Kindle, Amazon, new Kindle devices Versus iPad, Apple, iPhone

The focus is on the Kindle 3 and its new, imaginary battle with the iPad. Yet, Kindle vs iPad is merely misdirection.

Today’s Kindle 3 advertisement is puzzling since a $139 dedicated reading device is about as different as possible from a $499 dedicated do-everything device.

Why would Amazon attack iPad and kick-off a pretend Kindle 3 vs iPad battle?

Well, perhaps Amazon is just setting the stage for the bloody War that will be in full swing by end 2010 or early 2011 – Apple Vs Amazon. The prize is billions of dollars a year in profits from digital movies, TV, music, games, and books. Apple and Amazon (and perhaps the company behind Xbox) are the companies best positioned to win.

Amazon and Apple both want to control all digital downloads

Apple and Amazon have been putting things in place to take over selling digital downloads of books, music, movies, and games.

Consider what Amazon has lined up -

  1. Amazon has the following offerings already – Amazon.com, Kindle, Kindle Store, Digital Movie & TV downloads, MP3 Store, Game Downloads.
  2. It also has the following confirmed and rumored technology - TouchCo’s multi-touch screen technology, whatever eInk can come up with, possibly Qualcomm’s Mirasol display, Amie Street’s music technology.
  3. There are also rumors and patents that suggest Amazon has some of the following lined up - Kindle Phone, Kindle Gaming Device, Color Kindle, Kindle Electronic Pen, other new products from Lab 126.

There isn’t any type of digital download that Amazon isn’t interested in selling. In fact it’s already selling movies, books, TV shows, and games in digital format. The only device it has is the Kindle 3 but by end 2010 there may be new additions.  

Apple is even more invested in digital downloads -

  1. Apple has the following channels in place - Apple Store, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Mac, iTunes Store.
  2. It also has a lot of technology and patents and new and upcoming products – an iPad 2 supposedly focused on reading, a new Apple TV, lots and lots of patents. 

Apple is already selling apps and movies and books and TV shows. It hasn’t gotten into digital game downloads (it seems to prefer selling $1 game apps) – However, that might change.

Apple vs Amazon is inevitable – The quest for digital download domination makes them natural enemies

Apple has the advantage of having over 125 million iOS devices out in customers’ hands. Amazon probably has only 5 million or so Kindles in customers’ hands.

Amazon has the advantage of everyone already associating Amazon.com with buying things. Tens of millions of people already buy books, movies, music CDs, and dozens of other categories of products from Amazon and if Amazon offers digital downloads customers will likely buy those too.

Both Amazon and Apple are trying to become the buying destination for all things digital. Sooner or later there is going to be war and 2010 is the year both of them decided to take the first step. For Apple it was iBooks and for Amazon is was today’s Kindle 3 vs iPad ad. These are the first obvious public moves – However, they’ve probably been thinking about this for a long, long time. Apple since 2000 when Steve Jobs started thinking about the iPad and Amazon since 2003/2004 when work on the Kindle was started.

Their recent actions are great indicators that both Apple and Amazon are positioning themselves for a war

Amazon just bought digital music site Amie Street which lets you stream or download music. This adds on to its existing mp3 store. It has started hiring lots of gaming executives and there are rumors of a Kindle Phone or a Kindle Gaming Device. It started working on an app store in January of this year and released two sample apps a few months ago. It just expanded to Best Buy which until now sold only iPad and Nook. It’s most recent step is today’s Kindle 3 vs iPad advertisement.

Apple’s acquisitions are mostly hardware companies and maps-related companies. However, it has made a number of moves that target the Kindle. It’s rumored to be building an iPad 2 focused on reading. It released iBooks and has taken pains to position iPad as a legitimate reading option for readers. It’s supposedly expanding iPad retail to Target which is the only retail chain currently selling Kindle 3.

Devices like Kindle, iPhone, iPad become critical

There are a few assumptions we can safely make -

  1. In the absence of owning a device customers are likelier to buy digital goods from the ‘buying destination’ i.e. Amazon.
  2. In the presence of a device customers are likelier to buy digital products using the default store on their device.
  3. Customers are likelier to buy from a company that has their credit card information and from which they already buy things (Ex: Amazon, Apple). 
  4. A company that has a direct channel to customers (via a device) not only is free of middle-men like search engines it can supplant them. Apple isn’t buying map companies for fun – it intends to teach Google a lesson.   
  5. Apple and Amazon are painfully aware of all of these points.

Both of them know that a customer who owns an iPhone or a Kindle is a captive customer – likely to make most of her/his purchases through the device (or from the company’s website). We already have indicators of this -

  1. iPods helped Apple take over digital music and even become the #1 music seller.
  2. Amazon has talked of Kindle owners buying 2.7 times the books they used to.  
  3. Kindle owners have turned ebooks into a threat with even Publishers admitting some books are selling more ebooks than hardcovers.
  4. iPhones and iPod Touches have helped Apple become a threat to gaming companies – Sony is now running ads targeting the iPhone.
  5. B&N has talked about sales to Nook owners going up 28%.  

Every company sooner or later comes to the conclusion that owning the device is absolutely critical. Even Google is trying to find ways of doing it by releasing Nexus One - it’s supposedly also working on a Google Tablet.

It’s the new Kindle devices that will fight the War against iPhone and iPad

There are a ton of indicators that the Kindle family is probably going to get a member in 2010 (or early 2011) focused on something other than reading -

  1. Amazon is hiring quite a few gaming executives. 
  2. The Kindle App Store seems far more suited to a phone or a gaming device than a Kindle. 
  3. The patent for gesture recognition is reminiscent of Kinect and doesn’t seem like anything an eReader would use.
  4. The gesture recognition patent also includes images of a device that looks a lot like a smartphone or handheld gaming console.
  5. Amazon’s acquisition of a company that has multi-touch technology (TouchCo) which would be far more useful on a multi-purpose device than on an eReader.
  6. Lab 126 hiring a lot of people from Palm and Handspring early on.
  7. The continued insistence of Amazon that Lab 126 will build other products plus various rumors that Lab 126 is doing more than just Kindle.

Amazon has seen customers buy 2.7 times the numer of books they used to from Amazon once they became Kindle owners. There was probably also an increase in non-ebook purchases from Amazon. Any smart company would wonder what other devices it could make to tap into this loyalty/affinity factor.

Before the Kindle Amazon wasn’t a hardware company but now it most certainly is one. It also needs to be one.

Amazon needs new devices to preserve CD and DVD sales

Kindle provides Amazon a hedge against a decline in physical book sales. It needs Kindle Phone and Kindle Gaming Device and Kindle TV to hedge against a decline in sales of physical DVDs and boxed games and music CDs.  

Amazon has to be worried about the decline of physical media - While its Electronics sales grew by 69% its Media Sales (books, CDs, DVDs, etc.) grew just 18% (last quarter’s earnings report, year over year).

Kindle has transformed Amazon from a company that sold a lot of physical books but was in danger of getting left behind if ebooks took over to a company that might dominate all of Publishing if ebooks take over and the current status quo (Kindle and Kindle Store both being #1) remains.

If Amazon can create a Kindle Gaming Device and a Kindle Phone and a Kindle Pad and win one or more out of games, music, and movies it’s suddenly put itself right back into a position of dominance – one that’s even better than its earlier position as the top online retailer of physical media.

The Kindle Ad is more about Apple vs Amazon than iPad vs Kindle

Amazon seems to have decided to send Apple a message – We can play the advertising game too and we aren’t shy of attacking your shiny products.

A lot of people don’t understand that Apple is far more vulnerable to attacks than a normal company. You run a million PC vs Mac ads but most people are still going to buy PCs – they just don’t care that much about social proof and popularity and coolness. However, If Amazon can run enough ‘Loser Guy with Apple Product’ ads they’ll end up taking a lot of the shine off of Apple’s shiny devices.

Apple is very vulnerable to the very strategy that helped it find success – selling coolness in product form and associating rival products with non-cool qualities. The Kindle Ad shows that people are finally becoming aware of it.

The perfect next ad would be an iPad owner talking about how the iPad taps into his creative genius and identifies him as part of the intelligentsia while a bunch of monkeys use iPads in the background while eating bananas and prancing about. Then pan out to show its hundreds and hundreds of monkeys all wearing the same black suits and all using iPads. End with a slogan - Stop monkeying around if you want to read - Get a Kindle 3.

Kindle vs iPad – Hello, I’m a Kindle and I’m an iPad

The Kindle 3 finally gets an Ad that’s got bite and it’s beautiful.

It’s so much like an Apple ad it’s awesome the joke’s on an Apple product -

  1. Apple uses a ‘cool’ guy as a Mac and an awkward, out of shape guy as a PC. Kindle’s Ad goes one better because it shows a pretty good-looking, in shape, stylish woman as a Kindle user and an awkward, mid-life crisis stricken, delta looking man as the iPad.
  2. To make things better they actually bestow him with the capability of asking inane questions.
  3. Being by the pool gives them a chance to give the Kindle owner a magic flat stomach and the iPad owner the hint of a paunch. It’s so unfair.
  4. They throw in the $139 and ‘my sunglasses cost me more’. 
  5. It’s true – the iPad really does reflect your face just like that in sunlight. A lot of the things in the ‘Hello, I’m a Mac’ ads were exaggerations – However, readability in sunlight and low price are both solid and valid Kindle 3 advantages.

The ad gets a lot right – the man being a bit out of shape but not too much, the woman being good-looking but not unrealistic, the man having the sense of style of a Greyhound bus, the woman having a lot of social intelligence so she isn’t condescending, the man making all the facial expressions required to cement him as someone you wouldn’t want to be.

My favorite aspect is that they never make it too stark - the guy doesn’t have a big pot belly and the girl isn’t unreal beautiful and the conversation is not condescending and it’s just very, very well done. There’s not really any nastiness except at the subconscious level.

Who would have thought Amazon would finally start using killer advertising for the Kindle 3.

Best Comment Ever about ‘iPad can read in the dark’ at CrunchGear

The typical ‘iPad can read in the dark’ nonsense started creeping in amongst the comments at CrunchGear’s Kindle vs iPad ad article.

First, we get a couple of valid responses to ‘reading in the dark’ -

Jack: If you purchase the cover available for the new version of the Kindle, it has a built-in LED light. It is much easier on the reader’s eyes and much less likely to affect a bed partner.

Posh: Yeah, the new Kindle cover with built-in light is almost better than the new Kindle itself.

Posh is so right – the lighted cover is almost better than the Kindle 3.

And then we get this amazing comment -

Some morons are saying that the Kindle is hard to read in the dark.

How often do you find yourself reading in the dark dumbass? Unless you’re a Chilean miner trapped in 500 feet below ground trying to catch up on his Marquez, you wouldn’t be reading in the dark.

It’s typical Apple fanboy attitude to start exaggerating the importance of reading in the absolute dark. We shouldn’t really be surprised Apple and Apple people have been promoting ‘reading in the dark’ as a super big advantage. It’s exactly what you would expect from a company that talks about using ‘aircraft grade aluminium’.

With the Kindle Lighted Cover even their exaggerations can’t hold up. Hopefully we can get them to stop hammering on the fact that iPad has a backlight and bleeds out your eyes.

Kindle vs iPad Mini

There had been rumors of a 7″ iPad Mini to take on the Kindle in April. It’s mid-July and Kindle vs iPad Mini rumors are heating up again.

Kindle vs iPad Mini – 7″ and 5.6″ iPad Minis by end 2010?

At that time we had heard -

… a smaller 5- to 7-inch version of the iPad that is expected to launch as soon as the first quarter of 2011 …

… priced below US$400 and will target the highly portable mobile device market and consumers that focus mainly on reading.

Now we are hearing (iPad Mini hints courtesy DigiTimes) -

… second-generation iPad, using 5.6-inch and 7-inch OLED panels, as soon as in the fourth quarter of 2010 …

The sources noted that Apple has recently placed new iPad orders to Taiwan-based component makers for the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 with 9.7-inch, 5.6-inch and 7-inch models all included.

The new 5.6- and 7-inch iPads will mainly target the e-book reader market, separating them from the 9.7-inch model, which mainly targets multimedia entertainment, the sources stated.

It’s basically the exact same rumors – expect this time there’s talk of contracts having already been signed and OLED displays being used on the iPad Mini 7″ and iPad Mini 5.6″.

Is this about Kindle vs iPad Mini or about gaming?

While both in April and now in July the rumors have claimed that the 5.6″ and 7″ iPad Minis will target readers it’s hard to believe Apple would be building OLED screen reading devices.

  1. OLEDs consume more power than even LCDs. How are they going to compete with eInk? 
  2. OLEDs are pretty expensive – DigiTimes says Samsung and LG Display are reducing prices and you still have to wonder what prices they can get OLEDs down to.
  3. The choice of OLEDs hints at a desire to bring the prettier Retina Display to iPads rather than to create a more readable display.
  4. OLEDs aren’t readable in sunlight.
  5. How will OLED powered do-everything devices for $400 compete with $189 Kindles and $109 refurbished Kindles?

Perhaps Apple hits $300 – However, the device would still not be ideal for reading. Whether it’s lower battery life due to use of OLEDs, not being readable in sunlight, or more eye-strain than eInk you get the same set of problems the iPad currently has.

The only dimension Apple would improve on is price. Perhaps they think Retina Display ads will be enough to convince people the iPad Mini is better for reading than Kindle eInk.

Sub $400 7″ iPad Mini vs $189 6″ Kindle 3 – What would readers choose?

People who want a device that does more than just read are already picking an iPhone or an iPad. So we really aren’t talking about that demographic. This is about people who want a device for reading books.

Let’s consider some of the most important qualities related to reading -

  1. Readable screen. The Kindle wins due to eInk. There will, however, be people who are seduced by the Retina display and color and touch capabilities of the iPad Mini.  
  2. Easy to get books. A tie as both devices are good.
  3. Good value for money. This is a difficult one as for readers the Kindle is better – However, it’s hard to claim the iPad Mini won’t offer as good or even better value for money if you start factoring in non-reading uses.
  4. Low Total Cost of Ownership. Kindle wins as wireless browsing and downloads are free. This is never really considered when people discuss the iPad. 
  5. Doesn’t tire the eyes. Kindle wins for people who aren’t LCD compatible. LCD compatible people find no difference.
  6. Lots of available books. Tie due to the Kindle for iPad app.
  7. Low book prices. Tie due to the Kindle for iPad app.   
  8. Readable in sunlight. Kindle wins.
  9. Readable in the dark. iPad wins if you can’t (or don’t want to) turn on a reading light. It might affect your sleep and cause insomnia – However, if you’re LCD compatible you’re probably immune to this.
  10. Apps that add to reading. Depends on what the Kindle App Store looks like and when it releases. iPad wins at the moment. 
  11. Light Weight. This was a major iPad disadvantage and this will now be a tie.
  12. Portable form factor. Another major iPad disadvantage that will be a tie.

We arrive at a rather interesting realization – The iPad was losing out to the Kindle in a few key areas including total cost of ownership, intial price, weight, portability, readability in sunlight, and readable screen.

Due to the lower price and smaller size the 5.6″ and 7″ iPads would counter some of those Kindle advantages – initial price (to an extent), weight, portability.

The gap between iPad Mini and Kindle for readers would be smaller. There will be a few groups of readers who’ll obviously stick with the Kindle – people who aren’t LCD compatible, people who want a device focused on reading and don’t want distractions, people who consider total cost of ownership. There will also be a few groups of readers who will leave – those who want one device that does everything, those who are LCD compatible, people who aspire to own an Apple product but couldn’t afford one until the $300 iPad.

Smaller, cheaper iPads would make Kindle vs iPad Mini a very close fight

Amazon still has a strong price, portability, and readability advantage over the iPad. However, when Apple introduces cheaper iPads Amazon will have to either create new advantages or match Apple advantages.

The possibilities include a better eInk screen, even lower prices, a really good Kindle App Store, more focus on reading, a multi-tasking Kindle that attacks Apple, Kindle subsidies, more focus on Kindle Apps, and creating a new killer feature Apple can’t match.

The iPad is not a huge threat because it’s still too untailored for reading and too expensive (particularly if you consider total cost of ownership). However, Apple are clearly indicating that they intend to go after readers – even if it is with a multi-purpose device. If Amazon doesn’t create a few big advantages for the Kindle by the end of 2010 Kindle vs iPad Mini might turn out very bad for the Kindle.

Kindle necessary for iPad owners – ComputerWorld

There’s a new trend starting – People who bought the iPad had begun to think the Kindle was no longer needed. Of course, they felt it necessary to scream it out from the rooftops and declare the Kindle dead. Now after a month or so with their iPads more and more of them are changing their minds as they realize the Kindle really is better for reading.

We saw this with Clayton Morris who pointed out several reasons the Kindle is better for reading than the iPad. We now have Mike Elgan at ComputerWorld have a change of heart -

But now that I’ve used an iPad for a month and a half, I’ve come to realize that I still want, need and love my Kindle.

In a nutshell, the e-book reading on the iPad is generally great. But the list of things the iPad does badly is identical to the list of things the Kindle does well. And vice versa.

He’s hedging his bets – However, it’s much better than the initial ‘Kindle is dead’ sentiment.

13 reasons iPad owners need a Kindle

Courtesy Mike Elgan at ComputerWorld we get a list of 13 reasons the Kindle is necessary even if you have the magical iPad -

  1. Reading in the Sun. He rightly points out that the iPad is unreadable in direct sunlight. It’d be nice if people started pointing out that the iPad doesn’t handle bright light that well either.
  2. Free Mobile Broadband - He rightly points out that if you only need 3G to browse for books and download them then the Kindle has free 3G. He misses out that Wikipedia, Google search, and mobile sites also work quite well.
  3. Auto-Reader (Text to Speech) - Elgan talks about letting his Kindle read to him and the usefulness. Apple also has text to speech though its an accessibility feature (Voice Over) and it’s a pain to use as all the buttons become voice activated.
  4. Overheating. He says that in direct sunlight, in a hot car, and in hot weather the iPad can overheat and shut down.  
  5. Security. A very valid point - the Kindle is less likely to be stolen and at $189 much less of a loss if it is.
  6. Reading before Sleep. Mike Elgan quotes a study that suggests reading on a device using a back-lit screen can interfere with the quality of your sleep. This is one of those things which varies from person to person – for me, backlit screens at night do mess up my sleep.  
  7. Battery Life. iPad’s 10 to 12 hours versus the Kindle’s 2 weeks.
  8. Book Availability. Not as much of a pro-Kindle argument as a pro-Kindle Store argument.  
  9. Magazine Availability. Also a pro-Kindle Store argument. 
  10. Weight. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds and holding it with one or both hands gets tiring very quickly. You have to rest it against something which sometimes means bending your neck awkwardly. The Kindle is just 10.2 ounces and you can hold and read it for a long time – even if you’re using just one hand.
  11. Multiple Users. Elgan points out that kids, family, and friends always want to borrow the iPad and it’s tough to get time for reading.
  12. Peace. He says that he gets interrupted once every 15 minutes when using his iPad outdoors.
  13. Multitasking. Mike Elgan says there are lots of situations where two devices are better than one.

His ending is pretty interesting -

If I had to choose between an iPad and a Kindle, there is no question that I’d choose an iPad. But I don’t have to choose. I can have it all. And I recommend that all serious readers who buy an iPad do the same.

It’s pretty obvious that after 1 to 2 months of owning an iPad the ‘This device does everything better than everything else’ sentiment begins to disappear. Makes you wonder what other feelings are going to dissipate over the next 3 to 4 months.

Readable in sunlight Kindle wins over Clayton Morris

Kindle being readable in sunlight results in Clayton Morris at Fox News having a change of heart

Clayton Morris had described the Kindle as ‘positively passe’ and ebooks as ‘online books’. He had also suggested that Amazon needs to give away the Kindle at $0 to survive. Suddenly he’s changed his tune and now likes the Kindle -

The biggest complaint I have with the iPad is not being able to read it in direct sunlight. In fact it’s virtually impossible. By the pool, beach or park, that’s where my Kindle gets its biggest workout.

Awesome -  Two weeks ago Clayton Morris was recommending we throw away our Kindles for the iPad and now he’s suddenly realized that the Kindle works in direct sunlight and the iPad doesn’t.

He also thinks Amazon should promote this fact a lot more (agreed, though they have begun to – including on TV commercials) -

The screen on the new Kindle DX is nice and sharp and makes reading in the sunlight a no-brainer. If Amazon were smart, this little factoid would be plastered all over its marketing material.

It’s hard to believe a lot of what he’s writing given how anti-Kindle he was just two weeks ago -

Certain features on the Kindle DX have left the iPad in the dust, such as a very thin third-inch width compared to the iPad’s half-inch size. A much longer battery life — iPad gets about 10 hours while the Kindle boasts a week on a single charge.

The Kindle DX is also noticeably lighter than the iPad.

But remember, the Kindle is just an ebook reader and the iPad is almost a laptop replacement, hardly the same kind of device. Amazon dropped the price on the new Kindle to compete with the iPad, so it’s a comparison I’m comfortable making.

He also says that he believes there’s still a market for devices that can do one thing as long as they do it well.

He ends by mentioning that he prefers the $189 Kindle over the $379 Kindle DX 2. Hard to argue with that if you don’t specifically need a bigger screen.

When the Buzz and Marketing wear off Reality takes over

It’s quite amusing to see that Clayton Morris was initially so affected by the buzz he thought the Kindle was dead and would have to go to $0 to survive. Now that reality has set in he’s realizing that the Kindle is much better for reading.

Between him and the comments we get to hear a lot of the Kindle Reader’s advantages over the pretend-Reader iPad when it comes to reading -

  1. Lighter.
  2. Cheaper.
  3. Readable in sunlight.
  4. Much better battery life.
  5. Free 3G on the Kindle.
  6. Focused on reading.
  7. Doesn’t tire the eyes – unless you’re LCD compatible. 

As time goes on a lot more people will start realizing that any device that glitters is rather unsuitable for reading in sunlight and may not be the best device for reading in general either.

The comments are a riot with readers recommending the Kindle, mentioning its free 3G, and other readers recommending Nook and Sony instead of the Kindle.  

Clayton Morris’ change of heart illustrates a key distinction a lot of people are missing – Most of the ‘eReaders will die out’ opinions are from people who are simply caught up in the thrill of new, shiny products. It’s only when these people realize that they can’t use their pretend-eReader in direct sunlight (beaches, parks, outdoors), when the wireless charges start seeming rather expensive, and when they get tired of holding their 1.5 pound book-replacement in their hands that they will understand it’s not a very good reading device.

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