Amazon’s Excellent Tablet Adventure

As 2011 winds to a close and 2012 begins, we do a little bit of Fast Company drumbeating. We predict a lot of stuff around here. Sometimes we’re wrong. But we also nailed a few things this year. Earlier we described how Amazon’s tablet plans should unfold to make it a success…

kindle fire

In July rumors were mounting that Jeff Bezos’ Amazon really was deep in the process of making a full-featured tablet PC. Based on early leaks, we guessed at the driving feature behind most of Amazon’s decisions in the post “The Amazon Tablet’s iPad Challenge: Price.” Since the iPad had surprised everyone with its aggressive pricing, and sewn up the market, the Amazon tablet had to easily beat it on price to make a splash, even at the expense of internal tech: “While you may think specs are king, the average Joe Public doesn’t necessarily agree (as an example, Apple’s been pushing to make detailed specs irrelevant, and do you know what clock speed the current Kindle tablets run at?),” we argued. Then we guessed: “If Amazon delivered a limited function tablet, with compatible apps coralled into a special area of its own Android marketplace, and put its own ad-supported Android-based UI on the top, then sold it all for somewhere around $250, it really could have a hit on its hands.”


Adding to this in September, we said Amazon had to nail four things: It had to move beyond the calculator looks of earlier Kindles; have decent optimized performance plus long battery life and a great screen; in terms of the ecosystem “if Amazon has forked Android and has its own OS layered on top of it, then it has to be perfectly polished, and a joy to use. It has to be as intuitive as Apple’s user experience, and it has to work seamlessly with Amazon’s own music, video, and book content”; and, lastly, it of course had to get the advertising and PR right.

So how’d the company do? Amazon’s Kindle Fire arrived with smooth PR, a sleek press event launch worthy of Apple, a design that was based on low tech but with a highly optimized UI on top so that the slow speeds weren’t an issue (plus the UI was a slick, pleasant, and unusual gateway into the apps and Amazon’s content sources), and both acceptable battery life and the same high-quality IPS LCD screen tech Apple championed for the iPad. It’s priced perfectly at $200–less than the upper limit we’d guessed, and it’s selling by the millions.

[Image: Amazon]

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