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Will the Kindle Fire Be an iPad Killer?

Virtues and downsides for magazines debated
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When Amazon released the Kindle Fire last November, it was heralded as the first tablet with a shot at loosening Apple’s stronghold on the market. But with Apple still dominating the tablet game—according to eMarketer, 83 percent of tablet owners have an iPad—does the Fire really have a chance? And what does that mean for publishers?

At Tuesday's MPA Digital: Swipe conference, Consumer Reports electronics editor Paul Reynolds and Macworld vp and editorial director Jason Snell addressed the Amazon vs. iPad tablet debate. “Amazon’s biggest strength is that it has so many customers,” explained Snell. With their credit card information already in the Amazon system, he said, consumers are comfortable pressing “buy.” And, of course, there’s the price. At $199, the Fire is more of an impulse purchase than the iPad.

The Fire scored more points for ease of discoverability within the Amazon App Store—an important consideration for publishers—while the Apple App Store, with its separate newsstand, was deemed confusing. The Amazon platform also makes it easier for publishers to create digital editions, simply requiring that they upload a PDF. iPad magazine apps can require a lot of time and money to develop, but come with all the bells and whistles—although there’s always the danger of making an app overly complicated, the panelists agreed.

When it comes to magazine layouts, the iPad’s larger size and higher resolution put it at an advantage. But if the Kindle’s portability is shown to be driving sales, said Snell, a scaled-down iPad is “inevitable” in the next couple of years. Amazon could very well release a larger Kindle Fire, although it would have to come in at a significantly lower price than the iPad to be successful, said Reynolds.

Despite any complications that come with the iPad platform, the consensus seemed to be that Apple isn’t in too much danger. “Kindle doesn’t do anything as well as the iPad,” said Snell, later adding that the new iPad’s retina display could further enhance Apple’s lead.

So if Amazon and Apple are leading the tablet market, who’s in third? Not Google, which unwisely treats Android tablets like big smartphones, said Snell, but the Barnes & Noble Nook.