The Kindle Fire Is No Edsel

The New York Times is derailing the Kindle Fire lovefest.

Arguing that Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Kindle Fire has disappointed many of its early adopters, David Streitfeld singles out many of its knocks, drawing a comparison to the infamous Edsel.

  • There is no external volume control. Making the device louder or quieter requires engaging a touchscreen control.
  • It's easy to hit Kindle Fire's Off switch unintentionally.
  • Amazon's Silk browser isn't exactly a speed demon when it comes to Web page loading times.
  • Privacy controls are lacking, since anyone picking it up can scroll through a carousel of recently opened books, music, and apps.
  • The touchscreen isn't always as responsive as it should be.

Amazon is promising a software update later this month, though obviously that will only tackle the final three knocks. The structural shortcomings will remain until Amazon updates the actual hardware. I have seen both of those problems in action. It is a pain to get to the volume control when you need to adjust it. Playing a game in landscape mode does make it brutally easy to hit the Off switch by mistake with your right hand.

However, as the owner of both a Kindle Fire and last year's Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPad, I still find myself spending more time on Amazon's device than I do on the original iPad that I paid more than three times as much for.

Let me spell out four reasons that I now leave my iPad at home and take my Kindle Fire with me.

1. Because Amazon is offering a single premium app free every day, I find myself firing it up daily to make sure I don't miss something that I will like. It's a lot like Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN  ) or LivingSocial that way. It pays to stay close.

2. The screen size works for me. Steve Jobs called out the five-inch and seven-inch device screens as tweeners, but there's something to be said about portability. Folks aren't having a problem embracing games or streaming media on much smaller smartphones. Apple's 9.7-inch screen is nice, but it's not as if I need that much space for a gadget held at arm's distance.

3. The $199 price point does influence how I treat it. I have an easier time handing it to my youngest son or just tossing it into a suitcase. Replacement value is a big psychological factor in how people treat their possessions.

4. I'm ready for my second book as part of my Kindle Owners' Lending Library feature for Amazon Prime customers. I can certainly stream Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) on both, but Amazon's own growing digital catalog that's available for streaming at no additional cost for Prime members gives me comfort in having access if I should ever ditch Netflix.

The Kindle Fire obviously isn't perfect, but it's the right tablet at the right price. Of course the first generation may be a little buggy. Folks paid twice as much for the original Kindle four holiday seasons ago, and it's been improved with every new incarnation. The knocks that can't be remedied by a software update will persist until at least next year, but the value and practicality of the portable device aren't going away.

Maybe my recollections on automotive history are fuzzy, but did the Edsel ever sell millions in its first quarter on the market? Did the Edsel automatically become the country's second-best-selling vehicle at launch?

I didn't think so.

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The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix, Amazon.com, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2011, at 2:28 PM, DoctorLewis4 wrote:

    The ability to fling around a tablet is not really a ringing endorsement is it? There is a reason Kindle Fire is cheap.

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2011, at 2:50 PM, scallahan8 wrote:

    This article is horribly misleading to investors. Perhaps you should mention to investors that they actually sold the Edsel initially as a "for profit" item?

    Perhaps you should mention that AMAZON sells these for a LOSS!

    What profitable company does that? One that is deathly afraid of continuing to lose out on ever increased digital sales over physical books and media (CDs and DVDs)...what who!

    If Ford sold the Edsel for less than it actually cost make them...they might have sold a very large number of the cars! But that obviously would create quite a loss for Ford ... AND make sure that consumers think of Fords as inferior vehicles!

    The kindle Fire is a sign of desperation. The author doesn't even mention buying....that is paying money....for anything besides books. With no external volume control.....who the hell is going to actually buy .... that means actually pay money.....for music on this thing? Who is going to buy digital movies for that crappy screen?

    Good luck with this.....you're in a dream world.

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2011, at 3:00 PM, wjleigh wrote:

    Fire meets an important and large market segment and it meets Amazon's objectives. The razor blade model has proven to be an effective pricing tactic and Amazon is neither desperate nor foolish.

    If they pricing model doesn't calculate as planned you'll see an adjustment within three months. However, I expect that they can more than make up for the revenue in sales given the daily use we're seeing.

    People buy products to meet all kinds of needs, and I believe the market for people who want a quick, easy to use web device they're not afraid to hand to their kids and leaving it in the airplane seat back doesn't end their world will be a healthy target for Amazon.

  • Report this Comment On December 12, 2011, at 10:25 PM, Bpalman wrote:

    I think Ford would have been happy to sell the Edsel for a $2 loss per car, if they controlled the majority of the gas consumers purchased.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2011, at 7:40 AM, BordersthenApple wrote:

    Wow such hate for a simple device! You know they're doing something right when people post negitive reviews for a device they haven't even seen!

    Why do people think Apple has some kind of holy right on the tablet grounds? I've used an iPad and it's boring and the web browser sucks. Posted this comment with my Fire.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2011, at 9:17 AM, TMFBreakerRick wrote:

    Bpalman, brilliant!

  • Report this Comment On December 14, 2011, at 2:17 AM, sydisquid wrote:

    Bpalman: right! like printers, it is the ink that makes the money, the recurring revenues, the device is the hook. Look at Google ! Free everything-- search is their gasoline.

    Rick. always like your perspectives although you aren't always right.

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