Amazon Now Controls 33% of the US Android Tablet Market, Can Google Get It Back?
The Kindle Fire and its successor, the Kindle Fire HD have been selling like hot cakes. We all know that, but because Amazon hasn’t released official sales numbers, the exact level of Amazon’s success has been a mystery until now. According to research from Localytics, we now have a clear picture of the Android tablet market. Of course Apple is still clinging to a 57% lead in the worldwide tablet market, but Android is quickly catching up. Late last year many experts were predicting that Apple would lose its majority share of the tablet market sometime in 2015. But the latest numbers suggest that Apple will lose its lead sometime later this year.
But setting the big-picture numbers aside for the moment, the Android tablet market has seen some interesting shifts over the last year. 2012 saw the launch of the Nexus 7, the Kindle Fire HD, and many other Android tablets. And although the Nexus 7 has been a success, nothing comes close to what Amazon has accomplished with the Kindle Fire. Amazon now controls 33% of the Android tablet market, with the Nexus 7 only coming in at 8%. It is also interesting that the United States accounts for 59% of all Android tablet purchases. This is probably because Amazon has little to no distribution outside of the United States right now. It was only towards the end of 2012 that the Kindle Fire HD came to the UK. This is probably due to Amazon’s business model surrounding the Kindle Fire. Amazon doesn’t make much money when selling hardware. Amazon pulls in the cash as it sells Amazon Prime memberships and through sales and advertising on the Amazon app store. Since it is tricky to get digital distribution rights outside of the US for most movies/ TV shows there probably isn’t a ton of profit for Amazon to make internationally right now. But I’m sure Amazon sees the potential for growing its user base, and hopefully we will see the Kindle Fire continue to grow around the world in 2013.
Like Dr. Frankenstein Google seems to be losing control of its own creation. Amazon does use Android on its tablets, but it is a fork of Android that doesn’t include the Google Play Store. This explains why Google was so eager to offer the Nexus 7. This low-priced but high quality offering was obviously meant to bring more and more people into Google’s ecosystem as the budget tablet market continues to grow. But Google’s issue isn’t hardware, or even software in this case. The real issue is that the Play Store still doesn’t have a great selection when it comes to TV, Movies, and Music. If Google wants to carve out a niche as a successful content distributor, they will have to do more than continue to expand their selection. Although the Play Store’s pricing for TV and Movie rentals is comparable to iTunes and Amazon right now, the selection is not. Google needs to do something drastic if it wants to get the public’s attention. Imagine if Google were able to offer new episodes of TV shows a day or two after they air for a monthly or annual subscription. Of course the cable companies, and even many TV networks would fight them on this. But I would venture to guess that if Google could build a library that includes recent episodes of FOX, AMC, and CBS as well as a selection of movies comparable to Netflix many of us would gladly throw down $30-$40 a month and cut the cable pretty quickly. Just because this idea is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. Comcast has a vertical monopoly, so don’t look for NBC to be friendly to online distribution any time soon, and most other major networks have been looking for a very high price point to sell online. And of course the old-school executives that run most major networks and studio are refusing to give consumers what they want. And trust me, those guys aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
We are already seeing tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft begin to produce their own original content, and maybe that will be the future of what we call TV and movies. As TV networks keep a tighter grip on their content, and as consumers demand more flexibility to watch movies and episodes of TV shows on smart phones, tablets, smart TVs and other devices, either the networks and studios will give in, or get crushed under the heal of progress. Personally, I don’t care which of these scenarios plays out, I just want things to change soon.