September 28, 2011, 4:28 PM

Stoking the tablet battle

Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet undercuts the big dog in price.

Lead Photo

Outfitted with a new browser, the e-retailer's tablet takes on the iPad with a price tag that is $300 less.

E-retailer Amazon.com Inc. has managed to persuade me to do something that even Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs could not do: Pre-order a tablet. OK, that’s not newsworthy beyond my home and office. What is significant about the new Kindle Fire is the integration of Amazon digital content with the 7-inch tablet. And that the Kindle Fire costs $300 less than the cheapest iPad2 from Apple. That’s big savings in this economy.

Of course, users will be able to buy Amazon’s products and services through the tablet, and use a web browser to visit sites, even those of other retailers. Consumers belonging to Amazon Prime, the e-retailer’s expedited shipping service, gain a dedicated appliance to view videos and books and buy songs using their Amazon accounts. Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, with 2010 net sales of $34.2 billion.

This integration could greatly simplify how a consumer discovers and buys these products, assuming he shops on Amazon. In one way, the Kindle Fire might act as an electronic sandwich board sitting on a sidewalk outside of a store, advertising a deal and even more merchandise inside the store; except, of course, one could play Angry Birds on a Kindle Fire.

The promise of the ability to shop on Amazon using simple steps seems assured. It could aid consumer adoption of the device in much the same way the iPad’s phenomenal success can be attributed to its simple-to-use interface.

Price also is important. I waited a long time to buy a first-generation iPad, only doing so this year after finding a refurbished one. Even then, at $399, I hesitated before clicking the purchase button. Today was different. As soon as I could, I placed the pre-order. Price and my proclivity to buying the latest tech devices motivated me. The Kindle Fire becomes the fifth computing device—in addition to the iPad, I have desktop and laptop computers and a smartphone—in my household when it arrives Nov. 16.

The question then will be which offers more value measured in money and time saved. Will my time using a tablet shift to one from a retailer or remain with the device built by the computing giant, which also would like to sell me digital content? Will I find better deals on one device over the other? I’ll have to wait and see.

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