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Amazon Fire’s Absence Kindles Protests In The UK

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is missing in action outside the US, and this is starting to anger overseas customers

As Android tablets go, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is absolutely flourishing in the US, where industry analysts estimate the e-commerce company sold four million to six million of the seven-inch slates at $199 (£126) a pop for the holiday quarter.

Yet each report of the Kindle Fire’s success adds more salt to the tender wounds of consumers who cannot get a Kindle Fire yet – that is, anyone outside the US. eWEEK has heard complaints from readers in several countries that the Fire is not yet available to them.

UK complains the most

The backlash is particularly strong in the UK, with consumers lodging over 1,000 complaints in the Amazon UK support forum railing against the company for not providing the low-cost tablet in England. Take this one, from Fleabag:

“I got tired of waiting – and am glad I did! I have bought an Archos G9, which does a lot more than the Fire will do for a similar price, and runs a later version of Android without all Amazon’s overlays reporting back exactly what I do.”

But even the near neighbour of the US, Canada, is still waiting. Ted Schafran, based in Toronto, wrote to eWEEK:

“Unlike the Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, Acer tablets and the iPad, the Kindle Fire is sold ONLY in the United States. There are MANY Amazon international customers (myself included) who are extremely aggravated by the company’s decision to fundamentally ignore the rest of the world. Perhaps a small matter in the US, but a big deal elsewhere. Just check the Amazon chatter in the UK”

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment in this report, but there is precedence for this cautious rollout. Apple launched its much-vaunted iPad in the US in March, 2010. But the device was not available in countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland until May.

The company did much better with its iPad 2 in 2011 when it launched the device on 11 March in the US and two weeks later, on 25 March, the slate was rolled out to the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada and more than a dozen other countries.

Industry analyst Jack Gold thinks the protests about the Kindle Fire’s geographic limitations are much ado about nothing for now.

“Everyone forgets that the iPhone and iPad were limited oversees at first as well. Give Amazon a little time. I do expect to see the Kindle arrive in other markets. But Amazon rightly wants to focus on one market and get it right first. Then, it will expand. And do not forget, it is struggling to meet demand of the US right now… what if it had international demand? It takes time to ramp up,” he said.

Even so, one cannot help but wonder how much money Amazon is costing itself by failing to meet pent-up demand overseas.

It is believed the company is taking a loss on the Fire hardware, selling the device roughly at cost. However, RBC Capital analyst Ross Sandler has said Amazon could make $136 (£85) per Fire in content such as electronic books, applications and streaming movies, over the lifetime of the device.

That is potentially a lot of money Amazon is missing out on in the short term. Then again, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos preaches the long haul. After 15 years or so establishing Amazon as the premier e-commerce destination, it is hard to argue with him.

Here is another point that bears consideration: Apple is renowned for its worldwide distribution pipeline and capabilities. It has been bringing Macs, iPhones and iPads to international markets for years.

Amazon has only been offering its Kindle e-readers since 2007. One could argue the company’s ability to bring other devices to market is untested and unproven.

Regardless, the consumers are ready outside the US. It is now Amazon’s move.