Price of Amazon's Kindle Fire will help it dominate the Android tablet field

by Phil Hornshaw

Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/ReutersArguably, the trouble with the current crop of tablets running on Google’s Android operating system is that they have no identity.

Most, if not absolutely all, of the currently available Android tabs wish they were the iPad. They want to beat the iPad, but moreover, they want to be the iPad, and that has led to a huge crop of imitators of Apple’s tablet that can’t quite hit the same mark. That makes sense, given that Apple invented those marks. And at comparable prices to the iPad, there’s often no reason to go with an Android tablet that amounts to “an iPad, but not as good.”

Enter Amazon and its Kindle Fire. The just-announced tablet doesn’t try to be an Apple product, and instead has an identity and brand all its own: Amazon. The Kindle Fire is Amazon through-and-through, and the reason people will buy it is because of all the Amazon features it comes with. Oh, and because it has an awesome price.

More than just specs

First off, the Kindle Fire dodges a major pitfall that a lot of Android tablets have fallen into: specs. In his announcement address, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn’t just gloss over the internal specs of the Kindle Fire, he basically ignored them. And with good reason, too – the tablet isn’t very powerful, and that’s part of what makes it so cheap. It carries a dual-core processor but no 3G support and no camera. It’s already not looking to compete with the iPad and the numerous other Android tablets out there that seem to think these features should be standard on every tablet on the market.

Instead, the Kindle Fire packs in a lot of cool features that Amazon already provides, like its Amazon Prime Instant Video service, the Cloud Music Player it rolled out a few months ago and the Kindle Whispersync technology that already works in its Kindle apps. The tablet comes full of cool technology that Amazon provides, and as we all know, it’s a tablet’s features that make it cool, not how fast it can theoretically process things.

A better browser

But Amazon has also thought about how fast it can process things, at least to some degree. In order to make the user experience stand out a little more, Amazon is rolling out a new mobile browsing technology called Amazon Silk. It works by splitting the resources needed to load a webpage on the Kindle Fire between the tablet’s internal hardware and Amazon’s cloud-based servers. If a site is particularly image-intensive, for example, those images will get rendered by cloud servers while the tablet handles text, and the whole page will load faster than if the tablet had to struggle with the images itself. Silk also adapts to users by paying attention to which sites they frequent and pre-loading them so they’ll pop up quicker.

The Kindle Fire doesn’t try to be the iPad, and in a lot of ways, it doesn’t even try to be what most tablets are. Instead, Amazon has identified things it wants to do well: media. The Kindle line is well-known for books, and Amazon is throwing in video, music and apps, and using its huge infrastructure of cloud servers to help. All the content users buy through Amazon syncs automatically and is saved in the cloud, so it can be easily deleted and re-downloaded later. The result is a simplified tablet experience that’s not all-encompassing, but is half the price of most of the rest of the market.

Other Android device makers could learn from Amazon’s example, because Amazon understands it’s about what your tablet does well, rather than what it could do in theory. Web browsing and quick access to content is what the Kindle Fire is all about, and because Amazon has a finely-honed idea, it’s able to price itself so competitively that it’ll likely take a serious bite out of the entire Android tablet market.