No time to breathe, no time to reflect and no time to bask in previous glory. That’s the World of Technology today. Apple had just about got off the stage at their big iPhone 6S event when Amazon launched a huge offensive against them. Apple TV, Siri and iPads – nothing was spared! Here’s a blow-by-blow account of what Amazon’s world-dominating Apple-crushing gameplan looks like.
Tablet for all
A Tablet for US$ 50 (about Rs 3000)? One that actually works, isn’t a joke or made up of spare parts glued together by 13-year-old children in a sweat shop? That has a real screen and real hardware inside and doesn’t heat up or have a battery life of just 45 minutes?
The answer to all of the above is yes. And it’s called Amazon Fire. A 7-inch Tablet with a 1024 x 600 screen, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, camera front and back, seven-hour battery life, 8-GB internal storage and the option to add more as it even has a microSD card slot.
What you don’t get is full access to the Google Play Store but the Amazon Appstore is pretty good. You can also get a serious number of special games, books and movies, and this turns out to be an excellent investment for media and content. At this price point – you could get one for yourself and another for the children and not worry too much about the damage or losing one.
This one doesn’t necessarily hit Apple only, it hits all Tablet makers. When you hit a price point that equals the price of a meal in a restaurant, and actually ship out a real Tablet that has almost no compromise, you set in motion a series of changes that could impact every brand and product. Every manufacturer now needs to sit up and take notice. This could also revive the entire Tablet category, which is dying a slow death all over but still seems to be hot in India.
There are rumours that the Fire 7-inch could see an even lower price point in India. There are two more Tablets that Amazon released: the Fire 8 and the Fire 10. Bigger screens, more powerful and with some add-on features. The price here is still aggressive and the product at Flagship Tablet level. These are the ones that directly hit at the iPad Mini and the normal iPad. At half the price and almost equivalent specs and features, this is a serious iPad crusher portfolio.
There are better Tablets out there by Lenovo, Acer, Asus, Samsung and obviously Apple. But the price-to-performance ratio game being played by Amazon should make them all wake up from their stupor.
4K TV for all
Apple’s biggest announcement may have been the all-new iPhones, but it is the all-new Apple TV that took the lead from all others. It has a one-stop box that plays movies, TV shows, games and media and all of it is Siri voice controlled. You literally talk to the box in normal plain language and it gets you what you want plus adds a few jokes and comments to it too. What more can you ask for?
Well, what you could ask for is even better voice control, more content and movies, all of it in 4K, with the box coming in at a much lower price, with real gaming controllers for playing games and a much sleeker and better-looking interface. So, what you get would be the all-new Kindle Fire TV.
The entire voice control is based on the revolutionary Amazon Echo product line which goes above and beyond just TV and content control and enters the domain of playing streamed music, news as well as home automation where you can control everything with voice commands.
Amazon ups the stake with a new Kindle TV box that does a lot more for a lot less. While this battle shouldn’t get us very excited in India (both boxes don’t sell here and both don’t have any custom content for the Indian market), the rumour mill is churning that the Kindle Fire TV with India services should be here soon. If that happens, then the Apple TV can’t be far behind. Roku, another player that dominates in this segment, has by far the most superior products in the TV box category. And Roku’s entry into India may well happen soon.
So, are these products Apple killers? Conventional wisdom would say no, as Apple has its own fans and ecosystem that doesn’t seem to waver too much. But the situation as well as stakes are very different now. Apple isn’t a frontrunner in the TV box game and it seems to be losing its iPad market fairly quick. Enter a very aggressive Amazon which may just upset the Apple-cart big time. By the way, you can even buy the Fire Tablets as a six pack at just US$ 250. Isn’t that amazing? Tablets being sold like beer. Even alcohol brands should be getting a little nervous!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, September 27
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