Can Amazon dethrone the iPad? hasn’t even announced its tablet computer. But that’s not stopping the big research firms from projecting what the device will do to the market, which up until now has been dominated by Apple’s iPad.

And, at least according to one analyst, Amazon is likely to “disrupt the status quo” when it releases the device in the coming weeks.

Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps writes today that could sell between three to five million tablet computers during the fourth quarter alone. (That is if the device sells below $300).

It is a battle of David versus Goliath, but she thinks that Amazon has a fighting chance to become a “strong second to Apple’s iPad.”

“Even though Amazon taking on Apple is a bit like David taking on Goliath (compare the market cap, profits, and cash position of the two companies), Amazon’s willingness to sell hardware at a loss combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market.”

According to Reuters, Apple has sold 30 million iPads since its debut in April 2010. And while competitors like HP — which just axed the TouchPad — have failed to gain ground, Rotman Epps thinks Amazon will pose a serious challenge.

Previously on GeekWire:  Amazon vs. Apple: Emergence of the next great tech rivalry?

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  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I’d call Amazon “David”.  They can throw a lot of marketing and capitol at the problem. They also have customer/design/developer experience in the reader tablet market that very few others can claim with the existing kindle. 

    To be fair – they are in an even better position than HP was to launch a tablet. 

  • Alex Blackie

    As much as companies wish to be Apple, no competitive product will be as good as the iPad. And I’m not just saying that as an Apple fanboy.

    I don’t think Amazon will “dethrone” the iPad. Apple’s market dominance will overshadow anything that gets in its way. Sure, Apple might lose _some_ customers, but the iPad will always win in the end.

    The iPad is the luxury sedan and the Amazon tablet is a mid-range SUV. The people who just want the cheapest tablet they can find will buy the Amazon tablet, and the ones who want a seamless experience will use an iPad.

    But it all comes down to the OS. If Amazon’s solution (rumour has it that it’s Android?) is fast, memory and battery efficient, stable, and has enough apps to satisfy the average user, then I think it might gain traction.

    The one major flaw I see is if they use only the Amazon App Store. If Amazon doesn’t extend their App Store to outside of the US, they will lose potentially billions of sales, not only in apps, but in the device itself. If Amazon wants to dominate the market, they need to get an international App Store.

    So I don’t think the Amazon tablet will overtake the iPad. Nothing will. The iPad is of its own class, and although Amazon might come close to interfering with it, “dethroning” it seems like a bit of a pipe dream for Bezos at the moment.

  • Tom Bice

    The Kindle, while somewhat ground braking from a pure eBook perspective, had a very uninteresting user experience in both hardware and software. Unless it can make serious inroads on user experience, hardware aesthetic, touch screen, color, back light, apps, music, web browsing, multi-tasking, app-switching, email, etc. this is just another battle in a war that is already over. I use the Kindle app on my iPad and can’t yet think of a reason why I would use our Kindle device even if it is just for reading. The reading experience on the iPad is better unless I am in direct sunlight which is less than 2% of the time. 30M iPads sold and counting is quite a head start and I believe consumers will only invest in a tablet from a single vendor. Between the iPad hardware, the music and the apps I’ve purchased on ITunes, I’m pretty much locked in. But so far, locked-in isn’t a bad thing and I really don’t want to rebuy apps, etc. for a different platform. Obviously, I’m skeptical but I hope Amazon can challenge Apple and I’m curious to see how it will differentiate.

  • davidgeller

    I haven’t shelled out the $499 for the report, so I can’t comment, specifically, on some of the claims Forrester is making. But, my personal experience with them and other analyst firms is their reports are usually wildly optimistic and painted with a brush influenced by their relationships with their paying customers.

    Still, it’s not hard to replace these analyst studies with ones done 16 months ago predicting the iPad would fall to Android tablet rivals. Big bold claims with, as we now know, little factual foundation to back them up.

    Granted, I like cheering for the Apple team, but I don’t see how Amazon, with little or no consumer software experience except for their Kindle product, could assume to take on such a monumental task where other companies with far greater manufacturing muscle and supply chain experience (HP) failed. Then there are the handful of very strong Asian manufacturing companies that have spent the last 2 years struggling to create competitive Android tablets. They know how to make hardware – and have found little margin to compete.

    Could Amazon ascend to a dominant tablet position? Perhaps, provided they don’t fall into the “me too” trap of simply creating an Android tablet. The market has already responded and said they don’t want such a thing. What then? Here’s my recipe for success:

    1. create a moderately powered and wholly adequate hardware platform that’s price competitive with the low-end iPad (read: skip trying to include every imaginable type of port and interface). Go with a smaller screen. Keeping the Kindle keyboard – something that will appeal to many people – despite its “chicklet” feel and functionality – is a tough call. Since it limits the orientation of the device and takes up valuable real estate I’d say skip it. It will also make your device easier to deploy world-wide without having to inventory keyboard keys.

    2. if determined to use Android (which seems obvious if you’re seeking a strong base of developers), use it as the base OS and forge an entirely new UI that looks nothing like typical Android and tablet phones. Be bold in your simplicity. Don’t create a platform geeks and tinkerers would salivate over. They’re not your audience. Build for families.

    3. Start on day 1 with an SDK for your new, simple UI. Make it run on Windows or OS X. Give it away free. It’s probably too late – but Amazon should have bought Appcelerator for $150M and used their Titanium SDK.

    4. Create an app store experience that’s is as accommodating as it is expansive and omnipresent. Make it moderated, like Apple. The “Wild West” style won’t cut it and Amazon can’t afford to have an app store litered with useless and potentially dangerous crap. Surround it with an iTunes-like app experience for both Windows and OS X.

    5. Include Adobe Flash support so that on day 1 the device can run hundreds of thousands of useful educational and consumer Flash apps (“movies”).

    Anyone, including me, can play armchair device Czar and come up with a “recipe” but the implementation and timeline are what’s difficult to achieve. Any one of these individual tasks could take years of focused work by teams that have been building parallel-related platforms (consumer software, OS, etc.). I don’t see Amazon having the corporate DNA to pull this off on a schedule that would bring credibility to the analyst reports.

    Sure, they can whip out an Android tablet – maybe even one that’s very competitively priced (perhaps even taking the loss-leader position). But that’s neither sustainable nor likely to wrestle significant market share from Apple. It would be a “me-too” Android tablet. 

    I really thought the only companies capable of doing this were Microsoft and HP, and one of those has already thrown in the towel. What Amazon clearly does have is the ability to masterfully produce a web-based application store. But’s that’s only part of the equation.

    Here’s hoping we’re all surprised and they produce an amazing tablet. While I love Apple products, I’m always rooting for consumers first and welcoming competition that keeps the company in pole position fighting to retain their innovation role.

  • Chris Johnson

    This would be the first time Amazon disrupted an industry.  ;-).

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