Biz Break: Reviews mixed on Kindle Fire, but pain still seen for Apple

Today: Amazon begins shipping the Kindle fire one day earlier than planned, as reviewers generally agree device is worth the low price. also: Another analyst jumps on Apple (AAPL), sees lessening demand for iPad, and stock fall across the board.

Amazon’s low-price tablet hits market, reviews mixed

The Kindle fire tablet began making its way to consumers Monday, a day earlier than the company expected, and reviews began to pour in on Amazon’s low-price tablet offering.

When Amazon announced the full-color touch-screen tablet, it said the product would ship on Nov. 15 for pre-orders. They beat that by a day, however, sending them out Monday along with a congratulatory news release that confirmed recent reports about production increases.

“We’re thrilled to be able to ship Kindle fire to our customers earlier than we expected. Kindle fire quickly became the bestselling item across all of, and based on customer response we’re building millions more than we’d planned,” Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon Kindle, said in the release.

Some reviewers have had access to the fire for a few days, and reviews are rampant. Mercury News writer Troy Wolverton has been playing with the new tablet on the other side of the newsroom, and has had plenty of staffers sidling up next to him for a look. his TechFiles review will be released later this afternoon, but his immediate reaction: “Low cost, feels good to hold, easy to set up and use. but missing a lot of features that people may notice.”

Wired focused its mostly negative review on the missing features, which include a camera, connectivity to 3G wireless networks and a slot for removable storage. Wired reviewer Job Phillips summed it up by saying, “Small screen size and insufficient processing power. Crap browser performance. Near useless as a magazine reader, and roundly trumped by superb e-ink Kindles as a book reader.”

Other reviews noted some of the same problems Wolverton and Wired noted about missing features, but noted that the $200 asking price more than makes up for that fact. The general consensus from sites such as Mashable, Business Insider and CNet was that it may not live up to the iPad as a full-service tablet, but as a content-delivery device, the amount of amusement it offers more than exceeds its price tag.

The Verge summed up its ridiculously in-depth review thusly:

“There’s no question that the fire is a really terrific tablet for its price. The amount of content you have access to — and the ease of getting to that content — is notable to say the least. The device is decently designed, and the software — while lacking some polish — is still excellent compared to pretty much anything in this range (and that includes the Nook Color). It’s a well-thought-out tablet that can only get better as the company refines the software. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great start.”

And even if it doesn’t live up to the iPad’s example, many users will find that it does enough to avoid buying Apple’s tablet, MSNBC reviewer Wilson Rothman writes.

“Turn it on and you know what to do, like with an Apple product. So much like an Apple product that Apple should be scared. … The Kindle fire can handle about 80 percent of what I want to do on an iPad, for 40 percent of the price. And much of what’s missing won’t be missing for long.”

Analyst says demand for iPad decreasing

According to Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope, Rothman is right about Apple needing to be scared. a report Shope issued on Sunday says that demand for the top-selling tablet on the market is declining in advance of the holiday shopping season.

“While improving holiday demand into late November could certainly push the momentum in the other direction, we believe it is prudent to assume the iPad is facing some near-term demand challenges,” Shope wrote.

Shope’s analysis follows reports last week that Apple was ramping down production on the iPhone 4S and possibly the iPad, which caused the Cupertino tech giant’s stock to drop more than 2.5 percent on Wednesday and Thursday.

Apple’s stock declined for the fourth consecutive trading day Monday, closing at $379.26 — a loss of $5.36, or 1.4 percent.

Wall Street falls amid continuing European uncertainty

Apple wasn’t the only stock that feel on Monday, as all three major stock indexes declined after signs showed that Italy will not jump right back to financial stability after the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to make Italy an ongoing financially viable situation,” Kevin Shacknofsky, of Alpine Mutual Funds, told Bloomberg News. “At some point, the market will end up becoming a bit desensitized to it. at the moment, it’s still taking the cues from Europe.”

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase both dropped more than 2 percent to send the Dow down on the day. Tech stocks fell across the board, with Advanced Micro Devices declining 2.7 percent despite announcing new chips it will help reverse its slide, and Netflix (NFLX) continuing its recent roller-coaster with a 2.3 percent dip.

Silicon Valley tech stocks

Up: Google (GOOG), VMware

Down: Apple, AMD, Netflix, Yahoo (YHOO), eBay (EBAY), Intuit (INTU), Tesla, SunPower (SPWRA), Nvidia

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 21.53, or 0.8 percent, to 2,657.22

The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 74.70, or 0.61 percent, to 12,078.98

And the widely watched Standard & Poor’s 500 index: Down 12.07, or 0.96 percent, to 1,251.78

Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at