Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The New Kindles, broken down

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always said he is out to revolutionize the book. He did so with the company's roll-out of the Amazon Kindle waaaaaaaaaay back when in November 2007. Four years later, Bezos and the Kindle Team continue to tinker the way we read.

After Wednesday morning's announcement of four new affordable e-readers, Bezos nudged Amazon in front of the e-reader wars yet again -- albeit a little late to the party, timing-wise. What puts Amazon ahead of the game is price.

Bezos and Amazon go ahead on price, every time. Bezos wants readers to come to Amazon because of price, and they can afford to do it. Bezos has always been willing to take a hit in the wallet as long as it works it in the long run. Undercut the competition -- i.e. Barnes & Noble and, in the case of the new Kindle Fire tablet, Apple -- and the money should roll in.

Let's start off with the Kindle Fire tablet.

At first glance, I was immediately reminded of B&N's Nook Color. It looks the same, weighs a little less than the Color (14.6 ounces compares to Nook Color's 16 ounces), and the battery life is on par with each other (8 hours). Nook Color is Android-based, while the Kindle Fire has its own web browser, Amazon Silk. I have yet to check out the browser demo, but I will. Both are touchscreen. One place where the Fire fails to deliver: no 3G wireless. It is strictly a wi-fi device.

But of course, the price: Nook Color is currently $249, with the Fire coming in at $199. You can't even get a used iPad at that price. Advantage: Amazon.

Here's what I think: I don't think that Amazon will draw from the Apple die-hards with the iPad. Apple Sheep are Apple Sheep, and are loyal to Apple. However, with everything that happened with Samsung and with Amazon's customer service being what it is (i.e., fantastic), customers looking for a tablet will edge toward Amazon, all due to price. Where does that leave B&N?

(That question is left hanging for a reason.)

Moving on...

Bezos also unveiled a Kindle Touch e-reader similar to the Simple Touch e-reader in B&N's arsenal. But like the Fire, it is priced lower than B&N. The Kindle Touch also comes with 3G and wi-fi versions. Much like with B&N, the battery life is two months with the wireless off. While the Simple Touch can hold only 1,000 books, the Kindle Touch can hold three times that amount.

But the price, ohhhh, the price: Kindle Touch 3G is $149, while the Kindle Touch wi-fi is $99; that is the with special offers (ads on the screensaver) price. The Simple Touch -- which is wi-fi only -- is $139.

Do I have to write who has the advantage? I didn't think so.

Finally, Bezos unveiled a simple Kindle e-reader for $79. It doesn't have a keyboard like the Kindle we all know and love, as it is only controlled by the 5-way controller. The Kindle 3 has been renamed the Kindle Keyboard. Same prices as usual. The $79 Kindle is available right now.

Of course, B&N is coming out with new devices later this year, a new Nook Color rumored to be among them.

Here's what I think B&N will do: panic. They'll see the writing on the wall and try to undercut Amazon like they did in Summer 2010. Amazon will then calmly cut the price of their devices even further, which they did after B&N brought out the 3G Nook. Bezos makes the guarantee: Amazon WILL have the lowest price ereader out there.

That is how you revolutionize reading. By being the affordable e-reader that everyone wants.

Let the holiday shopping begin.