Apple's iPad may finally have a clear second-place competitor. After months of jockeying by various manufacturers to become the key competitor to the category leader, a new survey indicates that Amazon's recently released Kindle Fire has moved into that second position.
The survey, by ChangeWave Research, found that 65 percent of those who intend to buy a tablet in the near future would choose the iPad -- while 22 percent would buy the new Kindle Fire. "Amazon is going to leapfrog the competition," ChangeWave said in a statement, "and become the number two product in the tablet market."
Doing Apple a Favor?
While this means that the iPad now has a clear-cut competitor, ChangeWave noted that Amazon may actually be doing Apple a favor. That is because the Fire's success may damage "the tablet market hopes of the remaining competitors in the field."
Among several other tablet makers -- Motorola, Research In Motion, Dell, HTC, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba -- none have more than 1 percent of the future tablet demand, according to ChangeWave. The only exception is Samsung's Galaxy Tab, with 4 percent. In addition to struggling at that very low position, Samsung is also locked in a worldwide legal war with Apple, which contends that Samsung has infringed its patents and other intellectual property in its tablets and smartphones.
Barnes & Noble's new Nook Tablet was not included in the report, according to ChangeWave Director of Research Paul Carton, because it "was released after the survey was released in the field." He added that there had been a lot of build-up and awareness about Amazon's new Fire tablet, which is why it had been included. The Nook Color, Carton said, was mentioned in the report in a discussion of e-readers.
Forrester Research predicts that by the end of the year, Kindle Fire sales could reach 5 million and the Nook Tablet could hit 2 million.
Some other reports have suggested that the Fire is beginning to impact sales of the iPad, with as many as a quarter of those who have bought or intend to buy a Fire saying that decision meant they would delay buying an iPad. The Fire is priced at about $300 less than the starting price for the iPad.
With such a great reception, rumors that Amazon plans to release new Fire models are not surprising. The rumors indicate that, before the end of second quarter next year, Amazon will release an 8.9-inch and a 10.1-inch Fire to complement the initial 7-inch model.
The Content Ecosystem
The ChangeWave survey was conducted of 3,043 North American consumers. It also found that interest in buying a tablet is increasing quickly. Fourteen percent of those surveyed said they planned to buy a tablet in the next three months, a major increase as the holiday season begins over the 6 percent who stated that desire in August.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said it was "too early to say yet" if the tablet category has become a two-company race. For example, he said, sales over the last year have been "the iPad, Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, and then everyone else."
When faced with a choice of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, Greengart said, the consumer who is looking for a tablet at $200 or less for content consumption will find Amazon's Kindle Fire more attractive, because it has so much more content than Barnes & Noble in movies, music, and other categories.
He noted that it makes sense PC makers might be thinking they "can't compete in that kind of content ecosystem." Google, maker of the open-source Android platform, is building its own content ecosystem, but slowly, Greengart said.
The PC manufacturers, Greengart said, might decide to "find something else to do," or they might wait for the release of Microsoft's Windows 8, for which they'll be making PCs anyway, in the hopes that Microsoft will be able to supply and maintain a competing content ecosystem for Windows 8-based tablets.