"Millions of people now own Kindles," Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) CEO Jeff Bezos conceded during last night's fourth-quarter earnings release.
Finally! After 26 months of silence since the Kindle's launch before the 2007 holiday shopping season, the leading online retailer is willing to at least shed some light on the actual sales metrics of its revolutionary e-book reader.
Sure, all that Bezos' quote tells us is that Amazon has sold at least 2 million of its $259 devices. That's better than nothing.
It's also not much of a surprise to see Amazon talking general Kindle numbers the day after Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) introduced its e-book-friendly iPad. Kindle owners needed to know that they're not alone in supporting a platform that won't come undone against Apple's colorful touchscreen gadgetry.
Amazon probably felt comfortable talking about Kindle's "millions" in light of another market-thumping report. The company's net sales soared by 42% to $9.52 billion, well ahead of Wall Street's $9.04 billion target. Even if we adjust for the favorable impact of foreign exchange fluctuations, net sales would still have climbed by 37% during the period. Keep that number in mind when most retailers begin posting flat top-line growth for their holiday quarters.
Did Amazon sacrifice margins to drive those sales? Of course not! Earnings soared by 71% to $0.85 a share, absolutely toasting analyst guesstimates of $0.72 a share.
The good times should continue to roll, since Amazon sees 32% to 45% net sales growth for the current quarter. And just in case investors aren't buying, the company will be. Its board has authorized a $2 billion share-repurchase plan.
As for the Kindle, Amazon isn't conceding anything to the iPad. The company isn't even tagging it as a foe. The earnings release identifies the iPad -- along with Macs and Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry -- as devices that will soon be able to sync up with Kindle purchases, just as PCs, iPhones, and iPhone touch devices do now. Until Apple proves to be a Kindle killer, Amazon will simply keep fending off Sony (NYSE: SNE ) , Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) , and smaller players with a dedicated e-reader already in the market.
It won't be an easy fight, but in Amazon's own words, it has "millions" on its side.
Now that the iPad specs are official, will it really be a Kindle killer? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.