Case Detail

Case Summary

Kindle Fire: Amazon's Heated Battle for the Tablet Market

Case Number: 5-413-751, Year Published: 2014, Revision Date: April 25, 2014

HBS Number: KEL770

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Authors: Mohanbir Sawhney; Joseph R. Owens; Pallavi Goodman

Key Concepts

E-Commerce, Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Product Management, Technology Management


This case is intended to illustrate to readers the challenges faced in 2011–2013 by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, as he guided his company into the exploding tablet market. Faced with the tough decision between focusing on the e-reader market—which Amazon had come to dominate with its Kindle product line—and making a foray into tablets—for which it had no expertise—Bezos chose the latter. Amazon sought to combine platform assets to create an end-to-end experience that would let users find a “sweet spot” in the mix of features and services. This strategy involved critical decisions such as selecting a customer segment to target and a positioning for the new product, dubbed the Kindle Fire, as the tablet market rapidly evolved. The Kindle Fire was designed to put the full Amazon experience right into the laps of customers, and Bezos was betting that his customers would see the Kindle Fire as the physical manifestation of all things Amazon. To achieve this, Amazon was willing to heavily subsidize the Kindle Fire hardware device. The key assumption was that the superior end-to-end experience Amazon had carefully created would lead to incremental purchases of content as well as physical products and services, and the margins thus gained would outweigh the hardware subsidy.

Learning Objectives

  • Position and define target segments for a new product relative to competition as well as to a company’s own products
  • Articulate a competitor’s strategy and how to compete against an incumbent with a disruptive business model and a differentiated position
  • Discuss selling an experience (as opposed to a product or device) and how to create a differentiated service experience
  • Determine pricing, analyze business model, and calculate revenue/profit for a technology product

Number of Pages: 23

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Marketing

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: United States

Industry: Technology

Organization Name: Amazon

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: CEO

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2012