Amazon unveils Android-powered Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon unveiled its long-awaited tablet device overnight along with a complete refresh of its Kindle line-up and the introduction of new content services in a push that could make the company’s products a genuine competitor to the Apple iPad.


Analysts have talked up the new tablet, dubbed the Kindle Fire, as a potential threat because the device costs only $US200 and fills a market gap for a high-powered, low-cost device.


The launch comes alongside a refresh of the basic Kindle family of devices, with the cheapest now  $US79.


When chief executive Jeff Bezos took to the stage to show off Kindle Fire content was the theme, with the CEO shunning the regular description of technical specifications and instead focusing on the volume of content available to users – a strategy many analysts believe will capture more customers in the long run.


Buyers will receive a month’s free trial of Amazon Prime, the new system that will allows users to access thousands of films and TV shows at no extra cost – a potential threat to services such as Netflix, although subscriptions will cost $US79 per year.


The Kindle Fire is available to US customers on November 15 but no international release date has been announced.


The Fire accesses the ecosystem of stores that Amazon has been building during the past decade,  including a news stand for publications, the MP3 store, the book store, television shows and films.


Dozens of newspapers and magazines will be made available through the Newsstand and the Amazon app store will come built-in so users can download apps straight away.


Bezos emphasised the device’s fast dual-core processor and light build at only 14.6 ounces, but chose to focus on the content system, specifically the ability for all Kindle Fire customers to back up their content using Amazon Cloud.


“All of this content is backed up so that you can delete things whenever you want. The backup is a broken model. You should be able to delete your content and get it back any way you want,” he said.


Bezos took a dig at Apple, saying that “we feel the same way about syncing”.


“We think that syncing should be done invisibly in the background and it should actually work, just like with Kindle and with Kindle Books,” Bezos says.


Whispersync technology is included, similar to Apple’s AirPlay, which will allow users to watch a film or TV show on their Fire and then pick it up on their home TV.


Bezos also bragged about the ability for the Kindle to come ready for customisation – pre-orders will ensure that each Kindle has its user logged on to their Amazon account before they open the box.


One of the more impressive announcements was the inclusion of a new web browser called Amazon Silk, where software will be integrated with cloud technology so pages load faster.


The device will come with Wi-Fi capability, 8GB of storage and 512MB of RAM, and it will be powered by Android 2.3.


Analysts said the device is effectively priced to undercut the iPad and they praised the breadth of content.


Other tablets relied on emphasising hardware specifications but Ovum practice leader Adam Leach says the retail giant has taken the right path by emphasising the content offering.


“Amazon’s retail-based business model allows the company to subsidise the device on the premise that consumers will buy more from Amazon, be that physical goods or its digital content,” Leach says.


“This model is the direct inverse of Apple’s model. Amazon is selling a device in order to sell more content where as Apple sells content in order to sell more devices.”


Leach notes that while the seven-inch screen may keep prices down this form “has not been popular with consumers …we shall see if this is related to other aspects of those devices other than its screen size”.


Amazon also launched three new Kindle devices – a new entry-level model that costs $US79, a new Kindle Touch and a 3G version for $US149.


This article first appeared on SmartCompany.


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