On Monday the Wall Street Journal leaked news that Amazon was prepping a US$50 6" tablet for this holiday season.
This sounds like bad news to me. Now to be fair we have almost no details other than the fact that it'll have only a single speaker in order to cut costs. If they're cutting speakers, what else will they be cutting?
You can already buy a $50 tablet on Amazon, but it's not a Fire or made by Amazon. Instead manufacturers like NeuTab, Dragon Touch and Tagital offer 7" models that feature awful 1024x600 screens, and that's my biggest fear with this new Fire model.
Amazon took a beating with its Fire Phone, reporting that it would have to take a $170 million write-down on unsold inventory. The last thing it needs to do now is dump a low-powered tablet with a crummy screen on the market. Sure it might sell some units in the short term, but the experience will be so sub-par that few users will stick with such a device for very long, let alone come back for an updated model in a few years. Another bad Fire product might finish the brand for good.
It could be that I'm just a pessimist. The WSJ posts quotes Jeff Bezos as saying the company is willing to forgo profits on the hardware in favor of making money selling services on the devices. It's the old 'sell the razor at cost and make money on the blades' scheme, and it probably won't work if the tablet is junk to begin with.
So maybe Amazon will be willing to sell the hardware at cost or even at a loss, and because of this be able to offer a decent screen on a $50 tablet. Performance is an issue too, but I don't think it's as important as the screen. Once an ebook is open or a stream has started to play, performance issues fade, but the screen is important every second you're using a tablet.
My favorite tablet is a Kindle HDX 7". It's got a gorgeous screen and snappy performance and I use it pretty much every day for ebooks, reading RSS feeds, and watching videos. I'm skeptical that Amazon can bring that same kind of positive experience to a $50 tablet, but as a fan of the brand I hope they can make me eat my words.
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