This morning Amazon officially announced its much-awaited Android-based tablet, the Kindle Fire. The big news is that at $199, it’s half the price of the cheapest iPad and nearly as cheap as the $149 TouchPads that went flying off shelves when HP discontinued support last month.
The Kindle Fire will have a 7″ display ready for instant access to Amazon’s growing Android app store, as well as its library of streaming movies and shows, which as of this week includes a deal for Fox content. It also comes with a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. Having had Prime for several years, I can say that it is increasingly well-worth its $79/year price. Because Prime also gives you free (and commercial-free) access to 11,000 movies and TV shows, it’s even more worthwhile if you get a Fire.
Some anticipated that $79 subscription would come with the Fire. Instead you get free Amazon Cloud storage.
“Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we’ve been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, [and] the convenience of Amazon Whispersync.”
According to the Kindle Fire’s press release, its digital content selection will include “100 exclusive graphic novels, including Watchmen, which has never before been available in digital format, as well as Batman: Arkham City, Superman: Earth OneGreen Lantern: Secret Origin and 96 others from DC Entertainment.”
On the down side, there’s no 3G connectivity in the Fire, unlike the Kindle, which has been my savior when traveling. Phone not working in the middle of a conference in Paris? Battery-eating phone suddenly dead in Boston? Either way, I can whip out my Kindle with its practically never-ending battery life, and I’ve got my email, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the web ready to go in black-and-white eInk with no monthly fee, just eternal 3G.
Speaking of battery life, the Kindle Fire is expected to last seven hours on WiFi. It’s got 8 GB of storage (compared to the 16 GB or 32 GB of the aforementioned cheap TouchPads) and a 1 GHz dual-core TI OMAP processor.
As if that wasn’t enough for one day, Amazon also announced a new set of Kindles in a product line that already accounts for 10% of Amazon’s revenue–more than $6 billion. And two of the three are a drop in price from the previous least-expensive Kindle, which was $114:
- The next generation of the Kindle–$79
- New touchscreen Kindle Touch–$99
- Shipping November 21, Kindle Touch 3G with the free 3G like existing Kindles–$149
The $79 Kindle will be 30% lighter (fewer than 6 ounces) and 18% smaller–Amazon is calling it the “Kindle that fits in your pocket,” although with a 6″ display, I think they have larger pockets than I do.
They’ll also have X-Ray, a new feature that lets customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia.
The new Kindles, unlike the old ones, come with what Amazon calls “special offers and sponsored screensavers”–ads that appear when you’re not reading. There will also be offers from AmazonLocal, their daily deal service.
As a side note, this puts us a little off track on the theory that Kindles would be free by November. But Amazon has the content link that may finally make a truly successful business model for an inexpensive tablet.
You can pre-order the Kindle Fire today. It will ship November 15.