Matt Muller, technical director, Wunderman
Matt Muller, technical director, Wunderman
A view from Matt Muller

Think BR: Kindle Fire II threatens to blow out iPad's flame

With the greatly anticipated Kindle Fire II hitting the tablet market, Apple will have to up its game if it's going to keep from getting its fingers burned, writes Matt Muller, technical director, Wunderman.

The launch of Amazon's new tablet in the US comes at an interesting time; the tablet sector is currently dominated by Apple's iPad - but entering the fray shortly will be Microsoft's own brand of Surface tablets, new Sony tablets and the elusive iPad Mini.

The contest is now truly on for who can provide the most engaging content, apps and games on their platforms and the new Kindle Fire has just become the competitor to watch.

The Kindle Fire has made a significant impact on the US tablet market. Retailing at half of the price of the iPad, it has enjoyed sell out success, capturing 22% of the market share.

Its accomplishments cannot be attributed to a single cause. Amazon has built up credibility and a loyal consumer base with its Kindle ebook reader devices. 

Many existing Amazon Kindle customers have upgraded to the Kindle Fire to gain tablet features such as a colour screen and the apps ecosystem, which add to an already seamless ebook reader and online bookstore experience.

Additionally, the $199 (£123) price point of the Kindle Fire has put a tablet device into the reach of many consumers who might have been apprehensive about spending $399 (£248) - priced £399 in the UK - on an Apple iPad.

With the Kindle Fire booming in the States, and the Kindle Fire II’s launch adding fuel to the flames, Apple has found itself in danger of getting singed.

This is not about hardware as the margin Amazon makes on the tablet itself, given its specs and price point, is minimal.

Amazon has an impeccable reputation as one of the most visited online retailers. The problem for Apple is that Amazon is creating an exclusive route to market for software and digital content ecosystem - a model pioneered by Apple's App store and also to be followed by Microsoft with the Surface RT version (an edition of the soon to be released Windows 8).

Apple has a new rumoured weapon of its own - the iPad Mini. The competition in the 7-inch tablet space is hotting up and for those in the market to purchase one of these devices the solution is obvious - wait until they are all announced and then make a decision based on which one will be the best match for your lifestyle.

The key consumer considerations for the mini-iPad will be competitive pricing in addition to specification and form factor. If Apple can deliver to these expectations, it will make the mini-iPad a strong contender in the 7-inch tablet market.

With speculation around a smaller iPad rife, the question as to whether or not the release of a market cornering premium product, such as the iPad, followed by a cheaper alternative to secure the market remainder is becoming a strategy by Apple, as seen with the iPod and iPod Nano.

Despite Apple’s apparent meticulous scheming, the truth is less conspicuous. Innovation and developing quality consumer products is at the core of its ethos.

It is logistical, rather than dubious, for them to launch their flagship product first to ensure they meet consumer expectation.

Early generations of a product incur high manufacturing costs. As the development process matures, newfound manufacturing efficiencies can be leveraged to build cheaper versions.

The Kindle Fire II measures up to the iPad with its high definition screen, fast processor, front facing camera, HDMI output, 16GB or 32GB storage, Bluetooth and 4G LTE on its 8.9 inch version.

It uses Amazon's Silk Browser, which utilises user browsing patterns and pre-fetches content by anticipating which sites users will browse to next. This technology also delivers a new feature called Trending Now, which shows the most popular web pages being browsed by Kindle Fire users.

The browser also comes with better HTML5 support, faster page loads and an improved start page.

At the moment, Apple continues to dominate the tablet war with their advanced technology and mature content ecosystem (iTunes and the App Store).

However, as more combatants enter the battle field, and strong contenders such as the Kindle Fire II arise, the pressure is on Apple to produce the next big innovation in product experience to keep their edge.

Matt Muller, technical director, Wunderman