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3 May 2012updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Kindle Fire: “The fruitcake of tablets”

Kindle Fire's marketshare fell by 10 percentage points over the last quarter. But why?

By Alex Hern

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider notes an interesting implication of a statistic reported today:

AMAZON TABLET SHARE FELL TO JUST OVER 4% 1Q VS 16.8% IN 4Q

That could simply mean that the Kindle Fire – Amazon’s only tablet (e-readers are a different category) –  had strong demand from early adopters, and fell short as that market dried up. But Weisenthal suggests that the alternative explanation is that the Fire:

Is something people will buy as a gift over the holidays, but won’t buy themselves to actually use.

It’s pretty hard to test that theory, but Weisenthal offers up a load of anecdotal evidence:

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Our Jay Yarow owns an iPad, but bought two Kindle Fires as gifts for relatives.

Matt Miller of Bloomberg said the same thing on Twitter.

So did Market Plunger on Twitter.

I can add my own experience to the list: my extended family has four iPads and no Kindle Fires between them, but when we started talking about buying a tablet for my grandfather, a Fire was the default choice (until someone pointed out that they aren’t actually out in the UK yet).

Matt Yglesias suggests this is because nobody needs a tablet. If you want a tablet, you want the best one, but because there’s nothing pushing you to make the purchase, if you can’t afford it, it’s fine to wait.

I’m not so sure. Nobody needs chocolate, either, but that doesn’t mean Green and Blacks outsells Dairy Milk. I think it’s the far simpler reason that the Kindle Fire simply isn’t very good. It’s not just that no-one needs a tablet – it’s that no one who wants a tablet feels that the Kindle Fire is good enough to bother with.

Why, then, buy it as a present? Because it’s still a tablet. It’s not good enough to want, but it’s good enough to give.