Amazon Offers Unexpected Triple Treat With its New Tablet [The Kindle Fire]

We all knew Amazon would be launching a new device today. In fact it’s launched two, cut existing prices, and very firmly told Apple that it’s game on.

The expected release, the Amazon tablet, is to be named the Fire. It’s already on pre-order for $199. It’s an iPad style 7 inch only color touchscreen (though using infrared sensors rather than a capactive screen) instead of electronic ink, runs a custom version of Android, and is WiFi-only.

There are three main differences between this and the countless other 7 inch Android tablets on the market. The first is that the browser is connected to Amazon’s cloud computing service, which will pre-cache popular webpages to speed up access, a process Amazon certainly believes will work smoothly, hence the browser name Silk.

The second is that the device comes with free access to Amazon’s cloud storage, though only for Amazon content such as books and digital media. (The device itself has 8GB of storage.) And the third is that users get a month’s free trial of Amazon Prime, with the device being compatible with the unlimited movie and TV show streaming from that service.

Without having seen the Fire in action, it looks like the best market is going to be the casual non-techy person who likes the idea of the iPad, isn’t willing to spend $400+, and wants a brand they can trust. What remains to be seen is whether the user interface and performance is of a suitably high quality: to do that for $199 seems a stretch, but Amazon may be operating a loss-leader, a theory that looks more viable with the attempts to sell the Prime membership.

The company has also unveiled a new edition of the Kindle, and broken the $100 barrier. The Kindle touch is effectively the same e-ink device as the existing model (albeit “smaller and lighter” as with most new editions), but in place of buttons there’s an infra-red powered touchscreen.

The touch is $99 for Wi-Fi only and $149 for 3G. At the same time, the existing button-based Kindle is being cut to $79, which (in my opinion of course) brings it firmly into the category of gadgets that you shouldn’t think twice before buying. It’s also smartly-timed as the new price, which makes it much more viable as a Christmas present.


16 Responses to Amazon Offers Unexpected Triple Treat With its New Tablet [The Kindle Fire]

  1. OK this annoys the crap out of me. Please define "iPad style"? what its a tablet? Well I guess they could have bulked it up and made it 3" thick. What it doesn't have a keyboard? Clue: There were slates before the almighty iPad. What its a rectangle….on wait….the iPad is a perfect square…never mind. What it copies the iPad's 9" screen….oh wait.
    Seriously this has NOTHING in common with the iMaxipad. If you are going to call it iPad style then I guess Apple ripped off early notebooks so they are ripping off the PC laptop style because it has a screen that closes over a keyboard.

    You want to call it something? Call it a slate style.

    • Except that to the general public, a "slate" means nothing. Saying "iPad-Style" immediately lets people know what it is, and what it does.

      Stop being so pedantic.

  2. Amazon's caching idea is nothing new. When I worked tech support (late 1990s and 2000), I always dreaded calls from AOL users because AOL did the same thing. They would need a specific file or article from a site and they could not get to it until AOL updated the cached version that the user was being redirected to.
    So, if you hear about a new video or an interesting new article on a web site, don't count on being able to view it using this tablet.

    • It's not just caching web pages Tim. It makes use of cloud computing to completely re render the page in a format that is more digestible for mobile devices. For instance it will rescale images to a smaller resolution that makes more sense for a mobile device and requires a lot less bandwidth. That speeds things up a lot. Also, AOL (and other ISP) caching never tried to anticipate what their end user was going to download next. This does and gets it ready for use.

  3. …but in place of buttons there’s an infra-red powered touchscreen. This only works for the forward and back commands, plus the menu, so it doesn’t appear browsing the web is going to be any more pleasurable.

    The Touch version uses a complete touch screen and is not just for forward/back/menu functions, there is even an on-screen keyboard.

    …from the Kindle Touch page
    Touch Controls and Virtual Keyboard
    Kindle Touch features a full touchscreen display that puts page turns, navigation and note-taking at your fingertips. Tap unknown words to call up definitions in the dictionary, highlight sections of text to send to a friend, or search, shop and type with a virtual keyboard that appears on screen just when you need it.

  4. I like the idea of not having the keypad. I find myself accidently pressing the keys when I'm using the Kindle (shut up, I've got giant hands for a girl ok? *cries*).

    I wish they'd had the touch pad when my Mom was on the market for a ereader. I got her the Nook because she was more comfortable with touch-screen. If they'd had a touch version I'd have had her get that instead. Ah well.

    I heard the touch screen e-ink readers have a high rate of failure. Anyone know if that's true?

  5. I think Amazon just delivered Apple the first kick in the nuts that they've ever gotten in the mobile computing arena. They pretty much beat the crap out of every other Android tablet.

    The reason is because Amazon "gets" tablet computing better than anyone. Tablets are all about content CONSUMPTION, not content CREATION. All other tablets try to do both but mostly fail at the creation part. The iPad, of course, does come the closest to getting the creation part right but even it has a lot of shortcomings in that area.

    Amazon stripped out all the stuff needed for content creation and focused completely on consumption. That is why they have gotten this right. Stripping all those extras out also makes the device a lot cheaper. It may be a loss leader but not by very much. Amazon will easily make that loss up with content purchases.

    IMO the tablet wars just to a whole lot more interesting.

    • I don't know if they're going to do a whole lot of damage to Apple, they've developed a kind of large, almost religious fan base. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, must be absolutely shitting themselves.

      • I'm not to sure Barnes and Noble has any reason to worry. If you look at Amazon's ebooks available and Barnes and Noble ebooks that are available, there are more free ebooks at Barnes and Noble than Amazon even sells.

        • As a book store, B&N has adapted well. That's why they are alive and Borders is dead. However, they now face a marketing juggernaut that has a device offering media that B&N has no access too.

          I guarantee they are worried.

      • Apple's fan base, is extremely vocal but not nearly as large as one might thinks. Apple has had great success due to its great products, not the fan base.

        I know I'm being hyperbolas when I say "kick in the nuts" but at the very least this has gotten Apple attention. I'm still waiting to see what Apple does with iPad 3 and iOS 5/6 but IMO this is the first Android device that is better than the iPad. This isn't because of hardware, but because of the execution in the entire plan. Bezos and his boys really did a number on this one.

  6. I'm geeky, and I will admit I pre-ordered the Fire today. Because if I want to "couch compute", I prefer to use a laptop. (I've got Windows and Apples – as a usability consultant, you have to use both).

    And this CNET article sums it up – I want a tablet for media consumption. It's not something I need, it's something I want (mostly for travel). At $199, it makes a nice affordable (and slightly smaller) option for me, and I get to bundle my Kindle books onto it as well if I choose. Sometimes you can be techy/geeky and not want the extraneous frills.

  7. You've got one more mistake up there. You say the kindle keyboard was reduced to $79, it wasn't, and link to the new low end e-reader that is NOT a pre-existing product. The kindle keyboard with add support is the same $99 as the kindle touch, and the kindle keyboard is the pre-existing product.

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