Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) made attack ads cool -- and effective -- several years ago with its "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" television commercials, and now it seems as if other tech giants aren't afraid to return the favor. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) has been doing this a lot lately. Lumia smartphone ads poke fun at Apple and Samsung, and we've seen the software giant try to get its fledgling Surface line a boost by pitting it against Apple's iPad.
Well, now it's Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN ) turn. In a new spot, Amazon is comparing its Kindle Fire HDX 8.9-inch tablet against Apple's iPad Air. The points are valid at first glance.
- Amazon's HDX screen offers a million more pixels than the iPad Air with Retina Display.
- The Kindle Fire tablet is 20% lighter than, well, Air.
- The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 sells for $120 less at $379.
Naturally, you're going to have more than a few Apple fans shaking their heads. The comments on YouTube where the video was uploaded are filled with folks calling out the Kindle as plastic and the limited nature of its app selection relative to both the iPad Air and even conventional Android tablets. However, it's best not to underestimate Amazon's ability to price its way into popularity. It was able to disrupt its own book business by pushing its Kindle e-reader to initially reluctant bibliophiles everywhere. If Amazon was that aggressive in marking down its e-readers, imagine how brazen it can be with its Kindle Fire tablets, where it has more than just digital books to peddle.
Amazon offers video, music, and apps through its digital storefront, giving it more ways to make back any losses it may take on moving hardware at or below cost. Oh, and speaking of cutthroat pricing, now would probably be a good time to point out that Amazon's Cyber Monday sale is offering the smaller 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX for just $179 until the deal runs out today.
Apple has also been vulnerable. It has yielded its once-dominant position in tablets to the flurry of cheaper Android gadgetry. An iPad owner is still more valuable to marketers and merchants, but it's clear that consumers are starting to sacrifice operating systems and ecosystems for the sake of getting more value out of their tech purchases. Apple's markups are substantial at a time when Amazon's not afraid to price its way into homes.
Attack ads aren't always effective, and this one spot isn't going to find Amazon outselling Apple on full-sized tablets this holiday season. However, it will likely be more successful than the ads that Microsoft's been running to get its Surface product line on the map. Either way, Apple should be both flattered and frightened. Being the target of attacks ads validates market leadership, but if the ad message gets too loud, it can distort perceptions.
It happened to Windows Vista, after all, when it was Apple slinging the mud.
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