AMAZON is dangling a $50 tablet computer in its latest attempt to lure consumers who can’t afford or don’t want the more expensive Internet-connected devices made by Apple and other rivals.
The 7-inch Fire tablet unveiled Thursday marks Amazon’s most aggressive attempt yet to undercut Apple, which has been the market leader since its first iPad went on sale five years ago. The least expensive iPad Mini, which has an 8-inch screen, currently sells for $270.
Amazon.com Inc. isn’t trying to persuade anyone that its cheap tablet matches the quality of its own sleeker, higher-priced Fire HD alternatives, let alone the top-selling iPad line.
But the Seattle company is counting on the new tablet’s low price to encourage more people to buy a device that will hook them on watching video, reading books, playing games and shopping on a computer that’s easy to carry wherever they go.
In the process, Amazon is hoping consumers will buy more digital goods and merchandise from its store while also subscribing to its $100-per-year Prime service that offers a mix of videos, music and free shipping.
“Our tablet focus is in and around content consumption,” said David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices.
As with its previous low-priced tablets, the new Fire device will show ads on its screen saver. Avoiding the ads will cost an additional $15.
The discount tablet will debut amid a slump in the sale of the devices.
The downturn suggests consumers who already own a tablet see little need to upgrade and those that don’t have one either aren’t interesting in the devices or can’t afford one.
Apple’s iPad sales have been declining since 2013, spurring the company to take aim at selling more of its tablets to corporate customers and government agencies. Industrywide, worldwide sales of tablets are expected to fall 8 percent this year, according to the research firm International Data Corp.
Amazon is hoping that the low price of the new tablet will be so appealing that people will stock up on the devices and have them scattered around the house. As a prod, it plans to sell a six-pack of the 7-inch Fire tablets for the price of five, or $250.
Although the new tablet is cheap, Limp boasted it is far superior to other discount tablets that are “something you wouldn’t want to give your worst enemy, let alone a family member or a kid.”
Amazon is promising the discount tablet will have decent processing power, good color saturation and seven hours of battery life. A more durable version designed for kids will come with a blue or pink bumper and a two-year replacement warranty if it’s broken for any reason. It will sell for $100.