Amazon, RIM tablets look alike--that's where it ends

Amazon will probably sell millions of tablets right out of the gate. And it will likely have an Apple-like problem of too-much demand. RIM wishes it had the same problem.

The Kindle Fire looks strikingly like the poor-selling liquidation-prone tablet from RIM . But that won't stop the Fire from flying out of Amazon's warehouses.

Amazon Kindle Fire.  Hmm...looks kinda like a BlackBerry Playbook.  But that's where the similarity ends.
Amazon Kindle Fire. Hmm...looks kinda like a BlackBerry Playbook. But that's where the similarity ends. Amazon

Analysts I talked to this week have a common forecast. Amazon will sell millions of the Kindle Fire tablet soon after it becomes available on November 15. Easily beating other Android tablet rivals in sales volume. And crushing its doppelganger, RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook .

In fact, the only thing possibly holding back Amazon from selling 4 million tablets (the high end of analysts' forecasts) in the months after the Fire becomes available is component supply bottlenecks. That's exactly the same kind of benign problem that Apple has and other Android players--and RIM--wish they had.

"It's...not demand constraint. Amazon is supply constrained near-term due to low yields on touch screens," Rodman & Renshaw analyst Ashok Kumar said in a phone interview Friday.

The $199 price, of course, is a big factor driving these expectations. "At that price point there's almost an insatiable demand. HP's TouchPad proves that," Kumar said.

But consumers won't be buying the hardware--which is the another factor that sets it apart from competitors. Right out of the box, you get Amazon's content library of millions of movies, TV shows, magazines, and books. CEO Jeff Bezos is claiming about 10,000 apps in its Android app store.

"The Kindle Fire is what people imagined a tablet could be. Others have been stuck on the idea that the tablet is a hardware device. What we're learning from the Kindle Fire is it's not a hardware device. It's a software and experience (content) device," said Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch.

Then there's the distribution differentiator. "Amazon doesn't need retail stores. That allows them to be very aggressive on the price," Shim said. "If they had to go through retailers like the Android crowd they couldn't be more aggressive on the price."

All points that have been lost on players like RIM. Ironically, the PlayBook and Kindle Fire are strikingly alike. To the untrained eye, it's hard to tell them apart (though upon closer inspection, the PlayBook does boast front and rear cameras--unlike the Fire--and more ports).

They're both the same size (7 inches), use similar materials, are approximately the same thickness, and pack the same Texas Instruments dual-core processor. And they're both made by the same manufacturer: Quanta.

Funny how could two tablets so alike can be so different.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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