Stores – iPad Mini wins. It has ebook apps from Borders, B&N, Kindle, etc. The only downside is having to switch between the apps and all the apps having different user experiences.
  15. Apps that add to reading – Depends on the Kindle App Store. iPad Mini will probably win.
  16. Light Weight – Kindle would win by a little.
  17. Portable – Probably a tie except Kindle has much better battery life.
  18. International Travel – Kindle wins due to free Whispernet and free Internet in 100+ countries. iPad’s AT&T connection will bleed you dry if you use 3G outside the US.
  19. Openness – Neither company pleases the Open devotees.
  20. PDF support – Kindle probably wins due to zoom and pan being in-built and not having to use an App and it being easier to get PDFs on-board.
  21. ePub – iPad wins as Kindle doesn’t allow ePub. In my opinion they shouldn’t as losing ebook revenue would kill their ability to compete with marketing geniuses like Steve Jobs.
  22. WiFi – iPad wins as it has WiFi. Not a big issue if you don’t care about 3G, WiFi, and all this nonsense as long as you get wireless. 

Color Kindle 3 wins on 10 criteria and iPad Mini wins on 8 criteria. Of course, we don’t know exactly what features each would add so this is just a rough guess.

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini – Beyond Reading

Here are some of the demographics we aren’t considering -

  1. People who don’t want a reading device. Lots of people who don’t read want to win a Pyrrhic victory by claiming their multi-purpose device does more than just read. We aren’t considering them here.  
  2. People who don’t want a device specialized for reading. Amazon will probably go after these with a multi-purpose new Kindle device – It’ll probably be named something else.
  3. People who have had some emotion indelibly linked with an Apple product (coolness, being hip, feeling good, being sexy). Amazon do have the option of ramping up their advertising and doing the same thing and at some point of time they might have to.  
  4. People who want the latest, coolest gadget.
  5. People who want something that does lots and lots of things.

If your primary focus isn’t reading or you think a device should also do multiple other things then the Kindle is a bad choice.

Please pick an iPad or iPhone if you want to look cool or an Android smartphone if you don’t need an over-advertised gadget to look cool.  

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini – Kindle’s main opportunities

For the Kindle to survive as an eReader it has to pull off most of the following -

  1. Stay focused on reading.
  2. Keep out distractions and focus on improving the reading experience.
  3. Keep Kindle prices low and keep cutting them.
  4. Don’t allow ePub or openness – This allows it to preserve book revenue and invest more into the Kindle and the Kindle ecosystem.
  5. Build Kindle Apps for additional platforms and improve the existing Kindle Apps. This also leads to lots of revenue it can invest back into the Kindle and into Kindle Apps.
  6. Maintain and strengthen the Kindle WhisperNet advantage – free wireless, free Internet, syncing, and new killer features.
  7. Strengthen the International advantage – increase book availability outside the US, expand free Internet browsing to a lot more countries, support more languages.
  8. Push new ePaper technology into Kindles.
  9. Find and add more killer features like Text to Speech.
  10. Get the Kindle App Store out and let developers deliver value to readers in ways none of us have thought of yet.
  11. Make sure the Kindle Store is the best ebook store and fight off new entrants.  
  12. Make things simpler and beat the ‘There’s a separate app for every little thing you need to do. You need 50 different Apps to do everything the Kindle does.’ philosophy of the iPad. The Kindle can provide a ton of value with the core Kindle UI and features – without users having to use 50 different apps and make dozens of decisions and context switches.

Most of these are needed for the Kindle to keep its position as the best reading device. On the plus side incorporating these would strengthen Amazon’s position as the #1 eReader and the #1 eBook store.

There are also some things that would really help Amazon take on Apple -

  1. Attacking Apple with a multi-purpose Kindle.
  2. Getting a Don Draper equivalent to do their advertising.
  3. Providing lots of killer reading related apps through the Kindle App Store.
  4. Quitting eInk and moving to another company like Qualcomm or Pixel Qi for ePaper screens. A company that believes in things like kaizen and progress and improving products quickly.
  5. Getting the Kindle into lots of retails stores and lots of hands.

Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini will be a war of Perception and Actual Value

Fundamentally, Apple has a beatable product and unbeatable marketing. The marketing is supplemented by a reasonable number of Apple fans who will never buy anything else. Fortunately, the vast majority of people aren’t blinded by the Apple logo and there are also some people who will never touch an Apple product.

So far, Amazon is doing nothing on the perception front and letting Apple conjure up all sorts of images. Kindle is the best reading device for most people and yet they are unaware of it.

It isn’t enough to just keep improving your product – You have to make sure people are aware of it. Getting the Kindle into retail stores and into people’s hands really helps – However, it doesn’t hurt to have a killer marketing strategy and a strong, emotional message that makes a strong impression on users.

Color Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini for reading will be about a lot more than reading – even though it should be just about reading. Readers (all of us) are still human and things like perception and appearance and marketing still matter – ignoring human emotions and basic human psychology would be a huge mistake. Kindle 3 vs iPad Mini will be a war  – based on actual features and also based on perception. Amazon needs to get serious about the latter.

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