Pride: Apple's biggest weakness gives Amazon Kindle easy fire in the iPad mini war

Amazon [AMZN] is taking the fight to Apple [AAPL], comparing the iPad mini to the Kindle Fire HD and claiming to offer a superior product. The move reflects the critical nature of the post-PC battle to stake a claim in the future of IT.


Amazon calls it

Under the slogan “Much More for Much Less”, Amazon observes its Kindle HD costs from $199 in comparison to the $329 tag Apple’s set on iPad mini, but the big point is Amazon’s claim that its 7-inch tablet actually possesses 30 percent more pixels than the iPad mini.

Where have we heard claims like this before?


“..your [Apple’s] 7.9-inch tablet has far fewer pixels than the competing 7-inch tablets! You’re cramming a worse screen in there, charging more, and accusing others of compromise? Ballsy,” the Website wrote in a review cited by Amazon.

Some may recall Gizmodo to be the site which published images of the iPhone 4 well in advance of release. Apple took the journalist behind the story to law, and while the case was dropped, the company clearly ruffled a few feathers in the process. 

Amazon’s overt in its attempt to position its cheaper product as superior, claiming:

“Kindle Fire HD features 30% more pixels and 33% more pixels-per-inch than iPad mini, which means clearer, sharper images. With Kindle Fire HD, you can watch HD movies and TV—you can’t on iPad mini because it's not an HD device. And because low-quality sound can ruin your HD entertainment experience, Kindle Fire HD features better audio with dual stereo speakers and Dolby Digital Plus. Additionally, Kindle Fire HD offers fast Wi-Fi with dual band, dual antennas + MIMO. With all this, Kindle Fire HD is still $130 less than iPad mini. Take a look at the comparison chart below to see how Kindle Fire HD compares to iPad mini.”

The Kindle Fire HD boasts a resolution of 1,280-x-800 in contrast to the iPad mini’s 1,024-x-768. The company has published a comparison between the two devices here.

Tit for tat

It’s a tit for tat attack. Apple’s marketing chief, Phil Schiller, was also on the offensive during the iPad nano launch last week, when he said:

“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad, and they’ve failed miserably.”

We all know Apple’s decision to introduce a smaller iPad model is an attempt to limit growth of the Android-based tablet industry. This makes a reaction by Android device makers (including Amazon) inevitable. Google today had been expected to mount its own counterattack, though that launch has now been delayed as New York battens down the hatches for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

While iPad minis are already sold out, Amazon claims its 7-inch Kindle Fire HD saw its biggest day of sales since launch on the same day Apple launched the iPad mini.

Speaking during last week’s financial call, Apple CEO Tim Cook dismissed the 7-inch tablets already available as “compromised products”, saying:

“Let me be clear. We would not make one of the seven-inch tablets. We don't think they're good products, and we would never make one. Not just because it's seven inches but for many reasons. One of the reasons, however, is size.”

"The difference in just the real-estate size between the the 7.9 (almost 8) versus the 7 is 35 percent,” he claimed. “And when you look at the usable area, it's much greater than that. It's from 50 to 67 percent."

These statements are both true and false. Apple’s basing its comparison on the Nexus 7 tablet, if it had chosen to compare the iPad mini with the 7-inch Kindle Fire, it would have been a different story, as Wired points out: “The onstage 67 percent claim was true, but in part because Apple chose the Nexus 7 instead of the Kindle Fire HD for comparison.”

The fact fight will continue.

Following Google is not the Apple way

Some might argue that by engaging in its public campaign against Google’s Android OS, Apple is creating its own form of corporate myopia. The company is becoming so over-focused upon its biggest competitor that it is moving away from being an innovator and toward being an imitator. 

Arguably introduced before it was ready, Apple Maps attracted a storm of criticism; now, in the new truth economy of product comparisons, the company has actually hurt its argument claiming the iPad mini to be the best smaller tablet in the world, it has undermined its credibility just a little more.

That’s a problem.

Just over one year ago, Apple’s Steve Jobs passed away, at that time industry-watchers questioned if the company would survive the loss of its leader, asking if the firm had the vision to continue to slam out those home runs. Apple’s success since suggests it has, but its focus on Jobs’ ‘I will destroy Android’ war seems to be becoming one of the firm’s biggest raison’s d’etre. 

Human nature tells us that when we apply too much focus to an enemy, we become narrower in our field of view. Any form of over-focus creates this kind of problem, it becomes obsessive and as obsession grows any fact that can be used to justify the obsession gets used. Those which do not justify the obsession get twisted into half-truths that do justify it. 

Apple’s decision to lead its product on display size has weakened its message, because it was only semi-true: Yes, the iPad mini offers more than most of the competing devices, but not all. In being economical in what it says the company has given competitors an easy goal. That's made even easier because Apple today faces an extremely critical environment.

Today’s media love to give Apple a kicking. Yesterday’s was more supportive to the plucky little firm on its way to resurrection. Apple’s executives need to recognize that having become the world’s most valuable firm means it is now a legitimate target for criticism. This means the firm needs to be absolutely beyond criticism in its media statements. 

Things have changed.

For the iPad mini, better truths Apple might have told could have included: build quality; graphics power and speed; battery life; weight; processor speed or the huge volume of apps available on the App Store. Yes, while some of these were touched on the truth is people don’t remember good statements, they remember the one that raises the most controversy.

What should Apple do? It certainly shouldn’t play a mea culpa and apologize. However it behoves the company to ensure that any future attempts at direct criticism of competitors are absolutely provable -- anything else leaves the door wide open to a counter attack, such as that posed by Amazon.

Despite all this, I fully expect the iPad mini to be picked up by millions of consumers, nearly all of whom will be hugely happy with their experience. I also hope Apple’s executive team can move themselves away from their obsession with so-called ‘copycat’ competitors and place their focus once again not on where the puck has been, but where it’s going. It's not about Apple versus Google, it's about creating new product families that do things we don't even know we want to do yet.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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