Kindle Fire creates dilemma for Android

As much as Android might like to trumpet the success of the Kindle Fire, the Amazon tablet creates an identity crisis for Android.
  • Tony Bradley (PC World (US online))
  • 12 November, 2011 03:48

The Amazon Kindle Fire is living up to its name by setting the tablet market on fire. Pre-orders of the as yet unreleased tablet have been phenomenal. The success of the Kindle Fire, however, puts Android tablets in general between a rock and a hard place.

It should be great news. The Kindle Fire is expected by some to exceed demand for the Apple iPad this holiday season, and could be the first tablet to put a dent in Apple's tablet dominance. There is finally a rival tablet that seems worthy of competing with the Apple iPad--and it is based on Android.

Despite impressive hardware specs, and grandiose claims tablets like the HP TouchPad, BlackBerry PlayBook, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab have ranged from utter failures to mediocre sales at best.

The Kindle Fire presents some problems for Android, though. For starters, it is not a pure Android tablet. The Kindle Fire is built on a proprietary Amazon tablet OS that is based on Android. It is a fork of the Android OS that is Android-ish.

As time goes on and Google continues to develop Android in one direction while Amazon continues to take the Kindle Fire down its own unique path, the two platforms will be less and less alike. At some point in the future, the main thing tying the Kindle Fire to Android may be the fact that they're both not iPads.

The second problem facing Android comes from both the Kindle Fire and the recently-unveiled Nook tablet. With the Kindle Fire selling for $200, and the Nook tablet coming in at $250, other Android tablet makers are forced to either justify or cut their prices. If you can get a Kindle Fire for $200, why would you spend $500 for an Android tablet from another vendor?

Ultimately, the Android ecosystem has to walk a fine line between claiming some small victory over the success of an Android-based tablet, and differentiating media consumption tablets like the Kindle Fire from the full-features tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

With other Android tablets still trying to sell at prices on par with the iPad, Android needs to either distance itself from the Kindle Fire, or present a solid argument for why anyone should spend more than twice as much for some other Android tablet.

Android may be able to get away with claiming the Kindle Fire as one of its own for now. But, the success of the Kindle Fire is a testament to Amazon more than Android, and other Android tablets will now struggle to compete against both the iPad and the Kindle Fire.