Amazon.com held its media event on Wednesday, and as expected they unveiled the Kindle Fire, their new Android tablet. The company also introduced two other devices that were anticipated (three if you include 3G vs. wi-fi only), including a new touch-based version of the Kindle, and a new non-touch Kindle, as well.
Amazon.com’s dedicated Kindle page is here.
The Kindle Fire uses Android, but it’s Amazon.com’s own version of Android, forked from standard Android. You won’t be seeing Honeycomb on this baby (until it’s rooted and custom ROMs are built). The Kindle Fire will cost $199, about $50 less than what we had been predicting.
Much of what we had predicted earlier is valid, however. The Kindle Fire will have a 7-inch screen. It will have a dual-core processor (TI OMAP 4), and sport 512MB of RAM (the same as the iPad 2) and 8GB of storage. The screen is 1024 x 600.
Weight-wise, it’s 414g (14.6 ounces); the iPad 2 comes in at 601 – 613g. Thickness is 11.4mm vs. 8.8mm for the iPad 2.
While earlier it was predicted to have a forked version of Android 2.1, it now appears it sports a version of Android 2.3. However, it’s highly customized and won’t look like Android to the casual user.
The device also includes a Kindle Fire-only browser, Amazon Silk. It uses Amazon.com’s own EC2 services to accelerate browsing, making is “smooth as silk,” by offloading some of the processing to EC2. It’s been done before, with other products, so it’s not a new idea. Using EC2 is.
WhisperSync has been expanded to include videos. If you’re watching a movie or TV show on your Kindle Fire, you can pick it up again when you reach home, exactly where you left off, on your computer or Internet-capable TV.
What it won’t have is as significant as what it will have, though. The Kindle Fire will come with Amazon Prime free, but only for 30 days. After that, the user has to pay the same $79 per month that everyone else has to pay. It had been thought Prime might be offered free to Kindle Fire owners.
[Amazon Prime allows users free access to Amazon Instant Videos, as well as free two-day shipping on most items (with no minimum), and $3.99 one-day shipping upgrades. Amazon.com has never specified the number of Prime members it has, but it’s believed the program is a cash cow for the retailer.]
The Kindle Fire also does not come with 3G, and doesn’t have an option for it. However, the pricing places it $300 below the price of the lowest cost wi-fi only iPad 2 ($499).
Looking for cameras? You won’t find any at this price, neither front- or rear-facing cameras.
It’s still not clear if the multi-touch capabilities of the Kindle Fire extend to more than two fingers or not, but interestingly, the images on the product details pages show only two fingers being used for both the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire.
The Kindle Fire ships on November 15, and is available for pre-orders now.
The standard old Kindle is still around, but there’s no option for 3G any longer. There’s also no physical keyboard, but the older, keyboarded Kindles are still around as the Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Keyboard 3G.
Subtracting the keyboard (there’s an onscreen keyboard that can be brought up with a button, and a five-way directional pad instead, which is probably going to be a headache to use to enter notes) means that the new Kindle is 30 percent lighter (5.98 ounces), 18 percent smaller. It has the same 6-inch e-ink display as before. It will sell for $79 with Special Offers, or $109 without.
The Keyboard editions run for $99 ($139 sans Special Offers) for wi-fi only and $139 ($189 sans Special Offers) for 3G. This is available now.
The Kindle Touch adds a touchscreen to the new Kindle. It sells in wi-fi only and 3G-enabled versions, and Special Offers ($99, $149, respectively) and non-Special Offers ($139, $189 respectively) versions as well. These will ship on Nov. 21.
The Touch models also include a new feature called X-Ray. Amazon.com describes it as allowing users to “explore the ‘bones of the book.'” Here’s how it works:
“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 for book lovers. Amazon built X-Ray using its expertise in language processing and machine learning, access to significant storage and computing resources with Amazon S3 and EC2, and a deep library of book and character information. The vision is to have every important phrase in every book.”
Will the Kindle Fire finally ignite some uptake in Android tablets? Running Gingerbread, it’s certainly not Google’s vision of an Android tablet. Still, if anyone can pull it off, it’s Amazon.com.