Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet went on sale November 15. The company says the Fire is its "bestselling" reader -- but never discloses sales figures.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Amazon's fourth-quarter sales results weren't awful, but investors went ahead and punished the stock severely anyway.
Amazon (Fortune 500) earned $177 million, or 38 cents per share for the holiday quarter that ended December 31 -- more than double the 17 cents per share that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast.,
But Amazon's revenue came in at $17.4 billion, missing the $18.3 billion that analysts expected.
The miss wasn't massive, but investors responded by sending the stock nearly 9% lower in after-hours trading Tuesday.
Amazon's guidance for its first fiscal quarter also came in light. The company expects net sales of between $12 billion and $13.4 billion. Analysts were looking for about $13 billion to $14.9 billion.
Amazon warned that it might lose money this quarter. It forecast its operating income in the range of a $200 million loss to a $100 million gain -- in line with its often comically wide predictions.
Kindle Fire: Amazon devoted much of its earnings release to touting its Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet-lite that went on sale November 15.
Amazon famously does not release unit sales figures for the Kindle Fire or its original Kindle e-readers. Last month, the company shed a tiny bit of light on Kindle's performance, saying: "For the third week in a row, customers are purchasing well over 1 million Kindle devices per week."
Sales of all Kindle units increased 177% over last year's holiday period, Amazon said Tuesday in its earnings release. As ever, it played coy about many units that sales bump actually represents.
Pricing the tablet at just $199 won't net Amazon a wide profit margin, but the company is willing to get tablets into customers' hands for cheap, with the goal of making money selling content like e-books, apps, videos and digital music.
Amazon hopes its low price will attract more casual customers who aren't willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for an Apple (Fortune 500) iPad, Motorola ( ) Xoom or Samsung Galaxy Tab.,
Amazon's "spend money for scale" strategy is certainly growing its top line. The company had sales of $48 billion in 2011, up 40% from its sales the previous year. But Amazon's profits fell, dropping from $1.4 billion in 2010 to $631 million last year.
Meanwhile, one of Kindle's main rivals is in play. Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble (Fortune 500) said it is considering spinning off its Nook e-reader business. The Nook is about the only bright spot for Barnes & Noble. In the same announcement, the company slashed its fiscal 2012 guidance.,
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