iPad Rival: Amazon Launches Kindle Fire Tablet for $199

New Amazon Kindle Fire will challenge iPad, as Amazon also updates existing Kindle range to include touchscreen models

Jeff Bezos, Chairman, President and CEO of Amazon Inc., speaks during a news conference in New York. Photographer: Amazon

Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest online retailer, unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet computer, taking aim at Apple Inc.’s bestselling iPad with a device that’s smaller and less than half the price. Amazon launched its new tablet at a press conference in New York today.

The tablet will deliver access to streaming video, as well as e-books, apps and music. Analysts say the company will emphasize content and services rather than hardware.

The Kindle Fire will have a 7-inch display and sell for $199, compared with $499 for Apple’s cheapest iPad. The device, a souped-up version of the Kindle e-book reader, will run on Google Inc.’s Android software.

Amazon.com Inc. unveiled its Kindle Fire tablet computer, taking aim at Apple Inc.’s bestselling iPad with a device that’s smaller and less than half the price. Photo: Amazon

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the launch that Amazon will ship “millions” of the devices, which run a customised version of Android, from 15 November.

All of the content on the device is backed up in the cloud so users can delete things when they want. Content available will include 100,000 movies and TV shows, a million songs, apps from the Amazon Appstore and magazines.

The content search works locally, in the cloud, and on the web, according to Bezos. Things you interacted with most recently will be on top, like the movie you just watched or a subscription you just downloaded or a webpage you just viewed.

It has a Gorilla Glass display and, like other Kindles, it’s pre-registered and knows your name out of the box. However, there is not a 3G version – it runs on Wi-Fi only.

The Fire has 16 million colours in high resolution and 169 pixels per inch. It uses IPS (in-plane switching) technology, similar technology to the Ipad, for an extra-wide viewing angle.

The 7-inch device will let users download books, magazines, newspapers, videos and music and will be available from November 25 in the US. Photo: Amazon

The Kindle Fire web browser – Amazon Silk  – introduces a radical new paradigm – a “split browser” architecture that accelerates the power of the mobile device hardware by using the computing speed and power of the Amazon Web Services Cloud.

The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2).

With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity, and cached content.

Amazon does all the heavy lifting on the backend, and then serves optimised files to the device over a “dedicated channel”. And the result is a faster web browsing experience, and it’s available exclusively on Kindle Fire.

And analysts said that it's the price that may prove the greatest threat to Apple, which has managed to sell millions of iPads despite the lacklustre recovery in most western economies. Photo: Amazon

Amazon launched the Fire tablet alongside three Kindles, two of which have a touchscreen. The Wi-Fi only version is priced at $99 while the Kindle touch 3G costs $149 and has free 3G wireless. It’s 75 per cent lighter than previous versions.

Amazon also launched a $79 Kindle that is not a touchscreen device and is 30 per cent lighter than the orginal Kindle at 5.98oz. “We’re building premium products at non-premium prices,” Bezos said.

It looks like the Amazon tablet could prove to be a real threat in the market, given its widely available content and $199 price tag.

While the new Kindle will add to Amazon’s sales, estimated by analysts to rise 32 percent to $64.6 billion in 2012, the company may disappoint if the tablet doesn’t bring in revenue quickly, Steve Weinstein, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Oregon, said in a note this week. [Amazon via Guardian (UK) and Washington Post]

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