After months of hype, Amazon has announced the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet with a $199 price tag. Amazon is also refreshing its line of e-readers with the Kindle Touch, selling for $99, and a non-touch Kindle, priced at $79.
The pricing alone is sure to spook both Apple and Barnes & Noble. But what about the actual products? Here’s the lowdown on the Amazon Kindle Fire and the new Kindle e-readers:
Amazon Kindle Fire
For specs, the Kindle Fire has a 7-inch IPS display with 1024-by-600 resolution, plus a dual-core processor, 8 GB of storage and 7.5 hours of video playback. It has a USB port for file transfers, but no cameras and no microphone. The Kindle Fire 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 will be stored online for free. There was no mention of Google services, so don't expect Google Maps or the Android Market built-in.
For browsing the Web, the Kindle Fire has a 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.
The Kindle Fire costs $199, including a free month of Amazon Prime, and ships Nov. 15. Amazon is taking preorders on its website.
Far from abandoning E-Ink readers, Amazon announced a pair of 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 touchscreen e-readers. Amazon is hailing what it calls the "EasyReach" system, 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 is taking preorders now, ahead of a Nov. 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.