Amazon slumps on Kindle Fire worries

The 'Edsel' of tablets? It's too early to say.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 12, 2011 4:06PM
Shares of (AMZN) were down more than 2% Monday afternoon as investors fretted about a report in the New York Times detailing a litany of woes affecting the Kindle Fire. The newspaper likened Amazon's new tablet computer to Ford's Edsel -- one of the biggest flops in the history of corporate America.

As the Times noted, the Kindle Fire is enduring a torrent of negative reviews on the company's website, of all places. This is a huge headache for Amazon, which is counting on the Fire to fuel future growth. "Slightly more than a third of the 4,500 reviewers of the Fire on Amazon have given it mixed to negative reviews, three stars or fewer," according to the newspaper.

Analysts had high hopes for the Kindle Fire when it launched in November, forecasting sales of 5 million by year's end. One of the reasons why Wall Street was so bullish was the tablet's price -- $199 versus the $499 entry-level price for the Apple(AAPL) iPad. The problem with such a notion is that it's not a fair comparison. Remember, the iPad can do everything that a Fire can, but not vice versa.

My wife and I decided this weekend to buy an iPad. Although it is twice as expensive as the Fire, it is also twice as good. We found the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook to be inferior to the Fire. Like many consumers, we are not oblivious to price. Quality, though, is important. The iPad, to many minds -- ours included, is by far the best product.

After reading the Timesstory, I realized that we made the right decision. One surprising tidbit was that some people found the Kindle Fire's performance as an e-reader to be worse than the original Kindle. Amazon, of course, told the Times that fixes were in the works.

The parallels to the Edsel, a car brand that flamed out during the 1950s, are hard to avoid. Like the Kindle Fire, Ford Motor's (F) Edsel over-promised and under-delivered. The Edsel was hurt by quality problems that earned it the nickname: "Every Day Something Else Leaks."  Owners of the Kindle Fire are complaining about the device's lack of an external volume control and the poor placement of the "off" switch, according to the Times.

Ford pulled the plug on Edsel after three model years (1958, 1959 and 1960) and about 118,000 vehicles. According to Failure magazine, Ford learned from its mistakes. "Many of the new technologies developed for and charged to the Edsel’s budget were applied to future Ford models," the publication says. "For instance, the Edsel was the first car to have self-adjusting brakes; by 1962 all Fords were equipped with self-adjusting brakes."

The next few months will be critical for the Kindle Fire. Early adapters are a key constituency for tech companies because their opinions are solicited by potential customers. Amazon had better figure out a way to make its aggrieved tablet owners happy or risk having the product wind up on the scrap heap of technology history -- along with Microsoft's (MSFT) Zune, the LaserDisc and the Apple Lisa.

--Jonathan Berr expects that his 5-year-old son will not be eager to share the family iPad.

Dec 12, 2011 6:15PM
Some of us Kindle Fire owners are smart enough to rotate the tablet so the off button is at the top rather than the bottom so we don't accidentally put it in stand-by mode. I suspect those not smart enough to figure this out are the kind of peole that complain about every little butt-hurt. Just saying...
Dec 13, 2011 3:28AM
Who is this guy writing this article? He's either getting paid to slander Amazon or is a complete idiot. We've got a couple of iPad's and a couple of Fire's. Our family uses them for separate purposes although I would say that the Fire does most everything the iPad does... and does it well. I've had no issues with the power button, who complained about that? Turn the damn thing around if it's bugging you! For the price, you can't beat what the Fire gives you. More iCrapple journalistic drivel that is lining someone's pockets if you ask me.

Get with the program MSN and allow review material that is factual, this is garbage! Comparing to the Edsal? You have to be kidding me!

Edit for the above post by JFW3: Yes, you're right... it's the difference between a Mercedes and a Honda. BUT, there's something to be said about the average consumer who can't afford the Mercedes you speak of. Honda? Last time I checked, it was one of the most sold vehicles on the planet. Thanks for solidifying the Fire's usefulness to the average consumer. Your issues are well... eh, trivial. You get all those "nice and advanced" features when you buy a Mercedes.

 I've had no wifi connectivity issues with the Fire, camera means nothing, app selection is pretty decent (and will continue to get better), touch screen seems to work ok and bluetooth didn't matter since we only used it for an e-reader (which is what it is) while using the other functions it has.

My question is... why are people comparing this to the iPad to begin with? There really is no comparison. They're two totally different units aimed at two different users. Those of you who think this is an iPad killer have not used an iPad.

No harm intended jfw3, I hear what you're saying. But people need to understand... you get what you pay for.

Dec 13, 2011 1:57AM
I have not one but two Kindle Fire's they rock.  This reviewer has his proverbial head shoved in the sand, the usual Apple snobbery, of course the iPad is better it's 3X more expensive, but guess what, where's the part where he admits it doesn't do anything the Kindle Fire doesn't.  I watch movies, TV, the eReader is fine, the Edsel didn't fail because it's on/off button is on the right hand side of the device, or you use a display slider for the volume which is so easy and convenient why exactly would I want a button sticking out of my Kindle Fire? Buy a Kindle Fire and laugh at Apple-heads for getting listed, at $199 the Kindle Fire is the iPad and iPhone killer...oh and don't be an iDiot like this guy...

Dec 12, 2011 6:32PM
I got the Kindle Fire for my wife and she loves it, and will be taking it on a trip soon and has downloaded tons of stuff to read and watch.  I have checked it out.  It is not a IPAD!  I didn't want an IPAD.  I wanted a $199 FIRE.  It works great.  No problems.  It is not a computer.  Period.  Haven't found anything that does what it does for the money.  I see all kinds of things coming and think it was a great investment. 
Here's my opinion... If you can afford the $499 iPad2, buy it because it's an excellent tablet and I'm very happy with mine. If you can't afford it, the next best product may very well be the Fire at just $199. The Fire doesn't need to be an iPad2 killer, as long as the people who purchase the Fire are happy with it's features. I don't think it's really fair to compare them as side by side competitors. I think everyone should test drive both and purchase the device that fits your budget and expectations. Fair?
Dec 13, 2011 10:04AM
I have a Kindle Fire and I like it very much.  It seems to me that a lot of the people that are writing about it might not even own the Fire.  My wife has the iPad2.  I am happy letting her and the kids play with that, while I read on my Fire (e-book or Web page).  So far, my battery has lasted 2 to 3 days, and I can carry it in a side pocket of most of my jackets without being afraid of dropping it (like I'm terrified when I see my kids walking around the house with the over 600 dollar iPad).    I don't watch streaming video (I live in Korea, and am hoping that Amazon will add a VPN function, like all the other tablets---or I will just buy a VPN router and tail off of my main router.)  I also don't understand the fuss about the power button.  It's on the BOTTOM of the Fire and I haven't hit it accidentally one time.  I wouldn't lend any credence to the negative comments, and I'm convinced the author is an Apple fanboy.  I am too, but I'm not blind.  I'm very happy with the Kindle Fire.
Dec 12, 2011 6:26PM
You are comparing Oranges to Apples. The Kindle Fire was not made to compete with the iPad. We all know the iPad is better, but it does not mean the Kindle is not good for what it was intended to be.
Dec 12, 2011 5:57PM

I do not yet have my Kindle Fire but I will soon. I agree that they are not comparing apples to apples. First off the wonderful(haha choke choke) ipad is a tablet!, the Fire is a get e-reader! Above all else it is an e-reader with bonus features. The ipad is a tablet that can be used as an e-reader. Everyone needs to stop comparing the Fire to every other tablet, they are not even in the same category.


Dec 13, 2011 12:40PM

i would like to start by mentioning i'm an avid apple fan and ipad lover.  but i also have the kindle fire and like it very much too . i actually took the time to research what it 's capable of doing and not doing before i purchased it. i'm what's called a "informed buyer" and i got what i paid for. the problem with the NY times article and most of the dissatisfied customers is that they want ipad functionality but are to CHEAP to pay for it. i compared google searches on both my ipad2 and fire, there was little difference in speed if any. the fire plays video well and the picture is great. what else do people want for $200.00? dont buy a ford focus and expect bmw 5 series quality. the same goes for the ipad vs the fire. know what you are purchasing and chances are you will be happy.

Dec 13, 2011 12:16PM

What a biased article.  Why not compare the iPad to my laptop computer, they are both portable devices. My laptop has a bigger screen, more memory, more storage, better video, better sound and costs about the same.  Although it might be a bit heavier it beats the iPad in just about every category.  Oh wait, this would be like comparing apples (no pun intended) to oranges just like this author did. 


Almost every reputable tech reviewer has given the Kindle Fire a big thumbs up.  I'll stick with the expert opinions,  review the devices myself and then make an educated decision on buying a product.

Dec 13, 2011 3:55PM
I have had a Fire for two weeks now and compared it to the IPad and Nook.  The Fire works flawlessly for me and I am now reading more and buying books/apps etc.. from Amazon.  I downloaded their app for Money magazine and now read it, something that I was not doing when it was paper, so I will be re-newing my subscription instead of cancelling it.  So their business model is working with me.  I also like the free streaming movies etc.. as well, which means that I will be cancelling my Netflix membership.  As far as using the Fire as an e-reader I find the content looks clean and presents itself in a way that is intuitive and easy on my eye's.  So I do not fall asleep after reading 1 page.  My daughter has an IPAD, first generation, and complains about it all the time.  I do not know what people expect for the a device that costs under $200.

I am one happy Fire customer!!!!

Note to Amazon Staff - keep up the good work!  PS I have purchase two more for my teenaged kids as xmas gifts.

Dec 12, 2011 5:15PM
Kindle Fire is not and ipad - for the money the Fire is much better - "get over it"
Dec 13, 2011 1:18AM
Look, for 200. bucks you get a good product, You can let your kids train on it so if they break it, lose it or whatever, it is not that big of a loss. I think it is an excellent tool for introducing your child to using the new technologies out here. Mine loves it and I'll be darned if I'm going to shell out twice as much for some features my kid wont even use.
Dec 13, 2011 10:28AM
How does someone expect to compare the Fire to an iPad when the prices are vastly different.  Of course the iPad is going to have more functionality , you get what you pay for.
Dec 12, 2011 11:40PM
how much is apple paying this guy for advertising ?  what a bunch of crap !!!Sick
Dec 13, 2011 2:01PM


Okay, here is the deal, I arrived at the decision to purchase the FIRE in the same way that many of you probably did. I was wanting to purchase a "reader" for our family. NOT another computer, BUT a reader. We already had computers and smart phones (mini computers) galore in our home. While looking at readers and comparing prices, you cant help but be drawn to all the extra stuff this reader does for $199. You mean to tell me for an extra $50-$100, depending on the reader price, I can get the FIRE and not only read virtually anything, but be able to play all the cool games with my kid and surf the net..? DANG, its a no brainer! I am not looking to buy another computer for the house that will defeat the purpose of having the others that we use for business and bill pay. I dont care that it is not an iPAD, its not important to me to put my nose in the air and tell everyone "my farts dont stink because I have an apple and that makes me better than you"!

Bottom line: $199 is a GREAT DEAL for this fun device. Very happy with purchase.

By the way sir, read your article and something does stink...

Dec 13, 2011 9:40AM
Or the article could have been headlined..."Nearly two thirds of Kindle Fire buyers enjoying the new Reader."
Dec 13, 2011 3:34PM

I pre orderd and got my fire on the 16th of November, I could not be more pleased with the way it performs.  I looked at several different things before I ordered and the fire fit my needs.  I dont need a computer to carry around, nor do I want a phone pad.   As of yet I have not found anything that it is supposed to do and won't.  PEOPLE YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!!.  I am very happy with it.  Before you order, do your own homework and make up your mind.  This article must have been written by someone who plans to make Orange juice from Apples or an agenda of their own. 


Amazon, if you are reading this thanks and keep up the good work.

Dec 12, 2011 5:27PM

as always, just another comparison to the iPad by someone who loves iCrap.


Most of the 1st person reviews I've gotten rave about the new kindle

Dec 13, 2011 10:22AM
It's an E-reader not a tablet. Trying to use it like a tablet is like trying to use a smart phone to replace a 72 inch plasma screen at a super bowl party.
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