What Google can learn from the Amazon Kindle Fire (and iPad)

What Google can learn from the Amazon Kindle Fire (and iPad)
The launch party and subsequent media blitz for the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet today was pretty much what we all expected. We had been hearing rumors and getting breakdowns of what to expect from the Amazon tablet, and so the reveal today was less a surprise and more of a release for everyone waiting. Much like any Apple event, we knew essentially what to expect, but for a surprise or two. In this case. the surprises were split between the price, which was lower than expected, and the cloud-powered Silk web browser, which sounds like an amazing idea (although it does give Amazon full records of everything you do on the Internet, potentially making Amazon a far bigger privacy threat than Facebook or Google.) The most interesting thing about the reveal was something we often see with Apple, but rarely with Google: content convergence. 

We didn't expect the Amazon tablet to be that appealing to hardcore users, and it probably isn't, but we may have missed how much Amazon understands the tablet game. Tablets are ultimately content consumption devices, and really aren't the best for productivity beyond some light e-mail or doc review. With this in mind, the most successful tablets are the ones that can offer content. Apple has always known this, which is why it pushes music, video, and now books in the iTunes store just as much as the apps and games. Amazon spent quite a bit of time building the various pieces of its content supply, starting with books and magazines, then expanding to music with the MP3 store, video with the Instant Store, and apps in its Appstore. That content supply is incredibly impressive, and that is what will really drive the sales of the Kindle Fire more than anything else. 

What Google is missing

That content supply also highlights the inherent shortcoming in Google's model. Google has never been a content company. Google is a linking company, a connection company, which is why Android has been so successful. Phones are communication devices, and are all about discovery and connections. Google understands how people communicate with each other, and Google knows how to help you find things that you want to find. With an Android phone, you can interact with friends and family in multiple ways, or you can find information quickly through light web searches, or local searches on Google Maps. Google had the services in place with Maps, Gmail, Talk, and search to make a phone OS that worked. Unfortunately, Google's model doesn't translate to tablets, because the use case is completely different and Google simply doesn't have the content to back it up. 

When Apple launched the iPad, it already had the most popular digital music store in the world, an impressive if underused video store, and an App Store that was backed up with a lot of excited developers who filled the iPad with 2,000 apps at launch. And, those apps were specifically designed and chosen to show off exactly what set the iPad apart from being just a "big iPhone" as many skeptics had thought the Apple tablet would be. Then, to top it off, Apple added the iBookstore to the mix, and made deals with various print publications to make the iPad the one-stop shop for any content you may want. Amazon did the same thing by showing off a tablet where the hardware and even OS didn't matter so much. The content was the star of the show. Google has the biggest ebook store around, but books don't push tablets. Google's video store is growing, but still not a huge selling point. Even now, Honeycomb-specific apps are limited and likely don't even come close to the 2,000 apps that the iPad had at launch. And, Google doesn't have any options for music delivery, no store, and no deals with any streaming services. 

Google's most successful product recently has been Google+, and it isn't because people are looking for a Facebook alternative (although that is part of it.) Google+ has been a success because Google built up various services so that each one was a success (or at least functional, as with Buzz). Then, once everything was built, Google pulled together YouTube, Picasa, Profiles, Buzz, Talk, News, and Blogger and made a compelling and well-crafted social network. Unfortunately, Google doesn't have the properties to pull together for content and has been slow to build that content. 

Build the stores and they will come

As we mentioned, Google already has the biggest ebook store around, but Google still hasn't made much of the reported negotiations with other print publishers in bringing a more diverse reading selection to Android. Music may not be a priority, because there is already choice with apps available for Rdio, Spotify, Pandora and more. Besides, music is the least important of all content when it comes to selling tablets. Google has YouTube for video, but the vast majority of that content is not what sells tablets either. Google has been expanding its selection of movies, but still has no TV at all, and the options are very limited as far as apps since Netflix and Hulu still don't support Honeycomb. 

We can hope that with the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich, the number of tablet-centric apps available for Android will increase because of the better tools which will allow developers to create apps for multiple devices from phone to tablet. The trouble with that hope is that developers are a notoriously fickle group and at this point Android tablet support seems to be stuck in a vicious cycle - no one wants Android tablets because there isn't enough developer support, but developers won't support Android tablets because no one is buying them. Update: There is a lot of speculation, but no hard numbers as far as how many apps are available for Honeycomb tablets right now. Many lists of apps designed for Honeycomb count the apps at under 300, while estimates put the number somewhere between 700-2000. Even a search of the Android Market claimed that there were "at least 1000" results, but only listed 480. A reader has claimed that there are 14,000 Honeycomb apps, but we've had absolutely no luck in verifying that. If anyone could help us out in determining how many apps have been designed for Honeycomb (or even the number compatible with Honeycomb would be interesting at this point,) we'd greatly appreciate it. 

A different view on the tablet game

We've seen other tablets come into the market and fail and we always blame the troubles on bad hardware or bad software, but there is a very real possibility that any of those issues could have been surmounted with the right content behind it. The BlackBerry PlayBook had its issues with bad software choices (BlackBerry Bridge anyone?), and because the target market may not exist. As we mentioned, tablets are not the best productivity devices, and BlackBerry is still targeted more at enterprise than anything else. The HP TouchPad didn't have the best hardware, but it certainly wasn't a bad device, and webOS is the best OS that can't find a market. Now, imagine if Amazon had put its content stores behind the HP TouchPad. Lacking hardware or not, that device likely would have sold (and saved webOS in the process.) 

That brings us back to the limbo of Android tablets, which have found a respectable amount of market share through 7" Android 2.x devices, which don't have a shortage of apps (regardless of if those apps scale well to 7" screens), and sell mostly because of their low cost. Honeycomb tablets are the real market that Google wants, but can't seem to find a foothold. The prevailing theory is that it is the lack of apps alone that is keeping sales down, but that may not be the case. More than anything, Honeycomb may have highlighted that Google runs ahead too fast without building the base first. Apple and Amazon knew to build the content stores before diving into the tablet game. Google needs to bolster its content, especially in video, magazines, and newspapers, in addition to pushing developers to create apps before Android tablets can really take off. Of course, as we mentioned, Google isn't a content company, and never has been, nor has Google had such a good track record with building stores. That doesn't bode well for fixing this problem, but maybe with the right partnerships, the content can come from other sources. It's definitely a major issue that Google needs to be looking at though. 


As readers have pointed out, Honeycomb tablets also suffer from a lack of marketing, but what exactly would the marketing tout? The lack of marketing could very easily be traced back to the content problem that we've outlined above. No marketing campaign for tablets can use the hardware specs as a selling point, that doesn't work these days. The DROID marketing campaign is constantly referring to the power of the Android Market, but that's not something to point to with Honeycomb tablets, because there are no apps. There's no music store, and a video store that is in need of more content. The marketing tools of Android phones like Google Maps, etc wouldn't work either, because those products are better suited for phones. The only thing Google has that could be put in advertising is the Google Books store, but a book store is only a marketing tool for a tablet that costs $250 or less, and the cheapest Honeycomb tablets are usually around $400. Honeycomb tablets are built for more use than just reading, but the content simply doesn't exist to support those uses. 



1. Goldeneye

Posts: 419; Member since: Jan 22, 2011

Amazon is the best e-seller of the world so they know what they're doing, this tablet should sell great specially at a very attractive price point

43. daniel_bargs

Posts: 325; Member since: Nov 27, 2010

just another tablet... but much worse. only americans will be able to use it properly. if you are not in USA, u wont be able to buy it legally and you wont have access to android market which offer many free apps.

2. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

im really starting to look forward to you articles michael. They are defiantly a cut above the others.. on this site and other sites. Although it may not be in the scope of what you are writing, one of honeycomb's biggest flaws is the lack of real advertisement. There is no "droid does" style campaign for honeycomb tablets for the most part. The most news people probably see about android tablets are the apple/samsung boxing match. Apple always has slick advertising. You also hinted at one of my favorite strengths of android. Its like playdough. Anyone can change it to pretty much anything. Looks like amazon might have hit customization out of the park with this thing. Add pricepoint, the fact that its going to be in the front of amazon.com till the cows come home, and that so far it looks pretty slick with all the built in amazonian goodness, and its probably going to be a damn hot seller.

6. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

edited with an addendum, because commenting here wouldn't be enough to respond to your concerns

9. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

PS. thanks for looking out for my stuff! I hope you're remembering to share the link. I needs tha Google juice to live!

39. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

ha! lol. While I agree on the content part of advertising, there still needs to be advertising for advertising sake. They could advertise some of the stand out programs they have like Pulse, the Ereader, media capabilities, how cool google maps are on the big screen, and stuff like that. Samsung started that when the tab launched as they had their own ad campaign, but there needs to be either something from google or a collaborative effort from all the makers. It doesnt need a ton of content, just enough to fill up a 30-60 second TV spot and be cool. There is plenty of content for that. Besides, what does most of Apple's adds consist of? iTunes, apps, and "magic".

44. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

exactly, all Apple ads show the content available on the tablet. the only ads-for-ads'-sake we've seen were some of the creepy DROID commercials with people turning into androids, and I'm not sure those sold too many devices.

46. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

ha i forgot about those.. or the sony thumbs commercial.. creeeeepy. lol

47. Thump3rDX17

Posts: 2160; Member since: May 10, 2010

dude...we totally love people turning into Droids. xD

3. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

True I agree Honeycomb needs to have a better eco system but their biggest flaw is easily advertising. No one knows about the other tablets. I'm a salesperson and most people come in asking about the iPad when I explain the differences however they generally prefer an android tablet like the Samsung or the Asus. These companies need to invest more in advertising, after all its the reason Apple got to big in the first place, it was their amazing advertising and marketing

12. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

How to advertise for Honeycomb: True Multi-tasking Browse the web like you do on your comptuer with flash support Personalization Over 14000 Tablet Apps 16:9 ratio for to watch tv shows and movies Screen is designed like a Computer not like a Phone Streem all your music wirelessly with Google Music 10000 more free apps than iOS Speak to type technology The Asus Transformer - Tablet has expandability, can double the storage with a micro sd card, you can easily connect it to a TV with a mini hdmi, Keyboard Accessory offers 16 hour total battery life. Built in Office program Samsung Galaxy Tablet - Lightest and Thinnest Tablet on the Market, Best screen and speaker quality. Built in Office program, Music Hub to download music, Media Hub to download movies, Social Hub to link your social network options, Mini app tray to be able use more than one app at the same time Just a few suggestions. Again people don't know about android so how would most people know how to sell it.

14. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

android tablets don't even have 10,000 apps total so how can it be 10,000 more than iPad?

16. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

If you didn't read like an idoit, they have over 14000 Tablet Apps, most people just don't know. Secondly Android has 10000 more apps the iOS, I didn't say 10000 more tablet apps.

19. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

iOS has more apps than android. I guess you're the idiot.

26. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

really taco, you didn't read again did you, I was paraphrasing from my original where i said 10000 more free apps. I didn't think I would have to spell it out for you again. how dare you call other people idoits and morons when you obviously can't read. Not to mention that whole iOS having more apps total than android is shrinking everyday and will no longer be true by the years end.

21. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

14000 apps with honeycomb support, which often just means it will run even if it isn't exactly formatted or designed for the tablet. I'm taking about killer apps, apps that can be marketed. Apps specifically designed for the tablet experience are still lacking. Besides, I'm not sure that's a reliable number

27. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

No Michael, these are actually designed for honeycomb not just supported by it. They're are many more that will just work on honeycomb of course but that's far greater in numbers. The little trick I posted down below to find out that there is over 14000 is actually not even all the apps made and optimized for honeycomb. I have found more other ways. Google just hasn't put a tab for them which they definitely should and hopefully will in a market update. The only thing they have now is a featured area with only about 100 or so apps which most people mistake for all the tablet apps they have.

29. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Yea 100 apps won't cut it.

42. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I tried your trick in the Market, and although the results said "at least 1000", there were actually only 480 listed. Can you explain again how you are getting your numbers? I'd like to make sure I get this right.

28. ToneDef

Posts: 39; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Glad you clarified that, because your article reads like the honeycomb tablet buyer will be looking at a blank screen!

4. SoyCider

Posts: 18; Member since: Sep 28, 2011

i liked my kindle very much till i saw this news :s i should have waited few months oh well its only $130

5. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Android needs a mature tablet OS before they make any headway into the market. Honeycomb is buggy and has no app support. It works on phones because the phones are essentially being given away for free, but with tablets consumers actually have to spend their hard earned money. For that they'll demand a quality product.

7. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I don't think it's a matter of the quality of the OS. Honeycomb was definitely buggy at launch, but those issues have been ironed out with subsequent updates. Many Honeycomb tablets are priced competitively with the iPad as well, so that wouldn't be an issue if the content were there. I do agree on the app support, though.

11. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

The thing is they can't just match the iPad's price. They either have to beat it or offer something above and beyond for people to switch over. iPad has too much of a head start now for android to come in and offer the same or less and think people will switch. iTunes and the App Store gives a big advantage to the iPad right now.

40. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i do actually agree with most of that, but honeycomb still offers more actual features than iOS. Most of the bugs have been ironed out and its actually pretty smooth now, even on my G-Slate. It has enough apps for what I do. It has all the main app categories covered with good apps. Yea, there isnt an explosion of apps to choose from that take advantage of the bigger screen, but there are definitely a few good ones in each category.

20. Thump3rDX17

Posts: 2160; Member since: May 10, 2010

well Honeycomb definitely works within it's parameters very well but what i think Google could learn here is that Google's multimedia services aren't really a strong and attractive force like Apple's iTunes or Amazon's services. they're not cooked right into the core of the Android OS like iTunes is with iOS and Amazon's services are in the Kindle Fire. i think you guys saw the Fire today and saw an OS that seamlessly became a hub for movies, books and music and that's what Google needs to do. now Google just has the Google Books app and the Google Videos app that both work in hand with an update to the Android Market. Google Music is very nice but i don't use it because it's not integrated into my phone as my default music player, there's conflicts and there's conflicts all over the place in Android. the new Market looks like you dove into a Windows Phone 7 device, Google Books looks old and out of the times and it doesn't look anything like it's sibling Videos app which looks similar to the new Market. Google needs a face for the multimedia experience on their devices, it needs to be seemless and beautiful. i like Honeycomb's ghosty, minimalistic, neon look with lots of lines everywhere so i think they should update everything like that and make a Music Store and advertise the hell out of them! then they can market the hardware a little better.

10. bossmt_2

Posts: 459; Member since: Oct 13, 2009

Honeycomb is a great OS, people who're calling it buggy or crappy haven't honestly used it at all lately. THey need more App support but that is bound to come.

13. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

I've used it. I have a Xoom for a work tablet. It's still buggy.

17. doubler86

Posts: 320; Member since: Jan 26, 2011

If you really do have a Xoom, this is how you find out all the tablet apps you've been missing. 1) Go to Android Market 2) Go to the search 3) Type Tablet 4) See the 14000 to 15000 tablet apps depending on the tablet manufactor

32. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

I agree no educated consumer would go with an android tablet at this point. iOS 5 will put a bigger gap between the two.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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