by Tom Kaneshige

iPad at Work, Kindle Fire at Play

Nov 10, 20114 mins
Consumer ElectronicsHealthcare IndustryTablets

Despite some overlap, the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle Fire are very different devices: One travels in a backpack or briefcase, the other sits nicely on a nightstand.


Will the great Amazon Kindle Fire sale burn a swath out of the iPad’s formidable tablet market share? Unlikely. I don’t even think the two products compete with each other.

There’s no question demand for Kindle Fire is catching fire. ChangeWave and RBC Capital Markets surveyed 2,600 consumers and found that five percent had either pre-ordered or are very likely to buy the Kindle Fire, while 12 percent said they were somewhat likely to buy.

These percentages bested ChangeWave’s similar survey with the original iPad back in 2010. Four percent said they either pre-ordered or are very likely to buy, and 12 percent said they were somewhat likely to buy. Of course, the original iPad had the added burden of uncertainty because it was defining a new category.

With rising demand, Amazon ordered up another million Kindle Fires from its manufacturing partners, reports AllThingsD. Demand is largely being driven by the Fire’s attractive price point of $199, compared to the iPad’s starting price of $499. And analysts are bracing for the financial hit on Amazon’s earnings; Amazon takes a hit on every Kindle Fire sold because Amazon decided to sell it at a loss.

Last month, Retrevo surveyed 1,000 consumers about their purchasing plans this holiday season. Kindle Fire just might be the hottest tablet on the market, although Amazon would have a ways to go to make a dent in the iPad market share. Apple has sold 40 million iPads so far.


Many hail the Kindle Fire as the first real competitor to the iPad, which dominates the tablet market. The Kindle has iPad-like traits: a 7-inch high-resolution touch screen (albeit the iPad has a 10-inch touchscreen) for consuming magazines, books, movies, games, Web pages, songs, PDFs and email.

Appealing to Different Users

But are the tablets really fighting for the same buyer?

There’s clearly overlap in the consumption of media, but that’s where the comparisons end. I see the Kindle Fire taking a storied place on the nightstand for late night reading and movie watching. The iPad, on the other hand, will be in backpacks and briefcases as a kind of mobile, working laptop.

“I don’t see people buying the Fire to use at work,” says Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit. “I don’t see musicians buying the Fire to make music.”

Productivity iPad apps represent a huge category in the App Store. Apple claims 92 percent of Fortune 400 companies are testing or deploying the iPad. Early adopters of the iPad include hospitals, law firms and even construction companies.

Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work

There’s always a chance that Kindle Fire will make similar inroads into enterprises. “Anytime a new device with broad scale distribution hits the market, users are going to try to connect it to the enterprise,” Ojas Rege, vice president of product at MobileIron, told me recently. “The Kindle Fire is going to increase the pressure on IT to support Android even as it increases complexity.”

Amazon Not Enterprise Ready, But Apple Is Getting There

But Amazon would have to grease the wheels to bring Kindle Fires into companies – and Amazon hasn’t shown any inclination to do this. On the other hand, Apple has been quietly working behind the scenes to accommodate iPads in the enterprise.

For instance, iOS 5 streamlines the management of iPhone and iPads and their apps with new security and configuration options. One of the best features is sandboxing email.

“There are features in iOS 5 that are not going to be in any Apple keynote presentation, but they are in there solely for the benefit of businesses,” Aaron Freimark, IT director at Tekserve, a services firm helping Fortune 1000 companies adopt the iPad, told me. “It really shows Apple has been listening to businesses.”

(For more on my interview with Freimark, check out Q&A: How CIOs Can Benefit from Apple iOS 5, iCloud. Registration required.)

Also, many enterprise iPad apps are custom-built using Apple evolving enterprise programs. This summer, Apple introduced its App Store Volume Purchase Program that complements its existing iOS Developer Enterprise Program.

The programs make it easier for companies to develop, deploy and manage iPad apps aimed at employees. Amazon would have to create similar programs for the Kindle Fire on the heels of employees bringing Kindle Fires to work en masse.

I just don’t see that happening, especially when the Kindle Fire sits nicely on the nightstand.