Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed a new line of tablets on Wednesday morning including one, Kindle Fire, that unleashes a clear warning shot across Apple's bow. It could even score a direct hit.
Here's the scoop about the Amazon Kindle Fire, which ships on November 15, based on the announcement and Bloomberg's sneak peak (updated as information comes in):
- Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet runs Google Android as expected and costs $200, which is $300 less than the cheapest iPad (actually, $350 less if you count sales tax).
- Amazon rebuilt the Android interface to make it easier to use, according to Bloomberg.
- No camera, no microphone, no GPS.
- It's not for reading -- it's for running Android apps from the Amazon app store. And unlike the iPad, Amazon Fire includes an online simulator that lets you play around with apps before installing them. Also, Amazon says it tests every app so that unlike the apps from many other Android stores, you know these ones will work.
- It's not for reading -- it's for streaming music from your Amazon Cloud Drive.
- It's not for reading -- it can't download books over wireless data networks the way previous Kindles can. The Amazon Fire is Wi-Fi-only.
- It's not for reading -- the screen glows, meaning that bookworms including the author should scoop up a non-glowing Kindle if they want something that's good for poring over extended texts as if they were paper. That's why Jeff Bezos took care to give readers two other attractive options, both with non-glowing screens. Amazon dropped the price on the old one to $80 and released a new touchscreen version today, Kindle Touch, for $100 ($150 with 3G).
- It's not for reading -- it's for shopping on Amazon (it comes with a one-month trial of Amazon Prime, the company's shopping club) and consuming non-book forms of entertainment including movies, magazines and music from the Amazon MP3 store, and of course, the biggest app of them all, the web.
- It's not for reading -- it's for web browsing. Amazon plans to accelerate web browsing on the device with its EC2 cloud computing processors and a new browser called Silk. Faster browsing = better browsing. Oh, and it also runs Flash, which means it will play more of the web's music than the iPad can.
- It's not for reading -- it's for accessing other forms of entertainment files stored on Amazon Cloud Storage, for free. Yes, unlike Apple iCloud, Amazon's Cloud Drive has already launched, which means Fire users don't need to worry about storing everything on their devices; they can swap in new content, and even apps, wherever there's Wi-Fi. This is crucial not just because the cloud is cool, but because the Kindle Fire includes only 8GB of memory. Don't have room for that new app? Who cares -- just delete an old one from the device. You can always reinstall it from your Amazon Cloud Drive without paying for it again.
Details continue to emerge, but already, it's clear that Amazon's Fire -- priced at less than half the price of the cheapest iPad -- will likely be the first Android tablet to make a dent in the iPad's near-total domination of the tablet market to date.
The Amazon Fire will be especially attractive to those who don't already own an iPad in no small part because of the much cheaper price -- due in part to the Fire's screen, which is 2.7 inches smaller, diagonally, than the iPad. That might not sound like a lot, but it's a 30-percent reduction.
That smaller screen also makes the Fire more portable, which is something that even the most loyal iPad users must cede that their device is not. In addition, just like Apple, Amazon now has its own an app store for selling apps to its own tablet; its own music store so that people can buy songs seamlessly when they hear them in music apps (not to mention Amazon's other products); and its own interface design, which according to early reports, is prettier and easier to use than at least some other Android implementations.
We're going to get on the horn to Amazon for a review unit now -- stay tuned for more on what Amazon Fire means for app users and music fans.
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