Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 3 – Amazon)

This is Part 3 of the continuing series, “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry.”

To read Part 1 (Google)

To read Part 2 (Samsung)

Apple has gotten rotten (or “stale,” if you prefer) in the tech industry from many competitors who have not only been able to match Apple’s ingenuity, but overtake them in many areas.  We discussed how Google and Samsung have been doing so in the areas of smartphones and tablets.  Well, Amazon has been doing a pretty good number on Apple as well.

As you know, Amazon is the giant online retailer that is causing a major problem for many retailers the world over; even behemoths like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have had to make adjustments to their sales processes and develop their online selling systems more in order to try to hold off Amazon from taking more of their market share.   Even online food retailers like FreshDirect are having to make adjustments in the anticipation that AmazonFresh is preparing to expand to other areas of the nation (only in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco at the time of this post).

Suffice it to say, Amazon is branching out into other areas, more so than Apple has been doing of late (more on that in parts 4 and 5).  Against Apple, Amazon has also made inroads with its popular Kindle tablets.  In fact, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) has made Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite tablet the official reader, and the two organizations are working together to help America’s children read more often to boost reading comprehension and proficiency.

This is significant because, at one time, it was only Apple that was getting the accolades and the contracts with organizations for its iPads, but that is no longer the case.  Additionally, Amazon has solidified its position as being the e-reader of choice with its Kindle tablets, not the iPad.  In addition, when most think of digital publishing, they think of Amazon’s Kindle Store, not Apple’s iBookstore, another important victory for Amazon in blocking Apple’s dominance in the tech industry.

Now, some might argue that Apple’s iPad wasn’t really made to be an e-reader (even though many do use it for that very purpose, and happily so), but to be a productive entertainment and work tablet.

Fair point, but consider that the latest version of the iPad, the iPad Air, was highly touted when it was released on November 1, 2013.  There was much fanfare (as there often is with Apple products), and there was much publicity and commercials about it when it first came out.  However, you may have noticed that those commercials didn’t last too long.  Why is that?

One main reason is because Amazon effectively countered that publicity with an effective counter-ad of their own.  It involved their Kindle HDX 8.9 tablet, which itself boasted impressive specs (including having the fastest processor – 2.2 GHz – of any tablet at the time of its release on September 25, 2013, over a month earlier than the iPad Air, powered by a SnapDragon 800 quad-core processor).

The main way that Amazon countered Apple’s publicity about the iPad Air and largely rendered it mute was by turning Apple’s own features against it, a clever use of “counter marketing.”  Where Apple proclaimed the iPad Air to be lighter than the previous generation, the iPad 4, yet more powerful, Amazon countered by saying that the Kindle Fire HDX was 20% lighter than the iPad Air.  When Apple proclaimed that the iPad Air would not cost anything more than the iPad 4 did, Amazon countered by stating that the equivalent Fire HDX would cost $120 less than the iPad Air: $379 vs. $499. (In fact, at the time of this post, Amazon was discounting the Fire HDX by $40, so it’s actually $339 vs. $499, a $160 difference).

As you can see by the link to the Apple Store, they remark about how incredibly light it is and how incredibly powerful it is, yet Amazon effectively countered these points by directly putting its tablet up against the vaunted iPad Air.  In many respects, the Fire HDX held its own or even beat the iPad Air, even though the Air came out about five weeks AFTER the Fire HDX did.

Two other points where Amazon effectively countered Apple’s iPad Air:

1. Apple proclaimed with the Air that it got 10 hours of battery time, same as the iPad 4, even though the Air is more powerful than the iPad 4.  Yet, Amazon countered this point by stating that the Fire HDX 8.9 could get 11 hours of surfing time and other activities, one full hour more than the iPad Air.  Amazon also proclaimed that its Fire HDX could reach 17 hours for e-reading, as it was “smart” enough to turn off non-critical power systems, a feature that the iPad Air did not have.

2. Apple touted that its Air had the Retina display; yet, Amazon countered that its Kindle Fire HDX actually got more pixels than the Air did.  Thus, Apple’s Retina display technology did not remain on top for too long, as Amazon was able to match and outdo it.  This was something that hasn’t happened to Apple in the past (its technology being outdone), but it has here.

Thus, I haven’t seen too many Apple commercials about the iPad Air itself after the first week or two; I have seen many Amazon commercials where it emphasizes the Fire HDX being lighter than the iPad Air and being $120 less than the iPad Air.  Essentially, Amazon took the air right out of Apple’s flagship tablet.

It was a similar story with the iPad Mini with Retina display.  In fact, I didn’t see much direct advertising promotion with the iPad Mini Retina display at all.  This is why Amazon really didn’t promote the Kindle Fire HDX 7″, even though it costs much less than the iPad Mini Retina.  In fact, the Fire HDX 7″ costs 50% less than the equivalent iPad Mini Retina ($199 vs. $399).  Again, Amazon outdid Apple in terms of the display, an area that Apple dominated in for a while.

Even in the product lines, Amazon has outdone Apple when it comes to tablets.  Consider that Apple is discontinuing the iPad 3 and 4, but continues to produce the iPad 2 as a cheaper alternative for those who don’t want to fork over $500 for the cheapest iPad Air.   (An iPad 2 costs $399 from Apple, though some retailers will only charge $299 or $399 with a $100 gift card to their establishment).  Yet, as revolutionary as the iPad 2 was when it came out, some consider it to be a bit “old in the tooth” nowadays.  It’s still a solid tablet, but can’t even match up to the specs of the previous Kindle Fire HD series that was released in 2012 (the iPad 2 was released in March 2011, versus the Kindle Fire HD released in September 2012).  The Kindle Fire HD series is harder to find than the iPad 2 (as Amazon is slowly phasing it out), but still can be at the time of this post, and it’s only about $189 for the 8.9″ equivalent version of the iPad 2.

Even if you consider the iPad Mini (1st generation without Retina), it’s $299.  Yet, Amazon re-released a newer version of the Kindle Fire HD that costs just $139, thus upping the ante in terms of specs over the iPad Mini AND charging less than half the price.

This signifies two things:

1. Amazon is outdoing Apple in many areas of the tablet marketplace, both in terms of coming out with equivalent or better tablets at a cheaper price, even using Apple’s own iPad Air features against it.

2. The tech marketplace has changed; people want powerful, easy-to-use tablets at cheaper prices, whereas at one time, Apple was really the only game in town. (We will discuss more about how this important change in the tech marketplace will make things more difficult for Apple in the future in Parts 4 and 5).

You may have noticed also how Apple added the MIMO antenna to its Wi-Fi in the iPad Air. Yet, Amazon was the first one to utilize the MIMO antenna in its tablets, including that distinctive feature in the Kindle Fire HD tablets it released in September 2012.  The MIMO antenna allows a tablet to utilize multiple channels in order to obtain faster speeds via the WiFi network it is using.  Thus, this is further proof that Apple has lost some of the innovativeness it once was known for, as it was again outflanked by a competitor in not being the first manufacturer to come out with an innovative new feature first.

One other area that Amazon innovated with its tablets that no other competitor has to this point, including Apple, is with its revolutionary “MayDay” feature.  This is where you push a button on an HDX tablet and a helpful Amazon associate will appear on your tablet screen to help you out with whatever problem you’re dealing with on your tablet, whether it’s with finding and activating a feature, conserving power, and more.  It helps that Amazon is involved in the retail sector, as they understand that having real-time help is vital to understanding and utilizing technology, especially for those not as savvy with tech.  This helps those not comfortable with tech to utilize Kindle Fire HDX tablets as well.  This is what they introduced with the “MayDay” feature.

There are reports that Apple will rush the next generation of the iPad (iPad 6), iPad Mini (3rd edition), and the new iPad Pro (between 12.9″-13.0″).  The main reason cited is because of Samsung’s new line of tablets, including a larger 12″ version, but certainly Amazon (as well as Google) have also caused Apple to have to speed things up, thus showing that Apple is feeling the heat of its competitors, showing that it has lost the advantage it once held in the tech industry.

Odds are that it can be up amongst the leaders in the future, but it will no longer be out in front.  The real question now: Can Apple match the new leaders? Google, Samsung, and Amazon all appear to be outdoing Apple in the tech industry when it comes to smartphones and tablets.  We will explore the future of Apple in the tech industry, why it’s struggling with its competitors, and how it can regain some momentum in the industry in Parts 4 and 5, both of which will be published soon.


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