I Thought “Amazon Just Kindled a Fire” Would Be a Clever Title… But I Was Wrong

There are two multinational corporations that I love more than any other, and those corporations are Apple and Amazon. Perhaps it’s a little ridiculous to speak of “loving” massive corporate entities, but emotions aren’t always rational things, are they? Of course, I don’t “love” Apple the way I love my wife, and I don’t “love” Amazon the way I love my children, but the important thing is that you know what I’m talking about.

I find these companies fascinating, because they both have the same goal, (an integrated and compelling combination of hardware and content), but they take very different paths to get there. But in both cases, the end result is a happy customer, at least in my case. And judging from the success that these two companies have enjoyed, I don’t think that I’m alone.

Let’s start with Amazon. For obvious reasons, Amazon is very much in the forefront of my thoughts this week. And the announcements that they made last week epitomize what makes Amazon great. Amazon is all about convenient access to anything you want. That’s been the name of Amazon’s game since the very beginning. I remember buying CDs and books and video games from Amazon way back in the early part of the 2000s. Amazon has long been my go-to website for buying anything online. And in the long (for an internet company) history of Amazon, they have continually improved the ease with which products can be procured from them. Between One-Click and Amazon Prime, if anything it’s TOO easy for me to give Amazon my money.

The Kindle Fire is, in many ways, the culmination of Amazon’s goal to make it super-easy to obtain any kind of content you want. If you don’t already know, the Kindle Fire is a 7-inch tablet that looks very similar to the Blackberry Playbook, only it’s somewhat more stripped down. Oh, and it only costs $200. Unlike the iPad, the Kindle Fire isn’t designed to be a jack-of-all-trades. Instead, it’s more like the Kindles of old, designed to do one thing and do that one thing very well. Only in this case, that one thing isn’t “reading”, but rather “consuming content of all kinds”. Music, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, apps, websites… they’re all there for your consumption contentment.

The Kindle Fire comes linked to your Amazon account, making it almost ridiculously easy to start buying stuff on it. Even better, although the Fire only has 8 GB of internal storage, everything you buy from Amazon is automatically backed up in the Amazon Cloud, so anytime you want to re-download something, you can.

I’m very excited about the Kindle Fire, not so much for myself, but for my wife. Earlier this year, I talked her into buying a new desktop computer so that we could store all our pictures and home movies in one place. Before that, we each had netbooks with tiny hard drives, so our stuff was scattered between the two, with some of it on an external hard drive. Part of the deal upon getting the desktop was that we would sell our netbooks to help pay for it. Well, I’ve always felt a little guilty for convincing my wife to give up her netbook, especially since I bought a laptop shortly after. Now she’s stuck using the desktop whenever she wants to do anything “computery”.

But with the Kindle Fire, she will have a cheap way to do most of the computing that she needs to do. She mostly uses the computer to look at Facebook and shop for stuff on Amazon, so a Kindle Fire would be pretty much perfect for her. And the price is certainly right.

The Kindle Fire really illustrates the difference in the approaches taken by Amazon and Apple. This won’t be the first place you’ve heard this, I’m sure, but Apple’s strategy is to sell content in order to give you an incentive to buy their hardware, whereas Amazon is selling hardware to make it easier for you to buy their content. Here’s what I mean: an iPad costs at least $499, and tops out at $829. These are premium devices, with prices to match. You have to really commit to an iPad purchase, but Apple makes it easier to do so because they have ridiculous amounts of content for sale to go with it. Music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, apps, books, audiobooks… they’re all right there and easily accessible from your iPad at any time.

Conversely, Amazon offers a whole bunch of content. That’s their business, that’s what they’re trying to sell you. Music, movies, TV shows, books, apps, blah, blah, blah. But how do you get at that content? Well, that’s easy. Jeff Bezos will just sell you a cheap tablet that allows easy access to that content anytime you want.

Two different ways to get to essentially the same end. Which I’m more or less content with. As long as the stuff they’re selling continues to be of good quality and easy to obtain, I’m quite happy to keep sending all of my extra money off to Cupertino and/or Seattle.

Here’s another interesting difference between the iPad and the Kindle Fire, and I’ll close with this. The Kindle Fire is a companion device. It’s not designed to take the place of the computer you already have. It’s designed to give you easy access to stuff, and that’s all it does. The iPad is positioned as the future of computing. You’re not supposed to buy an iPad in addition to a computer, you’re supposed to use your iPad as your computer. Most tech nerds will tell you that this isn’t really possible, and I admit that I still use my laptop for some things, but I think if my laptop ever died completely, I could get by just fine with just an iPad.

The weird thing is, you need a computer to use an iPad, and you don’t need a computer to use a Kindle Fire. I wish I had some great insight to offer about this, but I don’t. It’s just weird.

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