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.