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What does the Amazon tablet PC mean for midmarket CIOs?

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Amazon has announced the newest player in tablet devices, the Kindle Fire. The most amazing thing about the Amazon tablet PC isn’t its screen resolution, the Android guts or the partnerships with various content providers for instantaneous streaming via Amazon Prime. It also isn’t its feather-weight 14.8 ounces, despite a Gorilla Glass screen. It’s the price point — $199. It’s enough to make a CIO salivate, isn’t it?

Amazon’s Kindle Fire promises to destroy the small margin of the market left of non-iPad tablet devices. Before the news dropped on Wednesday, the most optimistic of the IT pundits guessed the price point for the new Amazon tablet PC would be $250 at the lowest. From a strategic vantage, it makes sense. Amazon dominates the e-reader market, so it has the luxury of making a wide profit margin. My Kindle was $189, and it’s got a black and white screen. Trying to navigate with the cursor reminds me of playing Pong in someone’s basement in 1984. Supposedly, Amazon will lose $50 per tablet with this pricing structure, so it’s pretty serious about knocking back everyone else.

While iPads in the enterprise are old news, midmarket companies have reserved shiny and fancy tablets for their top brass and star employees in key roles. With the bargain point of entry, the Amazon Fire sets itself up to become the tablet for every budget. In theory, we now have a tablet that is worthy of being deployed to every user in the midmarket company, possibly as a viable alternative to a Palm or BlackBerry. While the Amazon tablet PC will ship with a native email client, don’t assume that since its Android-based, you’ll be able to apply Android salty goodness to your Kindle Fire — Amazon is going to “curate” its app store. You’ll be dealing with a subset of Android business apps that will be at the whim of the mother ship. Even so, the bargain price could be just enough to persuade tablet-wary CIOs to finally take the plunge.

When discussing the Kindle Fire with a midmarket IT manager, he said, “The security holes are terrifying from a business perspective.” Another caveat: The proprietary Silk browser will route all Web traffic through a proxy server. Amazon will already know the users’ Amazon account, so you better believe that it’s going to harvest some of that behavior pattern information for business intelligence purposes. Given how much Amazon already demonstrates that it knows about my buying habits, I’m kind of creeped out.

What do you think? Have tablet devices finally dropped to the point where you’ll consider them for your second- and third-tier staff? What does the Amazon tablet PC mean for your mobility strategy? The comments are ready to start the discussion on cheap and easy tablet devices in the midmarket.

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