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Why is Amazon keeping so quiet on Kindle Fire sales data?

by George Jones

February 1 2012

Amidst all the hype about the success of its low-cost Android tablet, Amazon’s refusal to definitely declare how many Kindle Fires it shipped frustrates and mystifies critics.

Is the bloom off the rose? Or is Amazon just playing it coy?

During Tuesday’s earnings call, Amazon executives declined to state exact sales figures for the Kindle Fire, and instead referred to overall sales figures from December which indicate a 177% YOY increase across the entire Kindle family, setting off rampant speculation that the company’s highly touted new 7-inch Android tablet was under-performing.

Shortly after the tablet's release in November, the company stated that sales for the Kindle Fire exceeded 3 million units. Analyst estimates have the total number of unit sales close to 6 million units, which if true would make the Kindle Fire the best-selling Android tablet to date.

Analysts have estimated that the Kindle Fire is generating over $120 in revenue per customer on media sales, leading some to speculate that declining media sales since the tablet’s release may have convinced Amazon executives to withhold specific sales figures.

Pundits have also speculated that a significant decline in sales during the holidays, perhaps as a result of the criticism the tablet received from the media after its release, led Amazon to keep quiet.

This doesn’t sync up with analyst estimates of 6 million units sold, however. The truth is that from the very first Kindle until now, Amazon has maintained a habit of keeping initial unit sales figures for its Kindle line pretty tight.

Even if sold at a loss, 6 million Kindle Fires sold and all the digital media and Amazon Prime accounts that are being bought with the devices seems pretty impressive by any account. However, it's highly likely that selling the Kindle Fire at a loss did affect the company's bottom line. 

Overall, Amazon's Q4 earnings report was disappointing. Net income decreased 58% to $177 million compared with net income of $416 million in Q4 2010. Operating expenses rose 38% year over year for Q4.  

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