While it has been known for a while now that Amazon’s first effort at tablet design, the Kindle Fire, was probably the most popular non-Apple tablet on the market, we have only just learned to what extent that is true. Recent information coming out of comScore indicates that the Kindle Fire has managed to acquire 54% of the Android tablet market in the months it has been available. Nobody else even comes close.
The last time we talked about this topic, the Kindle Fire had just started pulling ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the most popular of the iPad alternatives. Things are now apparently a bit less close. comScore reports that the Kindle Fire now has just under four times the market share enjoyed by the Galaxy Tab.
This report looks exclusively at the period from December 2011 through February 2012. In that time the Kindle’s popularity nearly doubled while not a single other Android tablet gained at all. The Galaxy Tab family lost nearly ten percent, falling from 23.8% to 15.4% of the market.
Amazon clearly struck the right note with their surprisingly low pricing of the Kindle Fire. At $199, it immediately enjoyed an advantage over the competition. While there are other options now at the same price, nobody has managed to leverage that advantage quite as well as Amazon did. Some of that is likely due to exposure and brand recognition. The Kindle Fire was the first truly useful $199 tablet and by far the most heavily advertised.
Mostly we can blame the competition’s failures on the inability to compete with Amazon’s media integration. Google has been doing great things with Google Play recently, including huge efforts to clean up the App selection and greater emphasis on video and music selections, but it is far from the experience the Fire offers even on a completely unaltered installation of Android.
The big question now is whether anybody else can hope to compete. The tablet market is increasingly centered around the iPad and the Kindle Fire. Admittedly this is already a change since six months ago it was entirely centered around the iPad. That said, the low price that Android tablet customers are coming to expect means that the potential for profit among hardware manufacturers without their own content hubs is shrinking at an alarming rate. Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 2 is impressive, but it seems unlikely that the desire for a more versatile tablet will overcome the Amazon advantages across a large audience.
The Kindle Fire is clearly doing something right to have pulled this far ahead. While Amazon is rumored to be either subsidizing the price slightly or at most selling the hardware at cost, they are not the only option available. Even among the Kindle’s traditional competition, nobody seems to realistically consider the Kobo Vox or Nook Tablet to be equally attractive products at this point. There is more to that than just Amazon’s ability to throw money at problems until they come out on top.