Amazon.com expected to unveil Kindle 2 February 9

But questions linger about whether a US$359 e-reader is viable in the mass market

By now, plenty of educated guesses have been offered up about what the next-generation Kindle e-reader will look like and do, and fans expect to find out for sure when Amazon.com holds a news conference in New York on February 9.

But even if Kindle's design changes are dramatic, some handheld analysts question how much the e-reader market can grow -- especially when it and other e-reader handhelds can cost more than US$359.

"The Kindle cannot be categorized as a success, yet," Van Baker, a consumer electronics analyst at Gartner said in a recent interview. "The product enjoys rave reviews from mobile professionals, but there are not that many mobile professionals in the market.... We just don't see a mainstream market for this device at least at its current price [starting at US$359]."

E-readers still need to find the mass consumer market, which includes, "for lack of a better description, the 'Joe Sixpack' who comes home and watches football," Baker said.

Until then, Baker wondered how Amazon.com and other e-reader makers can grow much beyond the mobile professional crowd, which tends to include early adopters who generally love to flaunt their tech purchases to friends, and even strangers, during long trips.

"We at Gartner are struggling to see what the compelling value proposition of the Kindle is for the average consumer," Baker added. "For the average consumer, a paperback book and a printed newspaper still work pretty good."

Baker said he knows his views are out of step with the publicity surrounding Kindle, which got a November boost from Oprah Winfrey that goosed sales just before Christmas. And he's aware that more than 1 million Kindles have been sold, a figure that's still far below what is needed for the device to be considered a consumer success.

"Oprah aside, look who's excited about Kindle, and it's the mobile professional who travels a lot -- and the people singing its praises are the technology press or the mobile pros, " Baker said.

In addition to its steep price, Kindle relies on a proprietary file format and limits users to a library that sounds large at 225,000 books, but is still limited, Baker added. "All these factors combine to make the product a niche product for the foreseeable future," Baker said. "It's an interesting niche product, but a niche product nonetheless."

The sluggish economy is only going to make the situation worse "as people cut back on discretionary spending," Baker said.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags amazonkindle

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matt Hamblen

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?