Amazon Fire: The Tablet War Begins Now

Amazon’s Kindle Fire doesn’t start shipping to the public until November 15, but talk about its impact is already coming fast and furious.

So far, I particularly like the speculation by early Apple employee Chris Espinosa:

The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there.

And this analysis of the disruptive power of Fire from Robert Wheeler at HBR.org:

It’s not just a low-end competitor to the iPad. There is scalable technology at its core that the present-generation iPad lacks — the extensive use of the Cloud. That is why Amazon can get away with shipping a device that has only 8GB of memory. What’s more, the Fire has a business model advantage too — Amazon is using content to subsidize the hardware.

Now that Apple has proved the skeptics wrong and showed how big the tablet market is, there’s no way it’s going to remain a monopoly. And it certainly feels like Amazon is in a good position to compete by offering a content-consumption device with lightweight interaction capability (email, social media, etc.). Amazon has a massive amount of content to offer, and will certainly be smarter about the Cloud than Apple has been to date with iTunes. What’s more, Amazon has also proved to be a pretty good hardware designer (proving once again the silliness of the argument that high tech design needs to be somehow close to manufacturing in order to be successful), so I’m looking forward to getting my Fire and see how well it works.

I have trouble thinking of two companies that have done a better job of delivering great user/customer experiences over the last decade than Amazon and Apple. So they seem like the most likely candidates to split up the tablet market, where I predict that very few users will care about specs and features, and the great majority will care about simplicity, elegance, ease of use, utility, and content.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the tablet market becomes a two-horse race, at least for the next couple years. Does this sound right to you? If not, who else will enter and succeed, and why? Leave a comment, please, and let us know what you think.