Will Amazon's customers swallow a bigger tablet?

Jeff Bezos holds up the larger Kindle Fire tablet Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the larger Kindle Fire HD

Last night the tablet market in the UK got a bit more crowded as Amazon announced that the larger 8.9in (22.6cm) version of its Kindle Fire HD was going on sale here.

Just as users seemed to be showing a preference for smaller tablets, Amazon is giving them a bigger one - so what does that say about where the market is heading?

Until last September it looked as though Apple, the company that created the tablet market, was pretty secure in its dominance in the UK. Sure, there were any number of Android devices, including Google's own impressive Nexus 7, but the 10in (25.4cm) iPad remained the one that most consumers aspired to own.

Then, Amazon finally brought the 7in (17.8cm) Kindle Fire to the UK, nearly a year after its US launch. With a brand name far more recognisable than the other Android contenders it was bound to do well. And the fact that it was being sold at around cost price - as Amazon boss Jeff Bezos told us last year - meant that it was the bargain tablet at Christmas.

While it is hard to get reliable statistics for tablet sales, a survey by YouGov seems to show that the Kindle Fire came from nowhere to challenge for the lead over the festive season. Its survey of people who bought tablets as gifts showed that the Fire was the single top choice, although combining the iPad and the iPad mini gave Apple a bigger share.

Overall, 2012 was the year in which tablets really went mainstream in the UK. According to Ipsos Mori, the year started with 7% of the adult population owning an iPad, with another two percent owning another kind of tablet. A year on the same company says iPad ownership is up to 16%, with 10% owning another tablet.

So the market has more than doubled, and while iPad ownership has soared, others are beginning to make inroads into its market share.

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With rumours that the iPad Mini is starting to cannibalise sales of its big brother, it seems somewhat strange for Amazon now to be bringing out a larger model”

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But it was the smaller tablets - the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire - which started to change the dynamics of the market, forcing Apple to do something that Steve Jobs had ruled out, make a smaller cheaper iPad.

With rumours that the iPad Mini is starting to cannibalise sales of its big brother, it seems somewhat strange for Amazon now to be bringing out a larger model. So will there be much demand for it here?

At £229, it is almost half the price of the full-size iPad which starts at £399. As in the US, owners will see adverts on the lock screen, unless they pay an extra £10. And the whole experience is built around driving you to Amazon content, with a home screen directing you to books and music you can buy from its store, and video from Lovefilm, the British business it bought in 2011.

The device does not feel as open and flexible as other Android tablets, nor anything like as slick as the iPad and it certainly does not have the range of apps that Apple can offer.

In fact, having spent a few days with the device, I struggle to see where it fits into Amazon's strategy. The original Kindle dominates the e-reader market, the 7in Kindle Fire is becoming the tablet of choice for more budget-conscious consumers. Will many of them pay £70 more for the same package on a bigger screen?

Still, having watched how Samsung crept up on Apple in the smartphone market, then accelerated past with a wider range of devices, maybe Amazon feels it is equipped to do the same. The good news for both firms is that the tablet revolution seems to have much further to run - the bad news for the older PC makers trying to get into this business is that they could be left trailing as Apple and Amazon race off into the distance.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    29. Aidy

    No, you're wrong. It doesn't matter who tells them it's rubbish: the point is when they find out. With jewellery, it only has to glitter. With tech, it has to actually do something. And if it doesn't do that something well, people will stop buying. The fact they haven't stopped buying Apple products says far more than a few nay-sayers on HYS would have us believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Sorry, I was wrong, it's 78% according to:



  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    @31 Haha like it!

    I think they are just BBC work placement lads. It would add up as they clearly know nothing about sale numbers, tech featuers or anything else to do with the actual product.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Would like to know who these analysts are... Are the technically minded at all? Do they just monitor trends? Is it all speculation (like the bankers)?
    In which case amongst their own social circles, iProducts probably do seem dominant. I would say that 80%+ of the population own or would like to own iProducts, but then 80% of the people I speak to are utterly stupid :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Can I ask one question about the S4 article though?

    Why does it say this? "Analysts widely regard Samsung to be the biggest challenger to Apple's dominance of mobile products."

    Apple is not the leader in sales or equipment , their share price also reflects this, 40% of the company value lost in 12 months. In the UK the iphone 5 is struggling to hold on to 5th best selling phone in the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    @Graphis #26

    You make quite a telling point :) People didn't drop Ratners when they realised it was rubbish...they lapped it up and thought it was quality. It was only when they were *told* it was rubbish by the company's boss that they deserted it. The public can't tell quality from garbage and as long as it is marketed right they'll buy any rubbish and pay through the nose for it too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    People people stop moaning about other types of tech!

    I'm an Android fan boy, happy to admit that but I can understand why people like Apple and Rory is a prime example, an older gentlemen who sometimes are put off by complicated tech so buy Apple as its simple touse.

    There is next to nothing to choose between the 2 now anyways as they both copy each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    What am I envious of? I simply wouldn't spend good money on Apple products. Apple are VERY clever, they know their market and their market is the trendies, not people like me or my friends, we're all a little geeky, very techie. If I wanted an iProduct i'd buy one, if I wanted a gold card or a big German car i'd have one, but they're just status symbols in this age of capitalist consumerism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    13. MemoryisRAM
    "status symbol brand"

    I think that after 30-odd years, if they really were the over-priced tat you claim, people would have realised by now. Look what happened to Ratners the instant the public discovered how rubbish they really were.
    So, no, your envious rants aren't really influencing anyone's buying choice. Everyone buys the product that's right for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Control the screen by hovering your finger, eye tracking for auto-scrolling and app control. The S4 has some pretty nifty tech, huh? Guess Rory is taking his time making sure his blog about it is spot on...ie about how it's still not as good as an iPhone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I'm staggered by the claim that 26% "of the adult population" own a tablet.

    Can we have some background to that? That implies sales of about >12m tablets, with around 8m of those sales in 2012 alone.

    Where did that figure come from? And how was it calculated?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I don't think any tech company is in a position to 'race off into the distance'. For most tech firms, apart from Apple, you are as good as your next product. Even for Apple, marketing will only get you so far.

    There's plenty to play for in the tablet market and there's plenty of space for newcomers.

    (Disclaimer : I'm waiting for the Sony Xperia Z tablet..)

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    As based on the figures in the article, 75% of adults don't own a tablet, I would say there is room for a new tablet - whether this is the one remains to be seen.
    The Nexus is the market leader for 7" tablets. It is quite possible that amongst those who want a tablet to consume media, a 10" tablet for half the price of an iPad will prove popular

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Since getting a Fire HD I've struggled to get a turn due to it's popularity. It's a bit of a jack of all trades which makes it ok but not fantastic at most things and sideloading of apps can be a pain. For my daughter a larger fire would be ideal for tv,movies,games but too heavy and unweildy for reading

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    News of a slightly bigger kindle tablet is great for me as I read comic books, and 7inch tablets are slightly too small to be able to view them as you would a regular comic book. On 7 inch screens you need to zoom in and out all the time.

    This is the best news of the day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I think the number of grumbles in this thread and others online about the 'A' word... and the other 'A' word just goes to show that both big companies are really starting to put consumers off their own products. Every modification comes across as just another attempt to cream off more of our money, rather than push any real technological boundaries... I look forward to a Firefox OS tab one day...

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    16 Simon Of The Naki

    Yes, there are plenty of people who won't want one, because the devices they already own provide sufficient functionality. However, that doesn't make it pointless: there are plenty of people out there with different needs,who will want one.

    That's where the market is heading: not all small / all big but a choice of sizes, specifications and prices. Horses for courses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    This article is about the new Amazon Kindle Fire HD, is it not? So why does the author mention the words Apple or iPad as many times as he mentions Amazon or Kindle?

    It really is beyond a joke now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    No thanks Amazon - its another completely pointless bit of consumer tech I dont need or want. A bit like the last few Apple products too.

    Pretty much every device I already own (iPod/smartphone/laptop) can access the internet, and by extension eveything on the internet, and also use eBooks via eBook reader apps, so what would be the point of yet another device of limited usefulness?

    None at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    RCJ doesn't have the depth of either technical knowledge or industry knowledge to report other than he does.
    It's not his fault that there are no longer any senior BBC journalists with a "proper" science/tech education or industry experience.
    The BBC got rid of them all by a couple of years ago. Hence the lightweight BBC science/tech journalism.


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