Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle Fire has already been the target of a pre-emptive strike. Now it's time for the tablet to deliver one of its own.
The company has announced today that it's jumping the gun and shipping its entire new lineup early. It's not skipping ahead by a particularly large time frame, but it's better than nothing for the millions of eager buyers anxious to get their hands on the devices. The Fire will begin shipping today, one day early, while the Touch and Touch 3G will ship tomorrow, six days early. More importantly, it will rush out to meet Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS ) new Nook Tablet on the battlefield.
Regarding the Kindle Fire, Amazon's Kindle vice president, Dave Limp, said that the company is "building millions more than we'd planned," after strong customer response, reiterating CEO Jeff Bezos' sentiments. Limp also said sales of the newest e-ink Kindles "are more than double any previous Kindle launch."
A handful of Fire units have made it to media outlets for early reviews. How will it fare against its Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android brethren or Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad?
The Verge's Joshua Topolsky described its physical design as "incredibly unoriginal," which is expected since Amazon tapped Quanta Computer, who also designed Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) PlayBook, for its hardware. Topolsky says "there's no question that the Fire is a really terrific tablet for its price," although it "isn't an iPad-killer." Its strongest suit is content, and the shopping "experience is completely painless, and far more integrated in the Fire than it is on the iPad or any other Android tablet."
The New York Times' David Pogue warns against comparing the Fire to the iPad, calling it a "dangerous comparison." Pogue says Amazon's offering "is not nearly as versatile as a real tablet" and that it's "designed almost exclusively for consuming stuff." The Fire also lacks the "polish or speed" that Apple boasts, Pogue says. But although he says "it needs a lot more polish," it also "deserves to be a disruptive, gigantic force."
There are plenty more reviews out there, and most are positive. Amazon Prime will be the key to unlocking the full potential of the Fire, and it is also how Amazon can create its own Apple-esque experience and ecosystem based on Android.
I'm in the camp that says the Fire is in a different category from the iPad, but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. The Fire will be the perfect complement to all of Amazon's services, including Prime, cloud storage, and its Android Appstore. And don't forget just plain old shopping.
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