Amazon announced yesterday that the Kindle Fire will be available in the UK for the first time on the 25th October. The colour version of the successful ereader is much more than an ereader - it's a full tablet, and seized 22% of the US tablet market according to Amazon. It will also be launching in other European nations.
This seems like perfect timing. Amazon will continue to build demand following the launch event yesterday - just look at the UK press coverage today - and build up a healthy pre-orders book before pushing the product as a Christmas present. Historically Kindle's were only available to buy via Amazon for a period of time before they started allowing partners including Tesco and Waterstones to sell them on the High Street. It will be interesting to see if they restrict sales this time - there are now a growing number of competing readers and tablets on sale in-store, from the Kobo ereader to Android tablet-phone hybrids like the Samsung Note and, of course, the iPad at Apple and Currys stores.
Whilst the event and coverage around it talks about a 4G Kindle, there's no mention on the UK Amazon site because the 4G version won't be available here. Amazon are no doubt waiting for 4G services to definitely launch in the UK and don't want to repeat Apple's earlier mistake of promoting a 4G iPad that didn't work - Apple were forced by the ASA to withdraw ads describing the latest iPad as 4G. When 4G finally launches here it will be using the frequency once assigned for analogue TV - a different frequency to 4G in other countries.
My gut feeling is that the Kindle Fire will sell well. It will sell to new adopters who want an ereader and tablet in one but don't want to pay the price of an iPad. I also suspect it will be boosted by a replacement cycle within existing Kindle owners, as they come to view early Kindle models as bulkier and lacking features by comparison - and their hardware may be beginning to look and feel worn out. Many Kindles are used nearly every day at home and on the daily commute, and suffer wear and tear in handbags, rucksacks and laptop bags.
Amazon are also continuing to grow the advertising platform the Kindle offers them. All Kindle Fire devices will show "special offer" adverts on their screens when their displays are put into lock mode. No doubt they will be for Amazon products and services to begin with, but as they sell more devices globally and can geo-locate them via WiFi and 4G, it'll be interesting to see if this develops into an ad platform they sell space with national and local targeting. Maybe you could be getting your Kindle out on the morning commute and seeing an ad for a new coffee flavour at the Starbucks at your destination station, or an ad for happy hour whilst on the way home. This would further monetise the product for Amazon alongside the re-occurring content sales it generates, and help support the low initial purchase costs. It would also give them some power in the war for marketing budgets that Microsoft, Google, Apple etc are all engaged in to varying degrees of success.
Expect to see the Kindle's browser appearing in analytics reports over the Christmas break, just like the iPad did a few years ago. Those visits might not generate many sales - consumers will be "playing around" with their new tablet - but it's a sign of things to come. If you're a content publisher, now's the time to review how you work with Amazon, and if you are responsible for a website, now's the time to start seriously thinking about making sure it works on more than just the iPad. Predictions are dangerous and likely to leave egg on my face, but I have a feeling the Kindle Fire will become the second most popular tablet in the UK with 5% marketshare by mid 2013.
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