Since the launch of the original iPad, Apple's had effectively zero competition. But wait! With the sleek, cheap Kindle Fire shipping Nov. 15th, we've suddenly got a legitimate contender. Choice is great. But, uhm, which choice should you make?
You're gonna hate this answer, but... It depends: on who you are, what you want to do with your tablet, how much you want to spend, and so on. Step into our office; we've got this.
I just want to watch movies on the couch
You don't always want to watch football, but football is always on, which is weird because aren't they only supposed to play on weekends? Whatever. All you want to do is watch what you want to watch, maybe read a magazine or two, and hit up Etsy and such—all from the comfort of your couch. The Kindle Fire may not have quite the app selection at its disposal as an iPad, and it's lacking a few features, but it's got a beautiful 16:9 screen, access to Amazon's massive content library, and a supafast browser that uses Amazon's cloud to pre-load your favorite pages.
Just looking to soak in some media? You should buy the... Kindle Fire
I travel a lot for business
On the one hand, the Kindle Fire is smaller and lighter, and will some day support Office docs. On the other hand, uh, everything else? You can get a 3G iPad 2, meaning you can connect anywhere. It has content creation tools so you can get a little work done on the plane. It's got Bluetooth and a front-facing camera that'll videoconference like a mofo. And its storage doesn't rely on the cloud, so you can load up as many Vin Diesel (business people, you like that guy, right?) movies as your eyeballs can handle on that redeye. Plus, there's a decent chance you can talk your company into buying you one.
Mr. or Ms. Platinum Elite, you should buy the... iPad 2
I already own at least one Apple product
Trying new things and broadening horizons is great, and you should never regret that one magical night in college. But let's be honest: one of the reasons Apple is so successful is that they've built up the most powerful, isolated ecosystem in tech. Which means that if you have a MacBook, or an Apple TV, or even an iPhone, they'll make your iPad 2 exponentially more useful—and vice versa: from iMessaging to Apple's awesome remote app, all the way up to that beautiful iCloud in the sky, and beyond. There are times you should fight the system, and times when the system works so well that you just kind of shrug and keep floating merrily along.
Cupertino Kid, you should buy the... iPad 2
I'm on a tight budget
Okay, if you're on a strict Ramen-slurping diet you probably shouldn't be shelling out for either of these. But for a lot of us, the price gap between the $200 Kindle Fire and the (minimum) $500 iPad 2 is way more influential than any spec sheet. And the things you sacrifice—taking pictures and video, modest content creation, bigger screen, more onboard storage—can either be replaced by another device you already own, or honestly doesn't matter that much.
Tight-belted Technophile, you should buy the... Kindle Fire (duh)
I want to get a tablet for my folks
Your parents birthed you, reared you, sheltered you, fed you. The holidays are approaching, and you want to go big this year. And I'll tell you this from personal experience: they will love a tablet. The iPad 2's got the name cred, a terrifically intuitive user interface, and FaceTime for weekly check-ins. The Kindle Fire's got everything they actually need for less than half the price, it's not like they've never heard of Amazon, and maybe you'd rather not video chat on account of your general disregard for hygiene. What it really comes down to is this: they'll appreciate the thought no matter what. Especially if you throw a 10 minute tutorial in the bargain.
Dear child, you should buy your parents the... Kindle Fire