Amazon fired its first serious shots across Apple and iOS’s bow this morning as it unveiled multiple new Kindle slates at surprisingly low prices, including new no-keyboard touch models as well as the not-so-secret headliner, dubbed “Kindle Fire” and built around Google’s Android operating system.
“Four years ago, we set out to improve upon the book,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as he took the stage at a press event, right before turning the spotlight on not one but three new Kindle slates.
The first new device, dubbed “Kindle Touch,” is a grayscale e-ink Kindle but without a dedicated keyboard. Instead, the Touch works just as it sounds: navigation by way of a 6-inch infrared multitouch display. The Touch comes in two models, one with Wi-Fi for $99, another with Wi-Fi and 3G for $149 (Amazon claims 3G support in 100 countries worldwide, and that like prior Kindles, the $149 price is pay-once, no further charges or commitments). Claimed battery life (for both versions) is two months, and they’re available for pre-order now, but won’t ship until November 21.
If you don’t need or care much about touch and want to save a few bucks, Amazon’s rebooting the entry-level Kindle, too (call this its second new device). Dubbed simply “Kindle,” the new 5.98-ounce, $79 e-Ink reader will also jettison the older Kindle models’ keyboards, replacing them with a few buttons situated at either side of a navigational rocker switch. The claimed battery life this model’s one month, and it’s available to order immediately.
Last but not least, Amazon’s third reveal: the Kindle Fire, a $199 Android-based tablet with a 7-inch multi-touch “vibrant color” IPS display capable of 1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi with 16 million colors. It packs a dual-core processor, 8 GB of internal storage, USB 2.0, a standard audio jack and weighs 14.6 ounces. No, there’s strangely no 3G version—for $199 the Fire is Wi-Fi only, though Amazon was quick to add that computer-related system requirements are nil because “it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer” (take that, Apple?). The Fire also eschews a camera or microphone, which given the importance of both in Apple’s iPad, probably means this is still Amazon’s warm-up to full-blown iPad response. Claimed battery life is 8 hours for reading and 7.5 hours video playback with wireless disabled.
The most intriguing thing about the Fire? Its promised integration with Amazon’s cloud services. Amazon says it plans to offer free storage for all cloud-related content. Also: You can preorder the Fire now, but it won’t ship until November 15.
Amazon also unveiled a Fire-based app it’s calling “Amazon Silk,” essentially a new browser with acceleration tools designed to make mobile web browsing quicker and more intuitive by “splitting” content crunching duties between the Kindle and Amazon’s cloud. Think something like a predictive algorithm that’s designed to load information before you need it, though it’ll have to be clever indeed to impress us, given the number of times browser manufacturers have tried (and frankly failed) to deliver with conceptually similar mechanics. In Amazon’s favor: the cloud factor, which promises to lower latency and loading times.
Here’s Amazon’s informational video on the new tech:
Though not discussed during the presentation, it looks like Amazon’s keeping the keyboard-based Kindles around, too. They’ve simply been rebranded “Kindle Keyboard,” and look to sell for $114 and $138 with and without 3G respectively.