Why Amazon's Tablet is the Only iPad Competitor

The iPad and Amazon’s tablet both have strategies for separating people from the burden of their money. Yet Amazon’s dream is far more ambitious.
Posted September 7, 2011

Mike Elgan

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Every time some company ships a touch tablet, the press immediately compares it to the Apple iPad.

"Motorola Xoom Android Tablet May Be First iPad Killer," enthused MSNBC.com back in January.

As it becomes clear that Amazon’s long-awaited tablet is really an Android-based Kindle optimized for buying things from Amazon.com, some headlines are suggesting that it’s not a competitor to the iPad after all, but just a glorified eBook reader.

No Worries, iPad, Amazon’s Android Tablet Is Just a Nook-Killer,” said Forbes.com

These headlines have it all wrong. The upcoming Amazon tablet not only competes directly against the iPad, it’s the only tablet that does so.

Why Amazon’s New Tablet Is Part of the Old Strategy

Observers pretend or assume that Amazon’s upcoming Android tablet, expected as soon as next month, is like other Android tablets. But this is crazy talk.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn't wake up one morning and decide: "Hey, even though we're an online store, we should become a consumer electronics hardware maker."

Amazon has no interest in making gadgets, and no expectation that selling gadgets is a profitable business. In fact, Kindles and tablets are a means to an end.

The company's Kindle eBook reader is part of a larger strategy to control electronic book sales. The Kindle’s sole purpose is to remove barriers to buying the electronic books that Amazon sells.

In fact, this removing of barriers is Amazon's core competency. They find people who aren't buying things on Amazon.com, figure out what's stopping them, then remove those barriers so those people start buying.

Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Reliable shipping. Uncanny recommendations. Reliable and secure storage of credit card and address information. Mobile apps that identify products with the camera and let you buy them with one tap. Amazon does all these things because they all remove barriers to buying from the company.

Amazon is even installing "lockers" or short-term rental PO boxes in 7-Eleven stores so you can get items delivered anywhere you are. Now even being away from home is no longer a barrier to shopping on Amazon.

Amazon's upcoming tablet serves precisely the same purpose -- it removes barriers to buying from Amazon. That's why the interface will be totally unlike your average Android tablet.

There are two ways to look at Amazon's new tablet, and both are accurate.

First, the new tablet is a Kindle for multimedia content. (It may even be branded as the Kindle.) If you understand the existing Kindle to be a device optimized for finding, buying and reading Kindle books, then you can understand the new tablet will be that, plus a device optimized for finding, buying and "consuming" movies, TV shows, music, full-color magazines, apps, audio books, interactive children's books and games.

Content like music and movies will be stored "in the cloud," so all your content will be available to you at all times.

Second, the new tablet will be the Amazon.com web site in tablet format. No matter what you're doing with the tablet, you'll always be one tap away from shopping on Amazon's newly redesigned-for-tablet-friendliness web site.

Amazon will use the tablet to remove barriers to you buying your groceries via Amazon, as well as clothes, gifts, gardening supplies -- whatever. Either this or a future version will have some way to scan barcodes, so you can scan a product and buy it instantly.

The new Amazon tablet is the brick-and-mortar store's worst nightmare. You’ll carry it around with you while shopping at the mall or the grocery store. When you find what you like, just whip out your Amazon tablet and buy it on the spot -- from Amazon.

Why the Amazon Tablet is Not Like Other Tablets

Amazon's tablet is being compared to the Nook, which is completely wrong. It's not just a color eBook reader. It's a power play to get you to buy everything from Amazon.

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Tags: Amazon, iPad, Apple, tablet

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