Amazon Unveils The $199 Kindle Fire Tablet… And The iPad Finally Has Real Competition

Amazon Unveils The $199 Kindle Fire Tablet… And The iPad Finally Has Real Competition

Amazon just announced its long anticipated tablet, the Kindle Fire. And while the hardware doesn’t compete with iPad, the price certainly is: it’s a fully-featured tablet with access to millions of apps, games, songs, movies, TV shows and books, all for just $199.

Running a custom version of Android 2.1, the tablet exists as a way of consolidating all of Amazon’s incredible libraries of content: shopping, streaming, music, video on demand, apps and more.

That’s millions of songs, apps and books at your finger tips, alongside thousands of movies and TV shows. There’s also a huge magazine offering.

Powered by an unknown dual-core processor, the Kindle Fire weighs just 14.6 ounces. Despite this, early impressions of the Kindle Fire switching between tasks make it appear that the Kindle Fire is actually extremely fast, likely thanks to Amazon’s own tinkerings and paring down of the Android OS.

It comes with free Amazon Cloud Storage, an obvious show across the bow at Cloud. There’s no cable syncing required, and you can delete or redownload content whenever you want. Out of the box, it knows all your content already.

Even better, Amazon’s WhisperSync technology will allow you to sync your content across multiple devices. For example, start a movie on your Kindle Fire, then start it up on your TV at the same place.

The display is a 7-inch IPS touch panel with a Gorilla Glass screen. It’s got a fairly high, but not Retina Display, pixel density of 169 pixels per inch. Not bad. Demos suggest the screen is actually very responsive.

Part of the Kindle Fire’s speed is managed by smart use of Amazon’s own cloud infrastructure. For example, browsing speed is sped up dramatically by caching pages on Amazon’s EC2 architecture and compressing them for a tablet.

That’s where Amazon’s new Silk browser comes in. It has a split architecture: part in cloud, part local, that removes most of the limitations of local browsers. It does part of the work in rendering a site itself, and farms the rest out to Amazon’s cloud computing centers.

The result? A very speedy web experience. This is similar to how Opera Mini already does things, but smarter: Silk will actually cache the next page you’re likely to use based on typical usage patterns. Wow.

The price? $199, which is incredible. It’s available for preorder from Amazon now, and will ship on November 15th.

Get to it: if you don’t have a tablet, this is the best you’re going to find for the price. If you do have an iPad already, this’ll make an excellent second tablet.

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  • dusteallen

    The sole purpose of this tablet is to consume your Amazon media. Note: the new prices Amazon announced are only if you allow them to stream ads on the device when you’re not using it, otherwise they are $40 more.

    In addition, I find it hard to say this is even in the same market as the iPad, especially the iPad 2. You won’t be able to make into a cash register, doctors won’t be able to use it in their offices, industries won’t be able to replace their existing technology with this product. The iPad has allowed for all of this to happen. Remember when the iPad came out and all the critics said, “that’s just for media consumption, it won’t make any money.” However, today these same critics are absolutely loving the Kindle Fire. Makes sense right? Yeah, doesn’t to me either.

    Good for Amazon coming out with a strong product.

  • Mohammed Usama Sheriff

    this is just another typical android contraption and stands no chance to the ipad ! the original kindle served its purpose but kindle fire is a wannabe ! it may sell due to the low cost but when it comes to functionality and the awesomeness of ios .. kindle fire loses hands down ! a table is a tablet and ipad best represents the genre ..none come close its perfection ! kudos to amazon for the original kindle … but this one was a desperate try and will not even dent ipads popularity !

  • saudio

    From what I understand it has VERY minimal RAM, something like 8GB (expandable with microSD). Obviously most everything you’d want to do on it MUST have their Cloud connected for resources.  I’m sure it will make some initial buzz, but people will still want that Apple experience when they’re done reading their books.

  • UNOwenNYC

    I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd gen. Love it. I’ve an iPad2 – love it, as well. The Amazon Fire looked greet, but… Why no 3G? If they’ve 3G availability for the Kindles, I don’t understand why Fire is without.

  • randall

    I love how the post directly before this is that the tablet will be “No iPad Competition.” Let’s hope the iPad continues to command the market for years to come!

  • Wayne_Luke

    For people looking for media consumption devices? This is a good buy. I am thinking of buying one for my autistic stepson. All he wants to do is listen to music, watch videos and play the occasional game. This is perfect for him.

  • Honey Badger

    Real competition? Seriously?

    Does it have native e-mail or native calendar? This thing is based on the Playbook and we all know how well that turned out. I don’t think that it will flop like the Playbook, but it basically nothing more than a colour e-book reader that surfs the web.

    I’m sure it will sell fine due to it’s price, but it doesn’t compete with the iPad.

  • JT_CHITOWN

    I hear the processor is less than satisfying and the product was “rushed out the door” with the expectation a polished version will come in time.  If that’s so, consider this DOA with all but the Kindlephile crowd (who I’m told love the non-color Kindle’s readability in sunlight – something apparently lacking in the Fire).  Being based on the RIM PlayBook also does not bode well. Since Amazon hopes to recoup what is likely a loss leader through its store and services, I’ll be shocked if you are not locked into buying Android apps exclusively from Amazon’s Android store. Finally, the web browser has Flash; heavy web surfers will see their battery level plummet.  Even, Microsoft is leaving Flash off of their Windows 8 tablets.

    Bezos should pray that his tablet doesn’t end up in a “Fire sale” like the HP TouchPad.

    P.S. Storage is reportedly 8GB (equal to 2x storage of the large iPod Shuffle), so Amazon wants you to really think “cloud.” I usually carry between 30 GB and 40 GB of data on my iPad at all times and recommend people buy the 32 GB version at the very least if they expect to be heavy tablet users. Buyers of the Amazon Fire should likely pick up a MiFi or expect to get a tethering plan for their smartphone.

  • NetscapePizza

    “second tablet”

    MORE MONEY THAN F-ING SENSE

  • Alfiejr

    gee, JB, with all your gushing, one would think you actually have tried out a Fire tablet. except actually, no one has yet. well, except for Siegler’s hour or two sneak peek. we won’t see any real reviews until november 15. and hope you realize the Fire is running smartphone apps scaled up, like other Android 7″ tabs. which is ok but not great.

    maybe when you have a few days to get over your latest gizmo crush, you might realize the real targets for the Fire are (1) the Nook (2) all other Android 7″ tabs, and (3) Google itself. did you see any Google apps anywhere? whose “Cloud” do you think Amazon is really aiming at?

    and btw, the real price includes $80 a year to get all the media. so add $160 to get the real 2 year cost, and its a $360 total purchase in real life.

    you guys are like teenagers who always go gaga over the new kid in school.

  • Cold_dead_fingers

    Wow, some people are really getting their panties in a bunch on here.

  • twitter-16071221

    Whatever spec might be missing, its price is THE killer feature, which will almost definitively make it some kind of success.

  • liviu oprescu

    I completely agree. Absolutely genius strategy on Amazon’s part. As somebody who got a Touchpad for $99, I can tell you that I love using a tablet! I use this thing more than my MacBook Pro now. However, my sentiment is based on the $99 price tag. I doubt I’d be as stoked with a $499 tablet. Basically, a $99 Touchpad is more worthwhile than a $499 iPad. Amazon knows this.

    While the iPad continues to sell like hotcakes, it’s pretty much the only show in town to do so. The competition has thus far tried to match up based on a “spec and sum-of-all-its-parts” strategy. This has failed. Consider Apple’s brand appeal. Hell, the word “appeal” is like a dyslexic’s Apple. It safe to say that Apple represents the historical peak of commodity fetishism (if you don’t know what that is, look it up). It’s like a Ferrari for the masses – at least the middle class masses. Of the $500+ a consumer drops on an iPad, I would say $100 of it goes straight to brand appeal. Case in point; if a tech novice like your mom walks into a Best Buy, and has no idea of the user-experience differences between a $399 Acer Iconia and a $499 iPad, she will most likely walk out with an iPad. It’s a brand she trusts, and it represents a lifestyle that she either wants for herself, or her next of kin. Acer on the other hand sound like something burning a hole in your stomach lining. It’s definitely not gonna be burning a hole in your pocket lining.

    And so the 1st gen of iPad competitors came out with poor branding and appeal (subtract $100), poor design and subpar features (subtract $100), poor user experience and limited apps (subtract $100) and tried to sell for the same price, in some cases more, than the iPad. Both Smith and Marx would agree that this is madness! According to my unscientific method, the pricing sweetspot for these devices should’ve been around $200. Bingo. What the hell was RIM thinking with a $500 Playbook? Thing is, the Playbook isn’t terrible. It’s just terribly priced. Slang a Playbook for $200 and now we’re talking. Of course, RIM couldn’t afford to sell it for $200, or even $300. Maybe not even $400, at which point it’s way too deep in iPadlandia.

    Enter Amazon. Amazon basically took a play right out of RIM’s Playbook. Talk about learning from other’s mistakes. This is like when Microsoft’s XBOX 360 reaped the benefits of Sony’s and IBM’s R&D on the Cell processor. By waiting it out, and letting components drop in cost, and using an existing design with older parts, Amazon was able to offer a great device at an irresistible price – a price that, much like that iPad’s when it first came out, the competition will not be able to match, let alone undercut. To understand what a steal the Kindle Fire is, just look at the iPod touch. Clearly even Apple is caught with their Levi’s 501s down. Nuff said.

    While the Kindle Fire may have some thin margin, the real profit comes from Amazon’s DNA. They sell, everything from A through Z, and with a smile… at least according to their logo. The Kindle Fire is more a service than a piece of hardware – a conduit for all Amazon transactions. Disconnect it from mothership EC2, and all of a sudden it’s not as great as it was when you were bummin’ Wi-Fi outside McDonald’s. This is by design. Amazon wants you to be dependent on their cloud services. And why not? They’re great. They offer everything from apps, to movies, to books, to music. Hmm… sounds a lot like another successful company out there. Hell, even Netflix uses Amazon servers. This is where the true value comes in. Amazon cut the price and the mess that is Android, and made something that looks even simpler to use than the iPad. At the end of the day, critical mass and massive profits come from average users, not IT nerds, and tech geeks worried about APIs and future standards.

    So to sum up. The Kindle Fire is the first true iPad competitor. There are only two lucrative business models in the tablet space. Apple’s is hardware based, with software and services used to hawk more hardware. Amazon’s is software and services based, with hardware used to hawk more software and services. Google has tried to create a third model, by being half of the equation, leaving the hardware to its partners. It hasn’t really worked, certainly not in the tablet space. I know, I know, Android phones control half the market. Proof it hasn’t worked? Google dropped $12 billion to enter one of the two business models I listed.

    And so, the tablet race has officially begun. My predictions about the future? The next Nook won’t be able to compete simply because it can’t offer the services Amazon can, no matter how many companies they will undoubtedly team up with. Windows 8 will be a hit on PCs due to legacy, but will not make a huge dent in tablets due to the clusterfuck nature of it. And Apple… Apple will release it’s first $399 iPad in the spring or sooner. Kudos Amazon, you’ve pulled of something extraordinary.

  • Chris

    I think we’re supposed to get this for 99 € here in Germany

  • Chris

    you’re talking about flash storage, not RAM

  • BarryOToole

    Cost. They’re already losing money, by some estimates $50 per tablet.

  • Rudy741

    No I do t think it will be a real match against the iPad. Oh the kindle will be a good seller no dought with the price being just right with today’s recession. But not a real match against the iPad. I have been an iPad owner for over a year now and my only regret is that I have not bought the iPad 2 yet lol.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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