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Amazon Fire tablet vs Apple iPad - no contest

The Amazon tablet is no iPad killer

Tomorrow, Amazon.com is widely expected to unveil its Android-based Kindle tablet, rumoured to be called the Amazon Fire. Already, silly bloggers are suggesting this could be the iPad-killer.

Amazon Tablet rumour round up

You remember the iPad-killer, right? First it was the Dell Streak, then the HP Slate 500, then the LG Optimus, then the JooJoo (aka "CrunchPad"), then the Motorola Xoom, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (admittedly the first to register with the market in terms of sales to customers and get good reviews), then the Acer Iconia, then the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, and most recently the HP TouchPad. I'm sure I missed a few!

SEE ALSO: Amazon Fire launch: as it happens

So when you see anyone claim "iPad-killer," move on. Certainly, at some point Android tablets will become competitive to the iPad. But even when they do, the Amazon Kindle tablet won't be part of the iPad's competitive landscape.

Based on the hands-on review of a Kindle tablet prototype done by TechCrunch's MG Siegler (one of the few writers at that site who hasn't self-immolated with tragicomic antics and whose claims on the Kindle tablet I believe), it's clear that the 7-inch Amazon.com tablet, apparently priced at $250, is a media tablet through and through.

It's designed for reading books and magazines, playing videos and games, and surfing the Web.

But it won't have a true multitouch screen, fast processor, or significant storage, and probably not a lot of the internal sensors or connectivity capabilities that the iPad has brought to the market.

Acer Iconia Tab

In other words, it's a competitor to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-reading tablet, not the iPad.

And that's a good thing. There's a real place for such media tablets, and I fully expect the Amazon Kindle tablet to follow in the footsteps of the original Amazon Kindle eReader as a popular mobile media device.

The Nook Color showed there was demand for more than a book-only reader such as the original Kindle, and of course Amazon.com wants to satisfy that demand.

It fits squarely in Amazon.com's digital media strategy, with Kindle books, video downloads, and its tentative forays into Android apps and games. In fact, it gives users a platform well suited for such media.

Yes, the iPad stands as a compelling media tablet.

Its Video app and the iTunes Store make it easy to watch movies and TV shows when you're on the road or want to watch a different show than what the rest of the family has on the living room TV.

It's also great for college students in dorms due to its private viewing capabilities. And I believe its 10-inch screen is better suited for viewing shows than the Kindle tablet's 7-inch display.

Apple's iBooks app is a really good ePub reader – better, I believe, than the Kindle and Nook apps on the iPad.

Though it appears that iBooks has captured the ePub market, the simpler Kindle holds the vast majority of the e-book market (using the proprietary Mobi format, not ePub).

The track record on digital magazines on the iPad is also very mixed, and it's unclear if iOS 5's Newsstand app and the subscriptions it presents will get publishers past the unsatisying glorified PDFs that unfortunately dominate on the iPad today, perpetuated by services such as Zinio and publishing tools such as QuarkXPress.

If the tablet market were just about media tablets, I'd say the Kindle tablet and iPad would be competitors.

The iPad is better at video and Web surfing due to its larger screen and greater library, but the Kindle enjoys the edge with e-books due to its much larger library and greater portability.

But that's like comparing an all-in-one PC to a TV because they both play video and connect to Netflix. The iPad is much more than a media tablet. It's a productivity device, a communications device, and a media creation device – check out apps like GarageBand and Keynote to see what I mean.

The iPad also has sufficient security and management capabilities to fit in most businesses, so it can be a dual-use single device for many consumers.

By contrast, most "iPad-killers" have ignored the needs of business, and only the Android 3.x-based ones are even starting to get there.

The media tablet is just one aspect of the iPad, whereas it's the point of the Amazon Kindle device. Apple's made iOS into a rich operating system, one about to become even more capable with iOS 5.

By contrast, Amazon.com has forked the Android OS to create its own variation, meaning it will not get the new capabilities that Google has in store with Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" (due this autumn) as it tries to keep up with and even surpass iOS.

From the early version that TechCrunch's Siegler saw, it won't access the Android Market and its apps, and it may not run Android apps at all. Its hardware limitations would make it a dicey platform for many, after all.

The bottom line is that neither the iPad nor the Kindle tablet will kill the other. They serve different needs, despite some overlap. I'm confident the Amazon Kindle tablet will do well; so will the iPad. Meanwhile, the iPad-wannabes  – oops, I mean iPad-killers will come and go.

Amazon.com is not playing the "keeping up with Apple" game, but instead is playing its own game, one it is likely to win – smartly.

This article was originally published at InfoWorld.com.

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