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Kindle Fire sets tablet market ablaze this holiday, but still can’t take on iPad

by Phil Hornshaw

We still don’t know exactly how many Kindle Fire tablets Amazon was able to sell since the device’s release in November, but getting sales numbers isn’t the only way to figure out the market penetration of a mobile device.

Market research firm Flurry Analytics uses a completely different system to come by the statistics it uses to analyze trends in the smartphone and tablet markets. According to a story from Ars Technica, the firm and its method of analyzing data from hundreds of thousands it employs to gather usage information have found that the Kindle Fire truly is ablaze. In just three months on the market, the tablet went from accounting for 3 percent of the Android tablet market to 36 percent of the market.

As we heard over the weekend, the Android tablet market is growing, jumping 10 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2011 as compared to 2010 to reach 39 percent of all tablet sales. Android tablets hit 10.5 million across all device makers during the same period.

The trouble is, while the Android tablet market continues to grow, Apple still has a stranglehold on the tab market with 58 percent of all tablets sold. That’s still a huge portion, and it means that while the tablet market continues to grow, it’s just expanding to accommodate more devices and more buyers. Apple is still pulling down massive sales for the iPad.

The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is a great example of the trouble with the Android tablet market. The Kindle Fire is cannibalizing the sales of other Android tablets, turning the already Android-buying market toward a different device. Measuring that same period during the last three months since the Kindle Fire’s launch, Flurry found that the market share for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line dropped from 64 percent of Android tablets to just 36 percent. And that tab has been on the market for more than two years.

The success of Amazon’s tablet isn’t turning heads away from the iPad, it would seem. Apple hasn’t noticed a difference in its sales since the introduction of the Kindle Fire one way or the other, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

That’s trouble for Android as an operating system. While the Kindle Fire was a popular new device during the holidays, the Android tablet market struggles to make inroads and really compete against Apple and the iPad. With Apple dominating and more customers likely to pick up an iPad than an Android tablet, it means more developers and more apps will flock to Apple’s iOS operating system if given a choice between the two.

Amazon has done a commendable job of finding a niche to exploit when it comes to the tablet market, and it seems that it’s already paying off for the company. But in terms of taking on Apple, Android device makers are still in the same boat they’ve always been: they’re being out-competed with features and software, and that’s causing the Android tablet market to fight amongst itself rather than expand into Apple’s territory. Amazon has the right idea with its competitive price and software features. If more device makers were to emulate Amazon’s model in different price ranges, concentrating on the experience and features their devices offer rather than tech specs, they might have a chance of going toe-to-toe with the heavyweight champion iPad.