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TheStreet Open House

I Gained Three Insights on Tablets After Shopping With My Mother

Amazon Needs an Apple Store

As the world's largest online retailer, maybe Amazon should never open a retail outlet. As a tablet and e-reader upstart with an emerging media and e-commerce platform that could rival iTunes and the App Store, Amazon needs a branded retail presence to match Apple.

Given that my mother already owns a high-end laptop and smartphone, Amazon's Kindle Fire devices would appear to be a cheap and seamless way to fill out her tech needs. After all, she's already a frequent Amazon shopper and could easily be coaxed into signing up for Prime. A tablet's biggest selling point to her -- better reading ease -- plays into Amazon's content library and she's yet to commit to a steaming video service like Prime, Netflix (NFLX) or Hulu.

We visited Best Buy (BBY) primarily to try out Kindle tablet devices. The service was great, but too bad no one wanted to show Kindle Fire's to us.

After reaching out to a salesperson for a primer on tablet and e-reader options, Amazon's Kindle Fire came in far behind Apple's iPad products and the Google Android-powered Galaxy Note, made by Samsung.

The sales team had little positive to say about the Kindle Fire as a tablet, and they spent much of our search showing off the gaming functionality of the Galaxy Note. The last video game my mother played was likely from the Pac Man era.

Amazon needs to take control of its tablet push, especially given the company's investment in its hardware and infrastructure. Without retailers fully committed to selling its platform, a big-box salesforce that doesn't breathe everything Amazon may not give the Kindle Fire and Prime their fare shake.

Meanwhile, with Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) reluctant to sell devices that could quicken Amazon's ascent, branded retail outlets may simply be a matter of practicality.

Consumers have a do-it-yourself spirit when hunting for online shopping deals. When it comes to explaining the value proposition of Amazon's Kindle as a hardware and software product, consumers need to be coddled. That's what the Apple store is about and what Microsoft stores are hoping to achieve. Amazon needs to follow suit.

See TheStreet's review of the Amazon Kindle Fire

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