Is The iPad A Threat To E-Readers Like Amazon's Kindle?

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IPad's Versatility Threatens to Sideline E-Readers
By Olga Kharif

Internet retailer ... may need to write a new chapter for the Kindle in the face of fierce competition from Apple's iPad ... analysts have said the iPad would likely take a bite out of sales of dedicated e-book readers such as Amazon's popular Kindle ... Wall Street analysts are already slicing their forecasts for Kindle sales.

Charlie Wolf, a senior analyst ... cut his forecast for Kindle sales this year, settling on [2.5 million units, down from 3.6 million]. "It's not a compelling product," he says of the Kindle , because Apple's iPad offers more features, such as the ability to play video, plus a more compelling design ...

consumers dumping Kindles for iPads

To keep pace with consumers' heightened expectations ... Susan Kevorkian, an analyst at market researcher IDC, says Amazon needs to update the Kindle with a color screen and replace its buttons with touchscreen capabilities. "They absolutely need a color screen—the sooner the better," she says ...

The above linked article proposes that the iPad has so changed the playing field that the Kindle is "not a compelling product". But, this view is too narrow-minded in its outlook and thus misses out on the true Kindle-iPad issue.

In other words: its not about the hardware.

The Kindle isn't really a piece of e-book reading hardware. It's a platform. I don't have access to Amazon's sales data, but I'd surmise that the iPad has actually increased sales of Kindle Books, not decreased them. Amazon customers can buy rent Kindle Books through the desktop Kindle reader, the iPhone Kindle reader, the hardware Kindle devices, and now the iPad Kindle reader.

Apple has done what they do well - attack the top of the market. But just as the iMac didn't do away with generic PCs, the iPad isn't going to dispose of dedicated e-Readers. The iPhone still hasn't supplanted media-rich mobile phones except among consumers willing and able to pay the "Apple Tax".

The Kindle hardware simply needs to evolve to better reach those people who won't shell out for Apple-premium products. I never owned a Kindle hardware reader, and probably never will. But I did install the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone. Thus, Amazon has gained a customer where they wouldn't have previously were it not for the iPad.

Amazon's big-picture challenge is going to be keeping their software ahead of the curve and preserving a better reading experience than iBooks. Amazon can also win on price/licensing if they choose. Amazon's MP3 store and iTunes both sell music, but Amazon's offering tends to be priced better and have greater compatibility than iTunes tracks.

The big threat that remains is not Apple's hardware, but their contracts. Today's antitrust laws may be written in a way that fails to address the anti-competitive powers of App Stores and EULAs, but that's a topic for another day. Were Apple to decide to kick Amazon off their platform as they recently did with Adobe's Flash, then Amazon will face a more significant problem.