Until now, Amazon has chosen to avoid head-to-head comparisons between its Kindle reader and the iPad. But now that the political season is in full swing and the airwaves are being poisoned with attack ads, Amazon has decided to emulate the pols and launch its own assault on Apple's tablet. It started broadcasting today an ad that touts the superiority of the Kindle's display over the iPad's in direct sunlight.
The 30-second ad shows a man and a woman lounging by a swimming pool. The man, dressed in T-shirt and shorts, is having difficulty reading his iPad in the bright sunlight. The woman, dressed in an alluring swimsuit and wearing designer sunglasses, is happily reading her Kindle. "Excuse me," the flustered man says. "How are you reading that in this light?" The woman turns to him, lowers her shades so she can look over them and chirps, "It's a Kindle." Then she leans conspiratorially toward the man as she removes her peepers and adds: "$139. I actually paid more for these sunglasses."
The ad appears to be a departure from Amazon's attitude in the past toward the iPad. As recently as in June, Amazon was gingerly stepping around direct comparisons between the iPad and the Kindle. Asked by Fortune if Kindle price reductions were prompted by the success of the iPad, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos replied: "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."
I've read the Kindle and iPad in bright sunlight, and the ad is true, as far as it goes. The Kindle's E-paper screen is easier to read than the iPad's glossy backlit screen in those conditions. But anywhere else but in bright sunlight, I found the iPad's high resolution display far superior. While Amazon likes to brag about the Kindle being for readers, I found e-books on the iPad much closer to the paper experience than they are on the Kindle with its gray display. Sure, the Kindle is only $139, but I'd rather pay less for my sunglasses so I could get a more capable tablet like an iPad.