Amazon has unveiled its colour tablet computer, the Kindle Fire which at $199 is less than half the price of Apple’s iPad. It runs a modified version of Google’s Android operating system. But its most compelling proposition is its direct connection to Amazon’s ocean of content – books, music, magazines, videos and films – not least through the recently acquired LoveFilm.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, says “I think of it as a service, part of the Kindle Fire is of course the hardware, but really, it’s the software, the content, it’s the seamless integration of those things.”
Amazon is counting on the its vast online warehouse of more than 18 million e-books, songs, movies and television shows, as well as access to a selection of Android applications, to help it beat competitors.
“It will appeal to a different set of customers who are magazine readers and cinema fans,” Bezos said.
Amazon is hoping it appeals to a broader audience that also wants to browse the Web and stream music, movies and video from a mobile device. The Kindle Fire also has access to a virtual newsstand that includes content from magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan. Many publishers will be glad of an alternative platform to iPad with its punishing 30% commission on sales.
Amazon custom-built the Fire’s mobile Web browser, called Amazon Silk, so that it loads media-rich Web pages faster by shifting some of the work onto Amazon’s cloud computing engine, called EC2.
The Kindle Fire’s 8-gigabytes of memory is capable of storing 80 apps and either 10 movies, 800 songs or 6,000 books. The tablet also includes a free cloud-based storage system, meaning that no syncing with cables is necessary.
The Kindle Fire is missing some things the iPad 2 has — most notably, a camera and a microphone for video calls. The Fire can send and receive data only over Wi-Fi, not cellular networks. And with a 7” screen – important for keeping the price down – some may think it too small for mobile video.
Amazon can afford to charge less because it hopes to make up the difference by selling books, movies and popular television shows. Customers may also be more inclined to pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime, which gives them access to Amazon’s movie streaming service and free shipping, which in turn, encourages more shopping at Amazon.com.