Jeff Bezos On The iPad: "It's Really A Different Product Category"

A day after Amazon made it abundantly clear it’s gunning for world domination in the e-reading space by lowering the price of the Kindle from $259 to $189 – following competitor Barnes & Noble’s decision to slash the price of its Nook e-reader down to $199 – chief executive Jeff Bezos sat down with Fortune’s JP Mangalindan for a fairly interesting interview.

One of the things Bezos talked about was the iPad, Apple’s tablet computer that is selling like hotcakes and unequivocally poses a genuine threat to Amazon’s burgeoning ebooks and ereader business (and, as some claim, to reading in general).

According to Apple, it’s already taken about 22% of the U.S. ebooks market, with iPad owners having downloaded some 5 million books in the first 65 days of the iBooks store alone.

But Bezos does not seem terribly impressed.

Here’s the key part of the interview (which you should read in its entirety):

Fortune: Obviously, the Kindle’s price drop was in response to Barnes & Noble’s price cut on the Nook. Did the iPad and its overnight success play a role, too?

Bezos: No. The iPad… I think there are going to be a bunch of tablet-like devices. It’s really a different product category. The Kindle is for readers.

Fortune: So far you’ve been capturing consumers. Amazon accounted for about 80% of all electronic book sales last year. How has it grown so fast, and can you keep it up?

Bezos: It’s hard even for us to remember internally that we only launched Kindle a little over 30 months ago.

Our strategy with the ebookstore is ‘buy once, read everywhere.’ If you want to read on your iPhone, if you want to read on your BlackBerry. We want people to be able to read their books anywhere they want to read them. That’s the PC, that’s the Macintosh. It’s the iPad, it’s the iPhone. It’s the Kindle.

His words ring true, because this strategy is visible in the field too.

We now have a Kindle reader app for Android phones, a Kindle app that includes fresh support for video and audio for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and versions for BlackBerry devices, PC and Mac computers via a desktop client and of course the company’s own Kindle, which Bezos says has been purchased by “millions”.

Furthermore, Amazon boasts more than 620,000 ebooks in its catalog, significantly more than Apple, despite the latter’s agreements with 5 of the 6 top publishers in the United States.

Finally, I think Bezos is right about the fact that there will be many tablet devices making their way to the market in the coming months and years (according to Forrester Research, there will be 59 million tablets in use by 2015) and that Amazon should be focusing on being able to shift ebooks on as many platforms as possible.

But does all that mean Bezos should be dismissing the iPad for being a different product?

Cross-platform ebook selling strategy aside, with the Kindle Amazon has stepped into the hardware arena, and the reality is price doesn’t always make the difference. The iPad can simply do a lot more than the most recent model of the Kindle can, and the next-gen iPad is undoubtedly already in the works.

ZDnet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes put it best when he wrote:

The problem with the Kindle (and Nook) is that it’s a one-trick pony. One-trick ponies are cool in an ecosystem where there are no other ponies doing tricks. Add more ponies doing more tricks, and the one-trick pony gets long in the tooth real fast.

Maybe Amazon’s problem is that the iPad really is a different product category?

(Image via TechCN)