Can the Kindle survive the iPad?

September 21, 2010

It is the battle of the specialist vs. the generalist, the purpose-built vs. the purposeful, the solo virtuoso vs. New York Philharmonic. A new commercial for the Kindle takes a direct shot at the iPad, focusing on e-book performance and price. In a world where your phone is your camera is your music player is your datebook is your gaming device is your GPS, can the superior book reading experience of a Kindle overcome the amazing versatility of the iPad? Staying focused on a singular superior experience is the Kindle’s only possible formula for success.

Kindle toaster

I love a good toaster oven. It’s practical, it reheats stuff faster and easier than my oven, it can handle anything from Shrinky Dinks to baked potatoes. For years I couldn’t imagine why anyone would still, in this day and age, have a traditional two-slice toaster. Until I started using one.

A two-slice toaster makes perfect toast. It doesn’t double as an oven. You can’t use it for frozen pizza. And most of them can’t fit a sliced bagel. But if you want a piece of toast popping up when it’s browned just right, no other device comes close. So, the question becomes how much toast do you eat, and how much countertop space are you willing to devote exclusively to your toast-eating?

Of course, specialization can be a fickle beast and not without its risks. Garmin is arguably the best-known GPS brand in the market. The company has enjoyed tremendous growth over the past ten years developing and selling GPS devices in all shapes and sizes for a range of different consumer and professional markets. But how do you keep up a phenomenal growth curve when your core technology has become standard fare on new cars? And when millions of Blackberrys and iPhones are easily equipped with GPS/location-aware apps? The Garminfone (via T-Mobile) responds to this challenge by turning the brand’s core differentiator into a feature that really might not be that differentiating. Garmin is essentially asking people to trade in their existing phone device for a GPS-centric one. Unless the Garminfone can truly compete as phone/PDA, why would people do that - unless there is a huge unmet need out there among the GPS equivalent of toast-lovers.

So, Kindle vs iPad? I guess it all depends on how much people like toast, er, reading.

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