Dark Horse Fire: The Amazon Kindle Entry

I heard a lot of good things about the Amazon’s new Kindle Fire Tablet and so did a little reading on it.  Gizmodo had a good review (http://gizmodo.com/5844623/amazon-kindle-fire-tablet-will-cost-a-shocking-199) that I think covers the main points, basically that it is very well designed, cheap, fast, and taking full advantage of a satidfied and loyal customer base (for both Kindle e-readers and Amazon services in general).  This comes at a time when various other tablet entries have been seen to retreat – and in some cases bail out completely.  So someone did something right, and I don’t think it was luck.

The world thought it was running out of innovative leadership and forgot that Amazon always had it.  The world also likes a darkhorse to mix things up or add to the unexpected. This one’s worth a good look at.  Mainly I get the sense that Amazon built on its strength, which is something that gives anyone confidence.  They did not seek to go head-to-head with Apple’s iPad but did make it clear they are a new blip on the radar that won’t be going away anytime soon.  Oddly enough, the reaction that many had wasn’t suprise, but more of an “oh-yeah!”  It’s almost as if they think that if they do steal significant market share, it will be more of a bi-product of what they are doing.  They are making their “base” happy – something that can’t be said for everyone else.  People say they set the price point so low (at $199) to go after a lower portion of the market, but I think that, again, its a price their past customers were used to seeing.  Whether or not its makes Amazon money on the hardware side may not matter – given the returns they likely hope to capitalize on from on-line content and merchandise purchases (and associated ad revenue).  The old “razor and blade” strategy?

I am not a Blackberry basher.  I own one, and I like it.  In the past my first Blackberry phone was a life-changer for me in business; truly an office in my pocket.  I remain one of the many fans that are pulling for them to really hit the mark – and that doesn’t mean going up against Apple!  I respect the desire/obligation to match a competitor’s progress, but I think its clear enough from my own surveys that the BBerry “base” did not really understand how exactly the PlayBook fit in to them or who exactly it was talking to.  I don’t have all the answers but it would have been interesting if it was designed and released around the premise that whatever the world may think, people who love Blackberry’s will love this thing, because it extends their familiar experience or need to do… whatever – do more with their BBM “super-app” or something.  (Actually in hindsight, the BBM could have become much bigger than what it is, a real entry point or hub for the new experience of its now broader users.  And I suspect that is an angle we may yet still see).  I’m not so quick to count them out.  Anyway, it had some genuine selling points that the iPad didn’t, but I didn’t need it to go up against Apple, I just needed it to talk to me.  Still do.

Which takes us back to Dark Horses.  It’s not a bad position to take while the other guys duke it out.  I suspect its not easy for past leaders to do, especially when an existing base of users and shareholders are demanding a return to the top in a rapidly shifting landscape.  You almost have to swing for the fence when you know sometimes you shouldn’t. You get top billing whether you want it or not.  The Dark Horse gets to be in the game and quietly impress when all eyes are looking elsewhere.

So let’s watch this interesting market continue to evolve and see how this new entry performs.  It may be the first real proof that someone can carve out their own little space in it and only have to worry if they are making their own crowd happy to stay there.  They are today’s tablet Dark Horse, and a good one I think. Enjoy it while it lasts I guess.