Kindle Fire vs iPad

Before today, if you were in the market for a tablet, the decision was easy. You probably wanted a tablet with a decent app selection, fast performance, intuitive interface, something that could be productive, and had an ecosystem (music, movies, tv shows) to back it up. The only tablet that could meet all those requirements was the iPad. I say “was” because today, Amazon, the largest online store, released its first tablet. And though it’s pretty awesome, it’s not for everyone.

The Kindle Fire, that’s what Amazon is calling this tablet “computer,” and it was announced today with a fleet of other Kindles, like the $99 Kindle Touch, which is another awesome product that we don’t have time to get into here. So what’s so special about the Kindle Fire? Well, it has all the basic functions of a tablet, plays all kinds of media, has a great web browser (and very unique one at that), can play games and of course, read e-books. The real differentiator is that it is backed with Amazon’s ridiculous online store, which is full of music, movies, tv shows, apps and more. 

One of the things that made the iPhone, iPad and iPod so popular was the iTunes Store. You could get almost any song, movie or tv show you wanted at the click of a “Buy Now.” No other company was able to offer this in a portable device. Google’s music and movie services are lackluster at best, and hardware partners like Samsung, HTC and Motorola have no such thing. But Amazon is the one competitor that has all of that and more. And it’s all tied into the Kindle Fire.

You can stream or download music, movies and tv shows, and what you’ve already purchased is always available to re-download or stream to the tablet. Amazon also has the largest selection of eBooks, period. So that makes the Fire the ultimate media-consumption tablet. And the best part? It’s only $199. That’s right, $199. This immediately makes it the best value in the tablet world. So if you wanted an iPad, isn’t this the ideal alternative? Almost.

While the Kindle Fire can do most, if not all of the media and eBook “stuff” the iPad can, it’s missing one key feature: productivity. The analogy has been floating around today, that if desktop and laptop computers were “trucks” (made for heavy lifting like video production and graphic design), than the iPad was a “car,” similarly capable but not as powerful. To take the analogy to the Kindle Fire, it’s basically a scooter. It will get you from point A to point B and entertain you the whole way, but that’s about it.

Not only is the app selection for the iPad unmatched, the quality and power of these apps make the iPad a possible laptop replacement device. Especially with iOS 5, set to release in the coming weeks, you will no longer need a computer or iTunes to manage the device. And with apps like Garageband, iMovie, Photoshop, Pages, Numbers and Keynote (basically Office for iPad), the iPad can get a whole lot done. I have come to use my iPad in several “productive” ways, from taking notes in meetings in Pages, to making presentations with Keynote, to rehearsing my choir with digital sheet music (something that would be difficult on a 7” screen). 

That being said, if you wanted a tablet just for fun, the Kindle Fire is perfect. If you wanted something that could replace your laptop and you could actually create and produce with, you still want the iPad. And if you’ve played with an iPad or iPhone, and think the Kindle Fire is just a $199 version that you’d be just as happy with, you’d be mistaken. 

All that being said…I want one.