Amazon is taking on the untouchable iPad with a touch-screen tablet of its own.
The company on Wednesday introduced its entry into the rapidly expanding market for handheld computers — a device called Kindle Fire that connects to the Web, streams movies and TV, displays e-books and supports thousands of apps. It’s half the size of an iPad and will be less than half the price when it goes on sale on Nov. 15. Amazon is offering the Kindle Fire for US$199. The bare-bones iPad sells for US$499, the most expensive for US$829.
Analysts at one research firm, Gartner Inc, say three of every four tablets sold this year will be iPads. Apple sold almost 29 million of them from April last year through June of this year.
Amazon sells more than 1 million e-books, 100,000 movies and TV shows, and 17 million songs. It hopes it will succeed where other companies have failed, because the tablet is designed to tap into Amazon’s massive storehouse of media content.
“The reason they haven’t been successful is because they made tablets. They didn’t make services,” chief executive Jeff Bezos said in an interview.
Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a New York media event that was stage-managed much the same way Apple choreographs its product launches. He walked onto a stage extolling the product while technology sites live-blogged the event.
Bezos also introduced three versions of its popular Kindle e-reader, all with black-and-white screens — a basic model for US$79, a touch-screen version for US$99 and a touch-screen with 3G wireless service for US$149.
Those devices will further pressure competitors like Barnes & Noble as they try to break Amazon’s dominance in electronic book sales.
The Kindle Fire’s size, with a screen that measures 17.7cm diagonally, makes it a close match to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color tablet, which came out last year.
However, while Barnes & Noble sees the Nook Color as a jazzed-up e-reader, Amazon has broader goals for the Fire as a platform for games, movies, music and other applications. All that content makes the Fire the only credible competitor to the iPad this year, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.
“In theory, Sony could do something similar, but they haven’t and it doesn’t look like they will,” she said. “They have a tablet, but they only went halfway on the services.”
Sony started shipping its first iPad-style tablet two weeks ago. It’s linked to the company’s music and movies stores and the capability for some PlayStation games will be added later.
Analysts had expected the Fire to sell for about US$250. Epps called the US$199 price “jaw-droppingly low,” and said it would be tough competition not just for Apple, but for contending tablet makers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC (宏達電).
Analysts had speculated that Amazon would sell the tablet at a loss, counting on making back some money through book and movie sales. Bezos said that is not the case, but that the company is happy with a slimmer profit margin than other manufacturers.
“We want the hardware device to be profitable and the content to be profitable. We really don’t want to subsidize one with the other,” Bezos said.
Epps said she believed Amazon could sell as many as 5 million Fires by the end of the year, but will probably sell closer to 3 million because it has come out so late.
The Fire will run a version of Google’s Android software, also used by other tablets, and will have access to apps through Amazon’s Android store.
Unlike competing tablets, it will not have a camera. Bezos said the camera would be superfluous, since practically everyone has one in their phone anyway.
It also lacks a microphone and a slot for memory expansion, common features on other Android tablets. The Kindle Fire will run on Wi-Fi networks but will not connect to cellular networks, as some iPads and many Android tablets can.
The new Kindle e-readers dispense with the keyboard that the device has carried since it was launched in 2007. The Kindles will come with on-screen advertising unless customers pay US$30 to US$40 more.
Bezos said he does not see the Fire as eventually replacing the Kindle, which is exclusively for reading.
“What will happen is people will buy both because they are really for different purposes,” he said.
See Kindle on page 11
NOTABLE SHIFT: By 2030, 50% of all laptops would be assembled in Southeast Asia, while Taiwan would still mostly focus on research and development, a report said Global laptop and desktop computer supply chains are expected to shift significantly away from China in the next 10 years, a Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC, 產業情報研究所) report said. By 2030, only 40 percent of global laptop production would remain in China, said the report, which was released on Thursday. “The reshuffling of the global supply chain will be one of the most important trends in the next 10 years,” the institute said in the report. “In the long run, key component makers will follow laptop assemblers in moving out of China.” The Taipei-based institute predicted most key component makers
NO VIRUS BLUES: A SEMI Taiwan official said that the virus does not slow down the global semiconductor industry’s investment in manufacturing equipment The production value of the nation’s semiconductor industry is expected to grow 16.7 percent this year from last year, outpacing the global industry’s 3.3 percent growth, industry association SEMI said yesterday. That would help Taiwan safeguard its second spot in the global semiconductor market with a production value of more than NT$3 trillion (US$102.73 billion), SEMI Taiwan president Terry Tsao (曹世綸) told a media briefing in Taipei for the Semicon Taiwan trade show beginning today. The global semiconductor industry’s production value is expected to increase to US$426 billion this year, SEMI said. In terms of semiconductor equipment investment, equipment billings from Taiwanese firms
Intel Corp has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei Technologies Co (華為), a company spokesman said yesterday. Washington has been pushing governments around to world to squeeze out Huawei, saying that the telecom giant would hand data to Beijing for espionage. From Monday last week, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or servicing Huawei. This week, the state-backed China Securities Journal reported that Intel had received permission to supply Huawei. China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯國際), which uses US-origin equipment to make chips for Huawei and other companies, last week confirmed that it had sought
Merck Group Taiwan yesterday said that it plans to invest substantially on expanding its fab in Kaohsiung’s Lujhu District (路竹) to better serve its local customers, including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電). The company said it plans to expand its production space by 50 percent in the next five years and its workforce by about 40 percent, Merck Group Taiwan managing director Dick Hsieh (謝志宏) told a media briefing in Taipei. Hsieh declined to disclose investment details, but said that the latest investment would exceed the total amount Merck has invested in Taiwan over the past few years. Those investments would be