Amazon Kindle Fire is hot according to social media

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In the months leading up to the press conference earlier this week, speculation about the prospects for Amazon’s new tablet reached a crescendo.  Would the new tablet be a worthy competitor?  Might it even dethrone the iPad?

Even before details were leaked to the press, Forrester predicted that Amazon would sell 3-5 million tablets in Q4.  Following an exclusive hands-on preview, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler reported that “it’s going to be a big deal… potentially huge.”

Since Monday, when CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage to unveil Amazon’s new tablet, named the Kindle Fire, individuals have posted some 11k+ comments in sources tracked by SocialNuggets, a leading social media analytics firm.  Mining these data gives us an early indication of how the market views and may react to the Kindle Fire when it is introduced mid-November.

Will the Kindle Fire unlock demand for tablets?

While not available for another six weeks, almost 10% of individuals posting comments earlier this week explicitly indicated whether they intend to purchase a Kindle Fire or not. These early results bode well for Amazon – among those expressing intent, the number intending to purchase a Kindle Fire outnumber those “rejecting” by 2:1.

Of course, that leaves a large number with intent “unstated,” so we (and competitors) will be watching these numbers closely.  As more individuals express views about the Kindle Fire, the data will permit us to report not only the Intent to Purchase Ratio but also break out users’ reasons for (intending to) purchase a Kindle Fire or not.

Reactions to Kindle Fire’s pricing and features

At $199, the Kindle Fire is priced at less than half the prevailing prices for an iPad and most other tablets on the market.  Not surprisingly, Amazon’s bold pricing generates considerable enthusiasm among prospective buyers. Almost 10% of the comments contained a favorable mention of Fire’s pricing – previous research from immr has shown that tablet prices must drop below $300 to open up the tablet market beyond early adopters,  so Amazon has clearly hit the mark with respect to pricing.

Although overshadowed by price and other features, Amazon also introduced a new browser named Silk that is integral to the overall user experience.  Touted by Amazon for its “optimized content delivery,” the browser generated quite a bit of discussion among early posters.  While the “cloud” was most frequently mentioned in connection with the browser, a significant percentage of individuals commenting on Silk – 1 in 3 – expressed concerns about privacy.

In the days following Amazon’s announcement, tech writers have also begun to explore the privacy implications of Silk.  Clearly, Amazon will need to monitor views closely and address concerns at it brings the Kindle Fire and its “split, cloud-based” browser to market.

Is the Kindle Fire hobbled by missing features?

Surprisingly, a very small percentage of individuals’ comments mention Fire’s “missing features” – for example, only about 1% commented on the fact that Fire will not offer 3G, while even fewer commented on the fact that the initial model due out in November lacks a camera.

While Amazon is taking a calculated risk by leaving these features out, evidence from other sources supports their decision – based on immr research with prospective buyers, at the low-end of the market only 1 in 3 choose tablets with 3G (the majority choose lower-priced models with Wi-fi only).  immr’s research also shows that most prospective buyers expect to use a tablet “primarily at home,” so 3G, especially given the incremental price and monthly recurring cost, is not a highly sought tablet feature at present.

In addition, out of some 15 tablet features that immr examined using Choice Modeling, cameras rank #12 in terms of impact.  Apparently, consumers are content having cameras on their smart phones and are not overly concerned that tablets and the Kindle Fire in particular lacks a camera. However, given the relatively low cost to add a camera and the growing popularity of video chat on Skype and other services, we suspect that Amazon will offer this feature on future models of the Kindle Fire.

Has Amazon hit the sweet spot?

While these results are very preliminary and should be interpreted accordingly, these “early votes” suggest that Amazon has hit a sweet spot with the Kindle Fire.  Pricing is a big plus and the missing features don’t appear to be major deficits.  While privacy with the Silk browser could be a significant issue, we suspect most users will accept the trade-offs and “trust” Amazon with this data – nonetheless, Amazon will need to closely monitor and carefully address users’ concerns.

Of course, sentiment could shift as more information become available and users get more familiar with the Kindle Fire.  As SocialNuggets continually tracks these and related sentiments, additional findings will be reported throughout the weeks ahead and of course after Amazon launches the Kindle Fire in November.  Stay tuned!

Dr. Phil Hendrix is the founder and director of immr, a leading research and consulting firm focused on markets for “very new products” and an analyst with GigaOm Pro.

R. Paul Singh is the CEO and co-founder of SocialNuggets, which delivers real-time data and market intelligence to the consumer electronics industry by analyzing millions of social media conversations about products.

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