Analysis: Amazon Kindle Fire Sold Out, Kindle Fire 2 Pic Leaked

Amazon told the world on Thursday that its budget tablet entry, Kindle Fire, has sold out. That’s a curious term unless Amazon intended the device to have a limited run, but we can presume that it means Amazon won’t make any more as it transitions to an expected Kindle Fire 2 update. Speaking of which, an image of a Kindle Fire 2 was “leaked” to The Verge (below) on Thursday—no doubt it’s a coincidence.

Kindle Fire 2 Leak

Leaked Amazon Kindle Fire 2 Pic
Credit: The Verge (reprinted with permission)

Amazon claimed that Kindle Fire captured 22 percent of the U.S. tablet market in “just nine months,” which is, again, a curious way to put things. For one thing, Amazon didn’t cite its source, making it impossible to know how that number was derived. We don’t necessarily doubt it, but not citing the source is outside of the realm of standard practices.

pullquoteAt the same time, it’s already understood that sales of the device were frontloaded in the first quarter of availability, and that sales plummeted once customers got them in their hands and then put them back down again on a shelf somewhere. By June, even Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color tablet was responsible for more Web traffic than the Kindle Fire.

There’s also the wording: Saying that, “in just nine months, Kindle Fire has captured 22 percent of tablet sales in the U.S.” has a connotation that Amazon captured 22 percent of a year’s worth of sales. That’s not true. Indeed, since it’s “sold out,” Amazon will have precisely zero market share until Kindle Fire 2 ships.

We’d call it clever PR-speak except that it’s not. It’s sloppy ham-fisted word manipulation that holds up to little consideration.

Which is really too bad. Amazon has a lot to be proud of in the Kindle Fire. It was the first non-iPad tablet to make a dent in the tablet market. If the company hadn’t cut so many corners when making it, it might have even sustained that dent.

As it is, the Kindle Fire made a great Christmas present in 2011 but offered too little in the way of usability and experience to actually be used. In June of 2012, Google put the nail in the device’s coffin by crushing its main selling point, a US$199 price point.

At the same $199, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet is a far, far more compelling device with better specs, more functionality, and higher grade components. That is undoubtedly why the Kindle Fire is “sold out,” rather than “discontinued.”

So, cut to The Verge’s report of a leaked Kindle Fire 2. Amazon has long been rumored to be announcing an update to its tablet this fall, and it would appear that this announcement will take place in September.

The retailing giant will reportedly be releasing two models, a 7-inch replacement for the original Fire, and a 10-inch device that may or may not be announced at the same time. Chris Ziegler wrote that he wasn’t given a shot of the back of the device, and thus we don’t know if it has a camera or what the back looks like.

We should also note that since the image was first published, competing Amazon sources have argued about whether this image is of the device that will ship.

Mr. Ziegler said that a second unpublished image showed a more streamlined user interface that may or may not make it into the shipping product.

The original Kindle Fire was based on a forked version of Android 2.3 that Amazon then skinned with its own Amazon-centric interface. It isn’t yet known what Amazon is doing for the new device, which hasn’t been officially unveiled.