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iSuppli Report: Kindle Fire Takes Off, Apple Loses Grip

February 17, 2012
Amazon Kindle Fire
Are you sick of people telling you that there is no tablet market, only an iPad market? From now on, tell your iPad-toting buddies to check out this report from iSuppli, which essentially puts the iPad dominance theory to the rest. In a nutshell: Apple still sells more tablets than anyone else, but Cupertino’s iron grip on the market is finally loosening. So, who deserves the credit? Without doubt, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, the star of Q4 2011.

Amazon didn’t release any Kindle Fire sales figures, but iSuppli was able to estimate the tablet’s performance at a respectable 3.9 million units sold. How good is that, you ask? Well, consider that Samsung, the former leader of the Android pack, only moved about 2.1 million tablets in the same period. Even more telling, Apple sold 3.2 million units in the iPad’s debut quarter back in 2010.

Can the Kindle Fire Burn Down Apple’s Throne?

The Kindle Fire, which runs a heavily-modified version of Android,  was only announced in late September, which makes its evolution even more impressive. From 0% market share in Q3, the Fire rocketed to 14% in Q4 (October to December). This means that Amazon managed to sell over 1.3 million tablets per month.

Tablet Sales Table

In the process, Amazon overcame all its non-iPad competitors, including Samsung, who got about 8% of the market in the fourth quarter. Somehow surprisingly, the fourth place goes to another “outsider” – Barnes & Noble’s Nook line.

Now, the big question – is Amazon able to keep up the pace? Several analysts have pointed out that Amazon probably sells the Fire at a loss, hoping to break even with its associated services, like eBooks and apps. If Jeff Bezos and Co. are able to keep the ball rolling for long enough, next year’s figures may look even worse for the iPad.

Of course, Apple won’t go down without a fight. The iPad 3 is around the corner. And Microsoft may also have a word to say with the touch-native Windows 8 slated later this year.

Android‘s Performance

In essence, Kindle Fire OS is Android, but many argue that Amazon’s tablet (and B&N’s devices) is a far cry from Google’s original OS, and should be counted separately. So, how did “proper” Android tablets perform?

Some basic arithmetic tells us that the combined market share of all Android tablets was about 41% in Q4 and about 36% in 2011. Without the Fires and Nooks, the Android market share was about 20% in Q4 and around 25% in 2011.

Should these figures worry Google’s top brass and their manufacturing partners? The truth is that Amazon and B&N compete in the low-cost tablet sector, where pure-bread Android used to rule. The low cost and the attached ecosystems have contributed to the breakout performance of the Kindle and the Nook. Now traditional Android supporters, like Samsung, Acer, and HTC, need to rethink their strategies and fight back. We’ll see how that turns out later this year.

What do you think? Is the rise of the Fire a good thing for the Android world?