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Kindle Fire launches tomorrow, could have a big impact on Android tab market

by Phil Hornshaw

Amazon’s low-priced entry into the Android tablet market, the Kindle Fire, goes on sale tomorrow, but the devices are already starting to ship ahead of the release.

That’s the report from Mashable, which states that Amazon has started sending out the devices even though it was projected to start shipping on Nov. 15 – just two weeks ahead of Black Friday, the most popular shopping day of the year and a strategic release on Amazon’s part to pique holiday interest.

The tablet is already well-positioned to have a pretty big impact on the Android tablet market this holiday season. Mostly, it’s the price: just $199, compared to the $499 that customers have to pay for the cheapest available new Apple iPad. Android tablets are comparably priced and run the gamut from the low end of the spectrum to the high (with some that are even cheaper than the Kindle Fire), but Amazon has the benefit of its name and its online retail empire to back up the device.

Developers' favorite

And it seems as though Amazon’s marketing plan, which includes such features as its cloud music service and a cloud-backed Internet browser booster technology called Amazon Silk, is working. According to a report from Technolog, a new study conducted by Appcelerator and IDC finds the Kindle Fire is the Android device developers most want to create software for, and it hasn’t even been released yet.

The survey of 2,160 developers found that 49 percent wanted to develop apps for the Kindle Fire. The Samsung Galaxy Tab clocked in high as well, with 48 percent responding that they wanted to develop for the device. Next was the Motorola Xoom with 37 percent of respondents expressing interest, followed by 24 percent looking to Barnes & Noble’s NOOK tablet.

The Kindle also has some traction with developers in other regions of the world, as well. In Europe, the Galaxy Tab is tops in developer interest (55 percent), followed by the Kindle Fire with 38 percent and the Xoom with 29 percent. The HTC Flyer took fourth with 27 percent of developers saying they were interested in it. Similar numbers came out of Asia – 63 percent for the Galaxy Tab, 35 percent for the Kindle Fire, 34 percent interested in working with the Xoom and 30 percent saying they were interested in the HTC Flyer.

Appealing to everyone

As Technolog points out, Amazon has a lot of things going for it that make it a desirable place for developers to get their apps. These include the growing Amazon Appstore and the huge amount of content that Amazon can sell to or stream to its devices. Amazon has been keen on keeping the discussion on what the Kindle Fire can do, and hasn’t talked much about the Android part of the device at all.

That’s by design, according to Technolog’s story, given that Amazon’s customers don’t care what operating system they’re using so long as the device works. What they want to know is what the device can do, and Amazon has lots and lots of answers to that question. Amazon operates its device without Google support, and is, in fact, becoming a decent rival in the mobile sphere to the search giant. Its app store is gaining popularity with its sales and freebies, and when you add that to the many other online services Amazon offers, it has a lot of things to talk about when it comes to the Kindle Fire.

Going forward, it’s clear that Amazon is going to be a real contender in the already fragmented, diverse but struggling Android device market. Other device makers can’t seem to find the silver bullet that Apple discovered with the iPad, but Amazon has a fair chance. But it’s not likely that Amazon is going to cut into iPad sales so much as those of other Android devices. Other device makers are going to need to find an answer to the “so what can it do?” question that’s as compelling as Amazon’s answer if they want to compete.