In hopes of riding the current tablet wave sweeping consumers, E-commerce behemoth Amazon.com today launched a $199 tablet it’s calling the Kindle Fire.
As expected, it’s a 7-inch touchscreen device running a custom version of Google’s Android software.
Can Kindle Fire Catch Fire
* The dual-processor tablet weighs 14.6-oz, is WiFi only and does not support 3G connectivity.
* It comes with 8GB of internal storage (supposedly enough for 80 apps, plus either 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books).
* As for battery life, Amazon is promising up to 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback, with wireless off.
* Kindle Fire includes a browser called Amazon Silk (yes, it supports Flash) and free cloud storage.
Amazon plans to start shipping the Kindle Fire from November 15, in time for the rich pickings of the holiday shopping season.
The Bad and the Good
Kindle Fire lacks a camera or a microphone.
Bad – This means you can’t use the device to make Skype video calls the way you can with the iPad 2.
If even regular Skype (i.e. non-video version) does not work on the Kindle Fire a lot of folks are going to be disappointed.
Amazon’s main rival the Apple iPad has both WiFi and 3G versions and sports a 9.7-inch screen.
Bad – As we’ve said in some of our earlier posts, the 7-inch screen is rather small for a tablet.
An ideal size for a tablet is closer to 10-inches.
After all, you’re not going to be just reading books or magazines on the tablet.
If you’re like the average American, you’re gonna look at the tablet as more of an entertainment device to watch TV shows, the occasional movie and play video games than to pore over Tolstoy or Gibbon.
Kindle Fire will have a two-point touch screen unlike the 10-point iPad
Bad – Gamers are not going to be pleased with the 2-point touchscreen
Pricing the Kindle Fire at $199 expands the tablet’s reach.
Good – Given the fairly low price of $199, we expect consumers in North America, who can’t afford the iPad (pricing starts at $499), will snap up the Kindle Fire.
Hey, the Kindle Fire could also be a big draw in countries like India where people hanker for a tablet but can’t afford the $499 price-tag for an iPad.
Of course, ultimately the sales will depend on the reviews of the product and how well it performs in the real world. On a stage, even Aishwarya Rai looks sexy when gussied up. But without her makeup we bet Ash would scare young children. 😉
It seems Amazon has tied the Kindle Fire to its huge content reservoir of books, movies, music and apps a la the iPad to Apple’s iTunes. Samsung, Acer, Asus, HP (its TouchPad tablet recently discontinued) and scores of other tablet vendors do not have that advantage.
Good – Kindle Fire consumers can pick up from the 11,000 streaming titles as well as rent/buy 100,000 movies and TV shows, and purchase 1 million e-books and 17 million songs.
It’s almost certain that Amazon is taking a financial hit on the Kindle Fire hardware in hopes of making money on the content and other purchases consumers make on its web site.
Good – All content on the Kindle Fire can be backed up on the Amazon Cloud wirelessly.
If the Kindle Fire works well, it could be the first real competitor to the Apple iPad, which has swept the market and crushed all rivals.
By the way, Kindle Fire includes a 30-day free subscription to Amazon Prime that gives you unlimited streaming access to 11,000 movies and TV shows besides 2-day shipping on purchase of hard-goods on the Amazon web site.
Upgrades to Kindle E-Reader
Amazon also rolled out an upgrade to its existing Kindle Reader, adding a touchscreen to the e-reading device.
It’s called Kindle Touch and the black and white device costs $99 for the WiFi only version and $149 for the WiFi plus 3G version.
This is a good move because Barnes & Noble’s Nook touchscreen reader had started eating into the Kindle Reader business.
At the low end, Amazon added a non-touchscreen Kindle Reader for $79.