Kindle Fire: Moment of truth

November 13, 2011, 1:20 PM UTC

The tablet most likely to succeed against the iPad gets its first hands-on tests this week

Source: Retrevo

Toward the end of a report entitled “Why the Amazon Kindle Fire could be hot this holiday season,” which generated the widely-reproduced charts at right, Retrevo’s Andrew Eisner adds this caveat:

“As popular as the Kindle Fire appears in this study, whether it lives up to expectations on things like battery life, performance, image quality, etc, the picture could get brighter or less bright for the Kindle Fire.”

Similarly, in his article “Will Kindle Fire kill the $500 tablet,” CNet’s Brooke Crothers waits until the footnote to point out:

“… independent hands-on reviews of the Kindle Fire are, at this point, nonexistent. So, we won’t know how great — or not so great — it is until reviews arrive.”

Although the ship date for Amazon’s (AMZN) long-awaited, heavily promoted Kindle Fire is this Tuesday, the fact remains that nobody outside the company can say whether it lives up to the hype. Reporters who attended its unveiling last September were permitted to photograph and videotape the device, but as far as we could see, none were allowed to touch it.

So for now we must take with a grain of salt any claims that the Fire has put at risk Apple’s (AAPL) iPad sales for the Christmas quarter.

And given that Amazon is likely to break even or lose money on the sale of every Fire, while the profit margin on the iPad remains in the high 30 to low 40 percents, it’s probably premature to conclude, as Rodman & Renshaw’s Ashok Kumor did last week, that “Apple’s era of outsized earnings beat is likely behind us.”