Apple 2.0

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Analyst: Amazon is likely losing $50 per Kindle Fire

September 28, 2011: 1:18 PM ET

Apple, by contrast, is probably clearing a gross margin of 30% or more on each iPad

Kindle Fire. Photo: Amazon

The Kindle Fire that Amazon (AMZN) introduced Wednesday is not a true competitor of Apple's (AAPL) iPad, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster declared in a note to clients posted shortly afterward. But, he quickly added, "it is more competitive than we anticipated."

On the Fire's minus side, he cites:

  • The Kindle Fire's 7" screen compared to the 10" iPad (a bigger difference than the numbers make it seem; a 7" screen is only 45% as large as the iPad's 10" screen.)
  • The Fire has 8GB of storage compared to the iPad at 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB.
  • The iPad has two cameras and a 3G option; the Kindle Fire has neither

On the Fire's plus side he cites the Kindle's movie, music, and Web browsing capabilities.
Both companies, he writes, are focusing on their core skills:

In our view, Apple has focused on a combination of superior hardware and software, leveraging supply-side economies of scale to offer a premium tablet for $499. Alternatively, Amazon appears to be focusing on a product with superior content delivery; the company is leveraging its wide range of content assets available for sale in conjunction with its Cloud Services product for world class, mobile, digital delivery. Apple is also monetizing the hardware upfront with a 30%+ gross margin on the iPad, whereas Amazon is likely losing about $50 per Kindle Fire. Finally, Apple's supply chain, production and distribution capabilities provide a competitive advantage over Amazon, which may find it difficult to produce more than a few million Kindle Fires for the holiday season.

Munster expects Apple's share of the tablet market to fall from 90% today to 60% in 2012, and for the Android share to rise from less than 10% to about 30%. The Kindle Fire, he says, likely to be one of the first Android tablet to drive those share gains.

He had previously estimated that Apple would sell 50 million iPads in calendar 2012, and he's sticking with that number, although he believes it may be "conservative."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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