The iPad Is Not A Kindle Killer

This is a bit off-topic, but indulge me. In the lead-up to Apple's iPad launch today, many folks are making comparisons to Amazon's Kindle, claiming that the iPad will be a Kindle killer. No, it won't, and here's why. Kindle is a single-purpose device devoted to e-reading, and it does that very well. The iPad is more than a eReader. It is closer to a netbook without the fold-out screen and physical keyboard. It's also a lot more expensive and comes with a fairly pricey data plan, whereas Kindle'

Mike Fratto

January 27, 2010

3 Min Read
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This is a bit off-topic, but indulge me. In the lead-up to Apple's iPad launch today, many folks are making comparisons to Amazon's Kindle, claiming that the iPad will be a Kindle killer. No, it won't, and here's why. Kindle is a single-purpose device devoted to e-reading, and it does that very well. The iPad is more than a eReader. It is closer to a netbook without the fold-out screen and physical keyboard. It's also a lot more expensive and comes with a fairly pricey data plan, whereas Kindle's wireless service is free. If the iPad is going to succeed, it's going to succeed because consumers want a tablet device for everyday surfing and Internet activity to either augment or replace a laptop and not just to read books.

The iPad and the Kindle serve different markets. People who buy an iPad aren't just going to use it for an e-reader. It's far more expensive than a Kindle or Kindle DX with prices ranging from $499 for a 16GB model with Wi-Fi to $829 for 64GB and 3G. If you are going to pay $808.88 for a basic iPad (that's $629 for a 3G capable iPad + the low end data plan of 250Mb per month for 12 months) for an e-reader plus buying books (some pricing I have seen rumored are as much as $14.99 compared to Kindle's new release standard of 9.99, with most books for far less), well, then you have more money than sense.

No, people are going to buy iPads because they can watch videos, surf the web, do productivity things, play games and a bunch of other things, including read books, that they would normally do on a smart phone, laptop or netbook. The aftermarket accessories are going to add keyboard, speakers and other gadgets to make the iPad sing and dance.

In a way, the iPad would be better targeted at netbooks but in reality, tablet computers have held a space of their own. If there was a way to interconnect an iPad with a media center and other electronics in the house, I could see the iPad as a central component to a media center and household item. What I am not convinced of yet is if there is really a market for tablet PCs. We have seen tablets before (they made such an impression, I can't remember a single product name) back in the late 90s and early 2000s. The consistent feature is that dollar for dollar, tablets are more expensive and less functional than laptops. The iPad is really just an big iTouch. Oh, I bet the Apple faithful will buy an iPad, but I don't think the rest of us are there yet. The Kindle is doing well compared to other e-readers on the market, but I don't see a sea of white chiklets in airports, coffee shops or other public locations. I still get stopped by curious onlookers when I use mine in public.

So is the iPad a Kindle killer? No. And it probably won't make a dent in Kindle sales. The people who are going to buy an iPad are most likely not the people who would buy a Kindle. 

About the Author(s)

Mike Fratto

Former Network Computing Editor

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