As gadget reviewers have pointed out, the newly released Amazon Kindle Fire is clunky and slow -- in keeping with Amazon's sense of style. But it seems it is being purchased in droves by consumers and is poised to become the second-most-popular tablet in the United States, after Apple's iPad.
In a press release issued by Amazon on Monday, the company said, "Kindle Fire remained the best-selling product across all of Amazon since its introduction 8 weeks ago." As is its custom, the company gave no specific numbers.
Based on calculations by Forrester, it is believed that Amazon will sell close to five million Kindle Fire tablets by the end of the holiday season. Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, thinks it will be slightly less,at about four million.
So why is the Kindle Fire selling so well if it is not so pretty? The answer is price and content.
The Kindle Fire costs $200. The least expensive iPad, which only comes with Wi-Fi and 16 gigabytes of memory, costs $500. The Kindle Fire also comes packed with lots of goodies inside, including access to more than 18 million movies, TV shows, magazines and books, according to Amazon.
"It comes down to the content and the strength of Amazon's brand. Amazon is the No. 2 brand, after Apple, among consumers," said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester research analyst who specializes in mobile computing. "The Kindle Fire is a decent consumer media device for a very good price."
Ms. Rotman Epps pointed out that the Kindle Fire hardware is essentially the BlackBerry PlayBook with one difference: the content.
"You turn the BlackBerry PlayBook on, and it doesn't work because there is nothing to do with it," she said. "The Kindle isn't perfect, but it's a simple out-of-box experience, and most importantly its content is front and center as soon as you start it for the first time."
Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive, predicted the Fire's appeal in an interview with The New York Times last month. "Part of the Kindle Fire is, of course, the hardware, but really, it's the software, the content, it's the seamless integration of those things," he said.
Mr. Bezos and Amazon obviously realized they could not beat Apple by creating better hardware, but Amazon could definitely compete with the company on services, content and price.
Either way, the Fire would jump beyond other makers' tablets, many of which have been ignored by consumers. Apple has sold more than 29 million iPads during its first 15 months on the market.
By releasing a tablet that is inexpensive and works just well enough for consumers, Amazon is
helping assert itself as a player.