Today in Connected Consumer

Is it time for Amazon investors to panic over the Kindle Fire? According to IDC, Amazon’s “#1 bestselling, most gifted, most wished for product” of last year apparently became one of the least bought tablets in the first quarter of this year. Shipments of the Fire fell from 4.8 million in the holiday quarter to 750,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, E-Ink Holdings, the sole supplier of black-and-white screens Amazon’s Kindle line of e-readers, reported last week that “Our major customer [i.e. Amazon] was too optimistic about its sales in the fourth quarter of last year and ordered too much from us. That made the customer order almost nothing from us in the first quarter.” The reports set off alarm bells among analysts. Some even compared the Kindle Fire to a holiday fruitcake: suitable for gift-giving but otherwise inedible. As NPD notes in a new report, however, these are very early days in the tablet market, which it expects to grow by 5X over the next five years. Manufacturers are still figuring out consumer preferences and habits, and the market is liable to take many twists and turns between now and 2017. One bad quarter, in other words, does not a trend make. Still, if the Kindle Fire turns out to be a highly seasonal product, that could become a problem for Amazon as it seeks to leverage the device to increase e-commerce.