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Why hasn't the Kindle Fire gone global?

If Amazon's tablet is so popular, why is it only available in the United States?

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The Kindle Touch 3G e-reader will be available on 27 April in 175 countries and territories, Amazon announced this week. But there's still no word as to when the retailer's popular Kindle Fire tablet would be available outside the United States.

The $199 Kindle Fire, which features a 7-inch LCD display, is the first color tablet to challenge Apple's iPad in the consumer market. Amazon shipped 4.7 million Fire tablets in the fourth quarter of 2011, enough to grab 16.8 percent of the market, according to IDC. Apple shipped 15.4 million iPads in the same period, up from 11.1 million in the third quarter.

So if the Fire is a hit with US consumers, why isn't Amazon selling its tablet worldwide?

"My guess is that they don't have foreign-language video and music content deals lined up, and those are much more important for the Fire [than for the E-ink Kindle Touch]," IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told PCWorld via email. "There could be issues about localising apps as well."

Video and audio content are essential to the Kindle Fire's appeal. A Fire without streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Amazon Prime - or the international equivalents of these apps - would weaken the tablet's allure.

Another possibility is that Amazon's cloud storage facilities aren't ready to handle millions of new global customers who want to store their digital content, including books, movies, music, and apps, on Amazon's servers.

International price hikes

The Kindle Fire's $199 price is a large part of its appeal to US shoppers, particularly those who find the iPad, which starts at $499, too expensive. But based on Amazon's current pricing, global customers would likely pay much more for the Fire.

The Kindle Touch 3G, for instance, is pricier overseas. On Amazon's UK site, the Touch 3G is priced at £169, or around $268 US. And on the retailer's site for France, the Touch 3G is €189, or nearly $251.

But in the States, the Touch 3G is just $189 without "special offers" - ads that appear on screen when the device is idle - or $149 with ads.


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