SEATTLE – Type the word “tablets” into Amazon’s search engine, and the site shows more than 600,000 items available.
Granted, many of these items are accessories or peripherally related to the category, but the fact that so many tablets and tablet-related items can be purchased at Amazon is a strong indicator of the retailer’s impact on the category.
The same holds true for the other two extremely popular mobile product categories: smartphones, and ultra-thin laptops and Ultrabooks. However, because Amazon is not only a tablet retailer but also one of the category’s leading manufacturers, it holds a unique place in the market.
Amazon will not discuss hard sales numbers for any of its products, but it did reveal that the Kindle Fire HD tablet is the site’s No. 1 selling product worldwide. In fact, the top-four selling products are all in the Kindle family, said Amazon’s CE VP Ben Hartman.
The popularity with the consumer of all things mobile is reflected in Amazon’s sales. Hartman said the retailer has customers who buy both its Kindle-branded tablets and e-readers. They purchase a Kindle Fire for email, web browsing, watching movies and TV and reading magazines, he explained, and they pick Kindle e-readers for long-form reading because the display is easy on the eyes; it is small and lightweight; and it offers what he described as the best reading experience in the world.
“I can tell you we are seeing strong growth in our tablet sales across multiple operating systems. At the same time, we continue to see strong growth in our laptop category as consumers are upgrading to new products that are lighter, faster and perform better than their older laptops. In addition, we are seeing greater adoption of many of the new laptop form factors, such as convertibles and detachable,” Hartman said.
Acer’s latest product releases directly reflect what Amazon is experiencing. “The industry is moving to computing as an experience — it’s just not a device anymore,” said Jim Wong, president of Acer.
The same story holds true in the smartphone category. Hartman said that like most retailers, Amazon focuses more effort on smartphones, and the company does a good business in unlocked phones.
“World travelers and international customers make up a good portion of unlocked phone customers on Amazon.com,” Hartman said, adding that he would like to expand the selection of no-contract phones carried.
“We want to be the place where customers can find and discover anything they may want to buy online,” he said.
Hartman said the online retailer is also experiencing healthy Ultrabook sales. This is a bit of an outlier compared with the industry as a whole.
“Ultrabooks are one of our best-performing laptop segments and are exceeding our expectations. As with other CE products, Amazon.com customers tend to purchase higher-performance products from the most respected brands,” Hartman said.
Amazon is also starting to see interest in a few of the newer form factors, including hybrid tablet/notebooks. Hartman noted customers are also interested in models where the tablet detaches from the keyboard, allowing the product to be used either as a traditional laptop or tablet.
Kevin Lansing, AMD’s notebook product line director, said the chipmaker is tying its future to these devices, adding its latest product launch.
“Hybrids are probably the long-term winner,” he said, adding that the company’s latest processor introductions represent AMD’s biggest push ever in the tablet/ultra-thin notebook space.
Hewlett-Packard also has a big play going in the detachable hybrid space with the introduction this month of its SlateBook x2 and Split x2, said Kevin Wentzel, HP’s technical marketing manager. Hartman said customers are not shying away despite the comparatively higher price points these products carry.
“We see strong growth in the higher-end notebooks such as Ultrabooks as well. Many of our customers prefer these higher-end products that are slimmer, more stylish and have additional features.”