A new research report suggests sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets were less than stellar this holiday season, though the online retailer takes issue with how the results were tallied.
Researcher IDC said Amazon showed the steepest annual decline among the five major tablet makers, with worldwide shipments of its Kindle Fire devices falling by as much as 70 percent compared with the holiday 2013 period. The declines come at a time when worldwide shipments in the fourth quarter fell for the first time since the tablet market’s inception in 2010.
But there’s a caveat in the results: IDC doesn’t count shipments of Amazon’s new six-inch version of its Kindle Fire HD tablet, introduced in September and ranked among the “most wished for” gift items of the holiday season. A spokesperson for the retailer criticized IDC’s methodology, saying “our most affordable tablet ever, the Fire HD 6 at $99, which is one of our high volume products, wasn’t included in the report.” She declined to discuss sales.
IDC Senior Research Analyst Jitesh Ubrani said the researcher doesn’t consider the Kindle Fire HD 6 a tablet because of its screen size and its inability to connect to cellular networks. It’s more of a media player, in the researcher’s view. But even if the estimated 1.2 million shipments of the device were included in IDC’s numbers, Amazon’s holiday tablet shipments would still be off by 50 percent from the prior year, he said.
The Kindle Fire was in a tough competitive environment. Big national wireless carriers were practically giving away tablets to bring more subscribers to their cellular networks. Meanwhile, hardware makers E-Fun and RCA sold tablets for as little as $50 through retail giant Walmart, undercutting Amazon on price.
“It comes down to price and distribution — neither of which are great for the Fire tablets,” Ubrani said.
Apple maintained its worldwide lead over other vendors with 21.4 million tablets shipped in the December quarter, claiming a 28 percent share of the market, IDC reported. Samsung held on to second place with 11 million units shipped, followed by Lenovo (4.8 percent) and ASUS (4 percent).
Amazon has struggled as a hardware maker. Its Kindle Fire Phone fabulously flamed out last year, amid tepid reviews and consumer response.
Its biggest hardware success is probably the original Kindle line of e-readers, a market Amazon now dominates. IDC stopped tabulating sales of e-book readers.
Ubrani said Amazon’s devices, such as its Fire TV set-top box for streaming Internet video, are designed primarily to drive the company’s retail businesses — say, its Amazon Prime movie and TV subscription service.
That doesn’t mean Jeff Bezos and company are ready to give up on the hardware thing just yet.
Amazon unveiled its voice-controlled Echo digital assistant last fall, a speaker that purports to deliver on-command information, music, news, weather and more. The company has also indicated it will keep plugging away on the phone front despite the initial setback.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.