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iPad Has it’s First Real Challenger, Amazon Fire

How the Amazon Fire Compares to the iPad

Written by Maria Korolov

Amazon’s new $200 Fire tablet could be the first device to make a significant impact on the iPad’s dominance of the market, thanks to innovative use of cloud services.

Let’s take a look at the reasons for this claim.

The Fire tablet is designed for shopping. Amazon is not only the biggest provider of cloud hosting in the world, but it is also the biggest online retailer. And it’s no secret that the Fire was designed from the ground up to make e-shopping as easy as possible –- specifically, shopping for content from Amazon. Users can buy e-books, movies, music, and apps through a convenient interface.

The iPad is similarly designed for easy shopping. Both devices are easier and friendlier to use than more utilitarian generic tablets. It’s like the difference between walking into a high-end store and your company’s office supply closet. The store’s sound system lulls you into a pleasant shopping stupor. The staff is friendly. The colors are the latest seasonal palette –- it even smells nice. The office supply closet –- not so much.

By pairing up its tablet with its popular e-commerce site, Amazon instantly makes its device comforting and familiar -– a major plus if Amazon is going after the same audience that buys e-readers. According to Nielsen, 65 percent of e-reader users are currently over 45 years of age, and 61 percent are women.

These are prime shopping demographics, especially when it comes to books. And Amazon is the No. 1 destination for book shoppers. According to the Book Industry Study Group, 70 percent of e-book shoppers bought on Amazon in May 2011, while less than 10 percent bought books through the Apple store.

If these shoppers are inspired to buy Amazon’s Fire tablet over the iPad, they won’t just be buying e-books, either –- they’ll have access to Amazon’s entire catalog, both of digital media and of actual physical objects they can have shipped to their homes.

The Fire tablet -– like the iPad –- also makes shopping easier by offering free cloud storage for all purchased digital products. This is a bigger deal for the Fire, which only has 8GB of storage, while the iPad starts at 16GB and goes all the way up to 64GB.

The Fire tablet focuses on the consumer. The iPad is difficult enough to use to create or edit documents –- the on-screen keyboard can be awkward, and an external keyboard forces users to switch back and forth between typing and tapping on the screen.

The Fire tablet, with its smaller size –- seven inches diagonal, compared to the iPad’s 9.7 inches –- is even more difficult to use for writing anything longer than a short email or text message. But the small size makes it a third lighter than the iPad -– perfect for holding in one hand while reading books or magazines or surfing the Web.

Fire users are more likely to be consuming content from the cloud rather than creating it. This means that it’s unlikely that the Fire tablet will become popular in business environments as a laptop replacement or presentation device.

The Fire tablet is WiFi only. Fire users have to find WiFi hotspots in order to take advantage of the tablet’s Internet capabilities. That means that kids won’t be surfing the Web from the back seat of the family minivan –- and their parents won’t be checking their email or downloading new e-books while at the beach.

The alternative to WiFi is 3G –- which typically requires a data contract from a cellphone company like AT&T or Verizon. Amazon’s Kindle devices are available in both WiFi-only and WiFi plus 3G configurations, as is Apple’s iPad. The 3G-enabled tablets are fully functional everywhere -– well, everywhere with cell coverage. There’s a monthly fee for the 3G service on the iPad, but no monthly access fee for Amazon’s Kindle Touch 3G, Kindle Keyboard 3G, and Kindle DX.

Of course, those devices aren’t designed to download, say, full-length movies and TV shows –- both of which the Kindle Fire can handle.

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