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Is the Kindle Fire an iPad Killer? After seeing two posts in quick succession from different sources, one saying it is and one saying it isn’t, I couldn’t resist the chance to compare the two points of view.

For the “Yes, it is an iPad killer” side, we have Molly Wood, a CNet commentator, saying (in the headline no less), “Yes. It’s the price, stupid.” She admits that the Fire has “almost literally half the features” of the iPad—smaller screen, no camera, half the on-board memory, and so on. But compared to considerations of price, Wood posits, features aren’t as important.

At $199, virtually any mainstream consumer is going to stand next to these two devices, look at them side-by-side, and make a price-conscious decision–and that decision is easier than you might think, as tablet usage starts to sort itself out. Sure, the Kindle Fire lacks a camera for video chat and movie-making. So what? Hardly anyone is doing that with their tablets anyway. No GPS? That’s what your phone is for. No Bluetooth? Shrug. It’s one hundred and ninety-nine dollars.

She points out that the iPad still has the fundamental problem that very few people actually need one, and that the Fire can do most of what people really want to do with tablets (light web browsing, casual gaming, e-reading, video streaming, etc.) for a significantly smaller chunk of change. Indeed, not only has the Fire sounded the death knell for the iPad, writes Wood, but it has also “unquestionably slaughtered every Android tablet on the market.”

For the opposing view, John Paul Titlow writes on ReadWriteWeb that the iPad still has considerably more features, is a more general-purpose device as opposed to the Fire’s content-centric composition, and is part of a dedicated “ecosystem” of devices that provide more benefit overall than Amazon’s Kindle Fire does by itself.

The more tightly Apple ties those devices together, the more challenging it will for any competitor to pluck away users from any one device. Amazon has a tablet. But Apple has a tablet that fits in perfectly with its smartphone, music player, desktops and laptops. They’re even rumored to have an HDTV on the way.

Titlow holds that, while the Fire might attract a chunk of the tablet market away from Apple, he doubts that it will “kill” the device. He does suggest it might entice Apple to consider further end-of-year price cuts to its older iPads, if it hadn’t been thinking about them already, and that future iterations of the Fire might be more of a threat. “After all, the first iPad didn’t have a camera either.”

Of these two points of view, I have to admit I find Wood’s slightly more compelling, just because I know what it’s like to make decisions from a price-based point of view. If I didn’t have an iPad and were given the choice between buying a Kindle Fire, a Nook Color, and an iPad today, with my own money, I would probably choose the Kindle Fire based on the intersection of what I would want to do with it and how much I’d be willing to pay.

And perhaps Titlow should bear in mind that when people talk about “iPad-killers” they don’t expect something that will make the iPad go the way of HP’s TouchPad. They’re just talking about something that will knock it off the top-selling spot in the market, even if it continues selling well enough to turn a profit for years to come. (The way that, for example, the iPod Touch has “killed” the iPod Classic that used to be Apple’s best-selling item, but is still available for sale and sells decently well—though, granted, the Classic might be about to die the final death this year.) From that perspective, Apple might very well have something to worry about.

 
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