After months of hype, Amazon today announced the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet with a $199 price tag. Amazon also refreshed its line of e-readers with a $149 Kindle Touch 3G, a $99 Kindle Touch without 3G, and a non-Touch $79 Kindle.
The pricing alone is sure to spook both Apple and Barnes & Noble. Here are the details on the Amazon Kindle Fire and the new Kindle e-readers.
Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet
The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch IPS display with 1024-pixel by 600-pixel resolution, plus a dual-core processor, 8GB of storage and 7.5 hours of video playback. The Fire has a USB port for file transfers, but no cameras and no microphone. The tablet measures 7.5-by-4.7-by-0.45 inches, and weighs 14.6 ounces.
But this tablet isn't supposed to be about tech specs. It's meant to be a dead-simple slate for consuming Amazon content. The interface has a search bar on top, which can search locally, in the cloud, and on the Web. Below that is a strip of content categories, followed by a stylized list of recent content. On the bottom of the screen, users can pin their favorite apps, books, and other media.
Amazon's digital storefronts include e-books, movies, TV shows, music, and apps. Several magazine publishers are also bringing their periodicals to the tablet. Although the Kindle Fire doesn't offer much internal storage, any content purchased from Amazon may be stored online in cloud storage for free. There's no mention of Google services, so don't expect Google Maps or the Android Market to be built in.
For browsing the Web, the Kindle Fire uses a new browser called "Amazon Silk," which taps Amazon's cloud computing services to render pages faster. An e-mail app is also built-in, with support for multiple mail services in a single inbox.
Amazon says the Silk browser resides both on the Fire and on its own servers. For each page request, Silk divvies up the work between the tablet and the cloud. The result, according to Amazon, is faster page loads and lower latency.
The Kindle Fire costs $199, including a free month of Amazon Prime, and ships November 15. Amazon's taking pre-orders on its Website.
New Kindle E-Readers
Amazon is not abandoning its E-Ink readers with today's tablet announcement. Amazon also announced new Kindles along with the Kindle Fire tablet.
The Kindle Touch uses the same infrared touch system found in Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's touch screen e-readers. Amazon is touting what it calls the "EasyReach" system with this Kindle, which lets users tap a short horizontal strip along the top of the screen to call up the menu, a narrow vertical strip along the left side to go back one page, and the rest of the screen to go to the next page.
The Kindle Touch will cost $99 with Special Offers--a service that displays ads and deals on the device's home page--and $139 without them. A 3G model will cost $149. Amazon's taking pre-orders now, ahead of a November 21 ship date.
In addition to the touchscreen Kindle, Amazon will launch a non-touch Kindle with Special Offers for $79. This model drops the physical keyboard of previous Kindles in favor of a small set of buttons on the bottom bezel, along with the usual left and right bezel buttons for page turns. Amazon says this model is 30 percent lighter than previous Kindles. Without Special Offers, this Kindle costs $109. Both versions ship today.