A longer version of this story is published at www.opensources.com
Last week, Barnes & Noble announced they would cut the price on their wireless Nook eReader, from $259 to $199 ($149 for a new WiFi-only edition.) Many thought this was a good opportunity for the third place contender to gain market share. But within a few hours Amazon beat Barnes & Noble's price by $10, marking down the Kindle 2 to a mere $189.
As the New York Times notes:
The price cuts were made as manufacturers of e-readers faced a mounting threat from Apple’s iPad. Even though it is far more expensive than the e-readers, the iPad, which starts at $500, performs a range of functions with a versatile, colorful display that contrasts sharply with the static, monochrome screen of e-book readers. Apple said it sold more than two million iPads in the two months since the tablet’s introduction... Analysts had expected the prices of e-readers would gradually fall because of the natural decline in component costs and the increased profitability of e-books themselves.
The price cuts should add further momentum to what, despite incursions by the iPad, has been a growing market for dedicated e-reading devices. Amazon and its rivals are on pace to sell 6.6 million e-reading devices this year, up from 3.1 million in 2009, according to Forrester.
If Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony et al manage to sell 6 million eReaders this year, that would be impressive growth for a category that has been lackluster to date. Amazon has never broken out sales of it's Kindle line, but by all appearances it's the leading standalone eReader and likely has sold a couple of million units in its three year history.
In comparison, Apple has sold more than 3 million iPads in its first 80 days. And they're expanding into 9 more countries next month. Analysts are predicting that the iPad could sell between 5 and 10 million units this year, which blows Amazon's Kindle out of the water. And unlike Amazon, Apple actually makes money with it's iPad since it's costs are around $260 for the $499 entry level product and margins improve on the higher end units.
But its worth considering a few questions:
- Will price cuts making any difference competing against the iPad?
- Or does it just increase the burn of a money-losing business?
- Why is Apple's iPad business profitable and Amazon's Kindle isn't?
- If you could chose to be in either business, which would you choose?
- And what does all this have to do with open source?
The key point here is that price is just one part of a disruptive strategy. No doubt, part of the success of MySQL, Red Hat, jBoss, Alfresco, Zimbra, Pentaho, Revolution Analytics et al, comes from delivering 90% of the benefit for 10% of the price of incumbents. The trick is do to do in a manner that is profitable but that incumbents cannot respond to because of their higher cost of operations. (And remember, most open source users don't pay anything!)
Read a longer version of this story at www.opensources.com