Amazon Officially Announces Kindle Fire Tablet for $199 [Updated]

| Product News

Amazon confirmed the news that Bloomberg prematurely announced Wednesday morning by announcing the new Kindle Fire ebook reader and multimedia tablet device. The Kindle Fire includes a 7-inch color touch-based display and weighs only 14.6 ounces.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Amazon Kindle Fire
(Click the image for a larger version) 

True to earlier rumors, the Fire runs on Google’s Android OS, although Amazon has gone to great lengths to hide that fact with its customized interface. The tablet includes dual core processor, 8GB of storage, and supports Android apps through the Amazon Appstore.

The Fire’s 1024x600 pixel display offers a 169ppi resolution with 16 million colors, according to Amazon’s Kindle vice president Dave Limp who spoke with The Mac Observer. He added that the tablet offers eight hours of battery life, or seven hours when watching movies.

The tablet includes support for electronic magazines, WhisperSync wireless syncing support for movies and TV shows that are available through Amazon, including free cloud storage for user’s Amazon content, and comes pre-registered for the user’s own Amazon account.

The Kindle Fire looks to be a media consumption device first, and a tablet computer second, unlike Apple’s iPad. For casual users, however, that want a tablet entertainment device, the Fire may be an enticing option.

As far as system requirements go, Amazon said “None, because it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer.”

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is priced at US$199. It is available for pre-order now and will ship on November 15.

[Updated with additional product details.]

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Comments

RonMacGuy

...the Fire runs on Google?s Android OS, although Amazon has gone to great lengths to hide that fact with its customized interface.

It is sad that android will get “tablet sales” credit for the Fire when Amazon has gone through all the trouble of hiding the android part of this. How about a separate category?

iOS - 80%
android OS - w%
WebOS - x%
Windows OS - y%
android buried behind fancy interface for those too ashamed to admit they are using it as their OS - z%

grin

Lee Dronick

Ron, the “average” person in the street won’t care too much what OS it runs as long as it works for them. I am not saying that this is a great device, a bad device, or an okay device, that remains to be seen.

webjprgm

It uses WhisperSync, but no mention of wifi. Does that mean you only browse the web and stream content on 3G speeds?  That’s another reason to put most of the browser in Amazon’s cloud, so they can send pages over in a single condensed packet.  But how are streamed movies going to look?

This looks extremely awesome. I love that they didn’t copy the existing icon grid interface but went for a bookshelf metaphor (is that cover-flow on top? also cool) since that keeps with Amazon’s feel while also being unique (*cough* Samsung).  Their invisible cloud thing and pre-registration are also awesome.

As for usage, media-centered is good for a tablet.  I started using a smartphone because I could merge cellphone + calendar + todo list + notes all in one, and the internet and apps were just a bonus (to which I quickly became accustomed).  A tablet seems to be more about browsing the web, reading emails, reading books/PDFs/etc., taking notes, entertainment and games.  Am I off? That’s what Amazon seems to think it is.

BTW, I’m sure you can get Tiny Wings, Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies, etc. on Kindle Fire, but does anyone think it’ll play anything with serious 3D graphics?  I’m betting this will only offer the most casual of casual games.

RonMacGuy

Actually, Sir Harry, I don’t think Amazon even publishes official sales volumes of their Kindles, so unless they change for the Fire there may not be any sales numbers available anyway. Something else that remains to be seen.

mactoid

To quote Shakespeare (and Sherlock Holmes) “...the game is afoot”!  Finally, possibly some serious competition for Apple and the iPad. Maybe not on features, but on price. I guess we’ll see when the “Fire” is finally available on the street, and real people begin reporting their reactions to it.

Lee Dronick

I guess we?ll see when the ?Fire? is finally available on the street, and real people begin reporting their reactions to it.

I wonder where it will be sold, Amazon only?

cb50dc

I’m with mactoid here. Just as an iPad is quite adequate for many who don’t need a laptop, so the Fire may be fully sufficient for those who don’t need (or want) everything an iPad can do. Those people especially will appreciate saving $300.

RonMacGuy’s point maybe rightly notes that they’ll get “‘tablet sales’ credit.” But so what? Any such “credit” is a hollow statistic, meaningful only to beancounters and bland PowerPoint charts. If any marketing fact matters, it’s the reality of the Fire likely siphoning off some otherwise-potential iPad sales. And whatever percentage that entails, I don’t see any flashing yellow lights for Apple.

(Tentative) kudos to Amazon for finding/creating what seems to be a legitimate niche of their own.

OldMorris

I think people assume apples polished software finish and usability on this machine. If that is true then it should exploit the bottom end quite well. If it comes off as clumsy or buggy or performance challenged (streaming etc.) then I think it will fall short of being a true iPad competitor.

Did you see that Bezos is claiming to have been responsible for unteathering the tablet (no pc-synching required)? Am I wrong or didn’t Apple already demonstrate this model with the upcoming iOS update making all iPads standalone devices?

cb50dc

Also, has anyone else seen what seems to be a small but sharply pointed jab at Apple today at amazon.com?

“There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.”

Heheheh. I give ‘em points for cleverness.

Lee Dronick

Also, has anyone else seen what seems to be a small but sharply pointed jab at Apple today at amazon.com?

?There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.?

Heheheh. I give ?em points for cleverness.

I just took a look, I hadn’t been there in a month or more. Yes, it is clever, and I do think that it is a dig at Apple.

“There are two types of online companies. Those that charge state sales tax and those who want a free ride on the state’s infrastructure.”

RonMacGuy

Also, has anyone else seen what seems to be a small but sharply pointed jab at Apple today at amazon.com?

Yes, I see it. Very good. I wonder what the Fire is made of. Looks like plastic, but they don’t really talk about material in the technical details on amazon.com. One could easily read their comment as “...those that work hard to charge customers less by using a smaller screen, less memory, and cheaper made material, all with no 3G option”.  But it’s all how you spin your marketing.

At first I thought the Fire was 3G and I was surprised that amazon had worked out a deal with the cellular providers to allow downloading of movies, tv shows, etc. just like the original Kindle could do with eBooks, but now I see it is WiFi only. I am less impressed now. The interface is definitely attractive from the screen shots. I’m sure they are working hard to finalize the interface prior to shipping in November.

As I’ve said before, I really think Apple is missing out by not offering a 7” iPad. I would LOVE to see Apple release a 7” iPad with WiFi and 8 GB storage as an entry level iPad for $250-$300. Maybe even one with a 3G option for a bit more. I suspect Apple could even get pricing for a 7” iPad in the $200 range, but that may be pushing it.

Hoping next week shows a release of the 4” iPhone, the 7” iPad mini, and the 10” iPad 3!! Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Ross Edwards

As I said in the other threads… this is really just another Android tablet, albeit one with (we think) competent corporate backing.  The killer app for Kindle has always been the e-ink screen, and the Fire doesn’t have it.  I suspect they’ll sell many times more $139 Kindle Touches than $199 Kindle Fires, though I concede that my estimate is pure speculation based on the anecdata that I’ll end up buying two of the former this holiday season.

eolake

“Hoping next week shows a release of the 4? iPhone, the 7? iPad mini, and the 10? iPad 3!! Hey, a guy can dream, can?t he?”

I’m there wid ya, guy! Sweet dreams. All with Retina display of course.

Nemo

A couple of observations:  First, Amazon’s Kindle Fire (Fire) does not appear to be an orthodox Android device, though it is based on the Android OS.  That means that it can’t get or run apps from Google’s Android MarketPlace, at least not without some third-party modification, which might be a violation of Google’s IP rights; it can’t use either Google or Android trademarks, and it won’t get Google’s updates to and support for Android.  So the Fire runs Amazon’s branch of Android, which runs apps from Amazon’s app store; that bears only Amazon’s trademarks, and that Amazon is solely responsible for updating and supporting.

Second, though Amazon says that the Fire has a fast dual core processor, it is not yet apparent whether it can come close to running the type sophisticated games and other apps that even the most sophisticate Android tablets can run, much less run the most demanding apps that run on the iPad.  For this, we must wait to see what’s available on Amazon’s app store and what competent reviewers have to say in doing comparative evaluations of the Fire against the iPad.

Nemo

And one more thing:  The only way that the Kindle Fire (Fire) works as a business proposition is for Amazon to trade in the personal data of the Fire’s users, acquiring and using that personal data without any restriction that is significantly more restrictive than what our weak privacy laws provide. 

So, depending on the user and with respect only to privacy, the Fire may be either a worse or better deal than the iPad with respect to privacy.  If you places a high value on privacy and, as I do, insists on all parties getting your informed consent to acquire and use your personal data, the Fire is, from the perspective of privacy, a terrible deal.  However, if the Amazon, Google, Facebook’s way of exploiting one’s personal data is acceptable to you, then, with respect to privacy, the Fire could be a better deal for you with respect to privacy and, perhaps, in overall value.  It is up to you.

RonMacGuy

I?m there wid ya, guy! Sweet dreams. All with Retina display of course.

Of course!! And central voice control that can go across all apps!!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The Android base matters to developers. It means that if your app targets the 2.2 or earlier API, it should run fine on this device and that the Amazon Appstore might be a good venue to sell your product.

A few things I haven’t found the definitive word on yet: Sideloading of apps and Bluetooth radio. Gaming will at least be adequate, i.e. Angry Birds and the plethora of AIR games. It certainly is on a rooted Nook Color, which is year-old tech and which Amazon will need to be point by point competitive against to avoid embarrassment.

Nemo raises concerns about Google apps. Well, when this thing gets official CyanogenMod support, which should be about the day after it’s released, rooted devices will have that, and this may become a popular stock Android toy. Google and Cyanogen came to an understanding long ago in Android history about the right way to enable the Market.

There’s a lot that Google can learn from watching and eventually participating in Kindle Fire. They will, and without the animosity and drama that Apple fans are quick to impute.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

And one more thing:? The only way that the Kindle Fire (Fire) works as a business proposition is for Amazon to trade in the personal data of the Fire?s users, acquiring and using that personal data without any restriction that is significantly more restrictive than what our weak privacy laws provide.?

Nemo, you could not know less about Amazon’s business model or the Kindle’s value proposition if you got a lobotomy. Kindle is grease for electronic sales, which have skyrocketed. In ebooks, Amazon is the clear leader. They’ve done it by making paid content available on whatever device the customers want to use, and providing some nice devices that customers may want to use. User friendliness does not start and stop with a GUI.

Nemo

Bosco:  Even with a lobotomy, I’d better at evaluating the legal effect of a company’s privacy policy than you.  Amazon’s privacy policy first came to my attention when I several years prior tried to make a purchase on Amazon’s website, which Amazon would not let me do without getting an account and collecting certain information.  Well, rather than just sign up for an account to get the product for an attractive price, I clicked through to Amazon’s privacy agreement to see what personal information Amazon wanted in exchange, what Amazon would do with that info, and what, if any, restrictions Amazon placed on those it transferred my information to.  That’s when my use of Amazon ended, because my review of Amazon’s privacy policy established that Amazon could use my personal data in any way that the law allowed.  A call to Amazon’s customer service confirmed that there was no way to opt-out:  you either accept Amazon’s agreement, or you take your custom elsewhere.

Amazon hasn’t changed in the intervening years in the scope and general legal effect of its exploitation of its customers’ privacy for its profit.  Indeed Amazon is the pioneer of the appalling privacy policies that Google and Facebook impose on their respective users today.

If need be, I can cite chapter and verse for you, as Amazon’s user agreement and its privacy policy are publicly available.

Nemo

Bosco: And CyanogenMod support.  That is just what the ordinary user will be up for, rooting his new Kindle Fire (Fire) and, thus, removing it from the scope of Amazon’s support and imposing on the user the task of going to the Web to support and update his CyanogenModed Fire as best he can. 

So to correct security vulnerabilities or to squash bugs, the ordinary user is to do what?  Go to the Web to light his Fire?  Or perhaps, they can call you for free support.  In either case, the Fire is likely to go out, leaving the poor user to wander in the darkness.

Get real.

Nemo

Bosco:  And one more thing.  With the introduction of the Fire, Android developers now have yet another variation of Android to design their apps for.  Only this one is a full branch that is not only likely to diverge from orthodox Android over time, but it is almost certainly Amazon’s plan that it should so diverge, so that Amazon can free itself from Google’s yoke by setting up its independent branch of Android and its independent Android ecosystem.  Can anyone say Android Balkanization, as in China. 

In addition to the headache of Amazon’s Android being a full branch of Android, the Fire uses a version of Android that is two generations prior to the version of Android that Google declared wasn’t suitable for tablets.  So now Android developers must design for a version of Android that was never meant for tablets and that is a 7 inch form factor, which is already hell for designing icons and other graphics.

Of course, Amazon has modified the Fire’s Android OS to be better suited to tablets, but, at a minimum, that almost certainly means that the CyanogenMod’s developers will have some work to do to get Android Market apps to run on the Fire, for it was no coincidence that Google restricted Amazon to a version of Android that is completely unsuitable for tablets, but a clear attempt to hobble Amazon’s Fire as much as possible in its capabilities.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nemo: Rooted Kindle Fires will probably account for a couple to a few million units, assuming the process isn’t prohibitively difficult. There’s evidence that they’ve accounted for more than a million Nook Colors in the past year. Now, that is not “iPad killer” numbers, but these little niches add up.

Second, I must have missed when Florian Mueller became the Internet’s Android developer expert. But I can’t think of anyone else capable of giving you such tortured facts and logic about Android development. The first rule of Android development club, BTW, is not don’t talk about Android development club. It’s actually “target the lowest API level that your app requires”. This ensures the greatest compatibility of your app with devices. As an example, my Alltock Procrastinator’s Clock works with 2.1 and later, and does exactly what it’s supposed to do on phones, 2.x tablets, and 3.x tablets. On a 7 inch form factor tablet sitting propped up in a business card holder, it makes an excellent alarm clock to motivate people to get their asses up before 5am each weekday morning.

Third, just so you know what you’re talking about… CyanogenMod is a replacement OS. It currently is based on the Gingerbread build. So when a couple million Amazon customers buy Kindle Fires and install CM, they’ll get a nice tablet that behaves like their stock Android phone.

OldMorris

Bosco: interesting choice regarding your bringing up lobotomy. I am surprised to have seen reference to this procedure several times in online comments recently. Each time used in much the same way as yours. Can’t help but feel that it should be officially recognized like certain comments are with Godwin’s Law and specifically usage.

We could call it Bosco’s Law:

Once such a reference is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned lobotomy has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

Nemo

Right, a replacement Android OS, CyanogenMod.  So we have yet further fragmentation of Android, which will be diverging from both orthodox Android and Amazon Android, as those two versions of Android diverge from each other.  Three Android OSs, each heading in different directions, or heading in two directions, as CyanogenMod is forced to choose between Google’s Android and Amazon’s Android:  That is absolute misery and chaos for developers, users, and for Google and Amazon.

Aim your app for the lowest common denominator API?  A fellow by the name of Jobs had something to say about that, as Apple was crushing and banishing AIR, Flash, and other compiler crap from its iOS.  To paraphrase Mr. Jobs, that kind of crap leads to at best second rate apps, as developers can not fully exploit the best and fullest capabilities of the operating system but must go to the lowest common denominator in order to get something that will run on the broadest range of devices.  That crap is either the last resort for lazy developers, who are willing to write cheap-to-make crap apps to make money, or for poor developers, who, though they aspire to make insanely great apps, are constrained to writing something that is second rate but that will run on most devices.  Least common denominator APIs result in apps of lesser capability.  That subpar crap may be fine for the likes of Android and its various branches, but it won’t do any of Apple’s efforts in anything.

But now, it is apparent that even Google realizes the LCD crap won’t do, as it has purchased Motorola Mobility (Moto)—let’s tell the truth—to produce a vertically integrated family of Android devices.  And HTC, Samsung, et al. know it, as you can see from their all too public efforts to hedge their Android bets with everything from their own proprietary mobile OSs to licensing Windows Phone.  And, if HP ever gets its act together, the Android OEMs will probably license WebOS too.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

OldMorris: I doubt the other people you’ve seen were as nuanced with the usage.

Nemo: I once asked Florian Mueller whether Dingler and Gruber invited him to their circle jerk or whether he just showed up with his hands extended. Maybe next time you visit one for debate prep, you could ask what differences there are between the Android 2.3 SDK and the 2.1 SDK. Then, maybe you can go through the Market and find 10 popular apps that require only 2.1 and strain yourself to figure out what they could do with that extra .2 SDK to improve the apps. Bonus points (for extraordinary bullsh*t) if you can tell me how much better they would run if they used the same code, but targeted 2.3 instead of 2.1.

Now, Honeycomb does introduce something fundamentally different and Ice Cream Sandwich will make that model available to sub-tablet devices as well. It is, perhaps ironically, called the fragment. Yes, fragmentation will be a good thing going forward because it will mean more scalable UIs with less work and more consistency.

But for now, to support 2x as many active devices as Apple has in the field, I can code to the 2.1 API and get pretty good results.

Ross Edwards

The Android base matters to developers. It means that if your app targets the 2.2 or earlier API, it should run fine on this device and that the Amazon Appstore might be a good venue to sell your product.

If only it was possible to make any money selling Android apps.

RonMacGuy

We could call it Bosco?s Law:

Once such a reference is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned lobotomy has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

OldMorris, amazingly enough, Bosco has never actually lost a debate!!

Nemo, bravo, thank you for a wonderful summation!!  It’s almost not even a fair fight.  You know once Bosco starts to use terms like lobotomy, circle jerk and bullish*t he’s lost any semblance of reason.  Then he just goes full thrust with the technical jargon and misses the point entirely.

It must be wonderful living in Bosco’s world, where millions and millions of people like to CyanogenMod themselves and their nooks and kindles.  Millions and millions of 18-30 year old geeks sitting around getting all excited that they can root their device.  They live for fragmentation!!  Pretty far-fetched if you ask me.  Nemo wins this debate by a huge margin!!  Lobotomize away!!

jfbiii

I wonder if there is a developer selling equivalent apps on iOS and Android for which the Android app is more valuable, i.e. results in higher profits for the developer. I wonder what the multiplier (Android installed base = x times iOS installed base) will have to grow to for that to happen.

Paul Goodwin

I’m not in the mood to start at the top of this thread and count up the number of Android/Android-based OSs mentioned. It’s even more fragmented than I imagined. It sounds horribly disjointed.

iOS 4.3.5. ..............  That’s it for the iPad. I just went and checked my iPhone: 4.3.5, and the same build number. How different from the “other” world.

I believe Amazon will sell a significant number of eBook readers that can do email and some light web surfing. But it doesn’t sound anything like an ultraportable computer like the iPad.

Today I read somewhere that the Fire’s OS isn’t entirely on the hardware platform. I didn’t quite understand what that article was saying as it didn’t explain, but I always thought that OS interfaces with hardware and AS. if part of the operation of that tablet is on Amazon’s site, then isn’t that AS?  It would seem that that would slow the device considerably if portions of the OS have been turned into AS. Anyone heard anything about this aspect of the Kindle Fire?

Paul Goodwin

And yes I understand that the iOS comes bundled with AS (apps). I was just curious as to what parts of the Kindle operation were Amazon server based

Ethan

“To paraphrase Mr. Jobs, that kind of crap leads to at best second rate apps, as developers can not fully exploit the best and fullest capabilities of the operating system but must go to the lowest common denominator in order to get something that will run on the broadest range of devices.”

“That subpar crap may be fine for the likes of Android and its various branches, but it won?t do any of Apple?s efforts in anything.”

Yet Apple is fine with it as we have all kinds of cross compiling platforms that target iOS and have produced apps currently in the AppStore: Adobe Air( Machinarium), Titanium(NBC for iPad app), PhoneGap, Corona(Bubble Ball by that 14 year old that knocked Angry Birds off), OpenPlug Studio etc. So I guess the AppStore is full of “at best second rate apps”?  Have you spoken to Apple about all the “subpar crap” they are selling right now? I’m sure they’ll be horrified and pull them all immediately to restore the purity of the garden.

Nemo, in this particular point you seem to have zero knowledge about what is allowed in the app store and what is not when it comes to how the app bytecode is written.

Nemo

Ethan:  The regulators compelled Apple to accept cross-compiler crap (However, I think that Apple should have taken the regulators to court and would have won had it done so.), but those developers, who chose to use that cross-compiler crap to develop their apps, and the apps so developed are definitely second class citizens on iOS.  Apple does not support them and makes no promise to support them.  Apple only supports its SDK, so if a change in iOS breaks an app written with the cross-compiler, that is just tough, for there will be no support from Apple to get your app working.  Developers know that if you use cross-compilers, Apple will at best ignore you and at worst discriminate against you to the fullest extent permitted by law, not the least of which means that Apple won’t feature your apps on its App Store.  All of that means that most apps and nearly all of the best and most popular apps are made with Apple’s tools, because it is only those tools that can and do fully support and exploit the capabilities of Apple’s iOS.

So, as a developers, you either get with Apple’s program, that is, Apple’s tools, or your prospects for success on the iOS platform are markedly diminished, because your apps are second-rate, because they are limited by the inferior tools used to make them; because Apple will ignore and not support your apps; and because with the best tools, Apple’s tools, for iOS, your competing developers will make apps that grind your apps into the dust.

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