Amazon reports selling 4 million Kindle devices in December

by Phil Hornshaw

Despite some early speculation that Amazon’s Kindle Fire Android tablet might be a runaway success, it appears the new contender in the tablet market is doing well, but not that well.

Amazon has never been extremely forthcoming with sales numbers for its popular Kindle devices, and that trend has held true with the Kindle Fire. However, during December, Amazon did say officially that it had been selling 1 million Kindle devices per week for three straight weeks. According to a report from Ars Technica, that trend held true throughout December, and Amazon made mention of the fact that the Kindle Fire was its best-selling device throughout that period. It wouldn’t say what the sales numbers are for individual Kindle models, though, of which there are several.

Ars Technica points to one estimate that guesses Kindle Fires might make up about 78 percent of that 1 million per week figure, which would put Amazon at having sold about 3.12 million Fire units during December. The device launched in November, when Amazon said it was receiving some serious presales and launch sales – but again, without reporting substantial numbers.

The Kindle Fire seemed like it could be the first Android tablet to take some of the spotlight off of Apple’s iPad. When it was first announced, the tablet held a lot of promise: it leveraged the power of Amazon’s massive online retail network to deliver content quickly and easily to users; it had cloud-powered software that made the tablet function better than its cost-saving hardware would otherwise allow; and it was cheap with a price tag of $199, $300 cheaper than the cheapest out-of-the-box iPad.

Indeed, the Kindle Fire has sold well if the speculation about it holds true, but it hasn’t done nearly as well as the iPad at any step of the way. Even with a few million sales after its launch, the Kindle Fire can’t hope to even approach the projected 13.5 million iPad sales projected for the final quarter of 2011.

Where the Fire is winning, more likely, is among other Android tablets. There have been few devices that have been able to sell as fast as Amazon’s Android tab, and though the Fire has received some mixed reviews and given some early adopters a little trouble with various features and software issues, it still is getting a lot of praise from many users and is still being bought at a pretty fast clip.

It’s been a great holiday for the Kindle in general and probably the Fire in particular, and Amazon’s little 7-inch discount device, for now, seems like it could climb to the top of the Android heap. It doesn’t seem like Amazon has found the iPad-killing silver bullet, but by focusing on not competing with the iPad in a lot of ways, it seems the retail giant has created a viable alternative to just about every other tablet on the market.