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- September 28, 2011
- Amazon Unveils Tablet That Undercuts iPad’s Price
- By JENNA WORTHAM
- Seeking to stake a claim in the tablet computer market alongside Apple and Samsung, Amazon.com on Wednesday revealed plans to begin selling a color touch-screen tablet.
- Named the Kindle Fire, the device has a 7-inch touch screen, weighs 14.6 ounces and is outfitted with a dual-core processor. But the most important feature may be the price. At $199 the Fire is less than half the price of the Apple iPad, which starts at $499. It is the first tablet from a major company to seriously undercut the iPad in price.
- Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, who showed off the Fire on stage at a news conference in Manhattan, said it was meant to build on the popularity of the company’s e-readers and appeal to a broader audience that also wants to browse the Web and stream music, movies and video. The device has access to Amazon’s library of 18 million e-books, songs and movies and television shows, and can run Android applications that have been approved by Amazon.
- There is also a newsstand for users who want to subscribe to magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, Wired and Glamour.
- “We’re building premium products at non-premium prices,” said Mr. Bezos. “We are determined to do that.”
- Mr. Bezos also introduced a speedy custom-built mobile browser, called Amazon Silk, which he said was “cloud-accelerated,” combining Amazon’s computing cloud with the Kindle Fire device. “It’s truly a technical achievement,” he said.
- Amazon plans to begin taking preorders for the Fire on its Web site immediately, and they will start shipping Nov. 15. Mr. Bezos said the company was “making many millions of these.”
- The Kindle Fire includes a free cloud-based storage system, meaning that no syncing with cables is necessary. Mr. Bezos seemed to take a swipe at Apple, saying, “That model that you are responsible for backing up your own content is a broken model.”
- This first model of the Fire sends and receives data only over Wi-Fi, not cellular networks. Like the iPad’s screen, the screen on the Fire has so-called in-plane switching technology, meaning that unlike some LCD screens it can be viewed from a variety of angles, not just straight on. Mr. Bezos also introduced several new e-readers, including the Kindle Touch, a lightweight version of its current Kindle models, with the addition of infrared touch features to the black-and-white display. The Touch, which costs $99, has no buttons, and users navigate by tapping the sides of the screen. The device is available for preorder beginning Wednesday and will start shipping Nov. 21. Mr. Bezos showed off a version of the Kindle Touch with 3G wireless connectivity, for $149.
- In addition, Mr. Bezos showed off a new, nontouch-screen Kindle that he said was 18 percent lighter than the Kindle 3, included a faster processor and would sell for $79. It will begin shipping immediately, he said.
- “We have many customers who tell us they don’t want touch,“ Mr. Bezos said. “We’re going to sell many millions of these.”
- The Kindle Fire has its work cut out for it. Apple has secured a strong lead in tablets, selling more than 29 million iPads in the product’s first 15 months on the market. Its competitors have been less successful. For example, Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry line of smartphones, said it shipped only 200,000 of its own rival to the iPad, the PlayBook, in three months.
- Amazon will also be competing with the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s popular color e-reader. Many expect the Nook to get an upgrade later this year.
- However, Amazon has an ace up its sleeve that other tablet makers do not, in that the Kindle Fire will offer Amazon’s full spread of digital content, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Gartner who follows the consumer electronics industry.
- “Amazon has already nailed the hardest part of the equation: the content,” he said.
- Early sales estimates for the Kindle Fire reach as high as five million.
- “The tablet market right now is easily defined as Apple and everyone else,” said Mr. Gartenberg. “There is certainly room for another player, and a well-executed device from Amazon could do well.”
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