After months of rumors and speculations regarding a frontlit e-book reader, an improved tablet and even an Android phone, Amazon finally lifts the curtain and showcases its new creations.
Kindle Fire, the tablet Amazon launched on September 29, 2011, has been for many months the best 7-inch tablet around, especially at the price tag of $199 that it carried. More recently, though, Google and Asus brought us Nexus 7, a tablet that for Fire’s price promised a better display resolution, a newer version of Android, NFC support, a front camera and double the performance, in terms of CPU and RAM. Nexus 7 became a bestseller in no time, given its specs. However, Amazon had to respond to this somehow, and today’s event represents Jeff Bezos’ chance to regain the supremacy. The first generation of Kindle Fire is officially sold out as of last week, so the launch of a new tablet was imminent.
According to the rumors, there were 2 7-inch tablets in the works, but not a 10-inch one that would compete against the iPad. Jeff Bezos started his presentation by declaring that ” We love to invent. We love to pioneer. We even like going down alleys that turn out to be blind alleys. Every once in a while those blind alleys turn into broad avenues. And that turns out to be lots of fun. […] People don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services. Kindle Fire is a service. That’s a big distinction from rival tablets. Our service includes 180,000 exclusive books.”
The original Kindle Fire will still be available, apparently, for $159. Some improvements include a 40% increase in performance, twice the RAM and better battery life.
The two new tablets, both called Kindle Fire HD features 25% less glare than the competing devices. The bigger version has a 8.9″ 1920×1200 display, so it will not be a direct competitor of the iPad, but it might compete against Apple’s Mini tablet. There will also be a 7″ version of the Fire HD. The heart of the new Kindles is a Texas Instruments OMAP4470 CPU, so the memory bandwidth should be 40% higher than of the Tegra CPUs. The tablets also come with Dolby Digital Plus and stereo speakers, so the sound quality should be rather good. Not at last, Amazon’s tablet also comes with a front-facing camera, yet another improvement over the old Fire.
Kindle Fire HD features 2 internal WiFi antennas, Bluetooth and is the only tablet to feature MIMO. This technology makes Fire HD faster than the iPad and the Nexus 7. As far as the internal storage goes, Kindle Fire HD will come with 16 GB. There is no mention of a 32GB version, but there will most probably be one. The grave stone with the text “Rest in Peace 8GB” might as well be a direct reference to Google, who decided to launch Nexus 7 with this capacity, too.
Kindle FreeTime, a service that will run on the new Amazon tablet, includes all the games currently installed on the tablet, everything on a blue background, so the parents can notice what the kids are doing from across the room. Moreover, Bezos also introduced Time Limits, an app that allows parents to limit the time the kids are spending playing with the tablet.
Regarding the prices, Jeff Bezos said that the 7″ version will cost $199, while the 8.9″ Fire HD will cost $299. Both of them will come with 16GB of internal memory.
Kindle 4G LTE, Amazon’s biggest surprise, will cost $499, plus $50 a year, that will include 250MB of traffic a month, 20GB of cloud storage, $10 of Amazon Store credit and Ultra-fast 4G LTE wireless. The included traffic is hilarious, even if the annual fee is of only $50. What is the point of having ultra-fast wireless if all you can do with that included traffic is check your email daily? Kindle 4G LTE, as well as the 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD, will be shipped on November 20. The 7″ version, on the other hand, will be shipped on September 14.
Amazon also needed to launch something to compete directly against Barnes&Noble’s GlowLight edition Nook, a LED illuminated e-book reader that facilitates reading in the dark. Besides the images and a video that were leaked a couple of days ago, there has been a shroud of secrecy around Amazon’s new e-book reader. During the presentation, Jeff Bezos showed a chart that explains how quick e-book sales surpassed the sales of physical books.
Kindle Paperwhite features a higher pixel density, of 221 dpi, and hence, a higher resolution. The Light Guide, which is a fiber optic cable flattened out, represents the result of 4 years of R&D, according to Bezos. The light is directed downwards, and as a result, people will get the perfect amount, exactly what is needed for reading in the dark. Even with the light turned on, the battery will last 8 weeks, which is simply amazing. Physically, the new e-book weighs 7.5 ounces and measures 9.1 mm in thickness.
A new feature, called Time to Read, estimates how long will take readers to finish a chapter and the entire book, depending on the estimated reading speed. The new e-book reader also brings author biographies. Kindle Paperwhite can be preordered now for $119 or $179 for the 3G version, and will shipped on October 1. The non-touch Kindle will cost $69 and will come with ad-support.
Kindle Direct Publishing, the new service launched by Amazon today, will allow authors to publish their works directly on Amazon, thus reaching a greater number of readers and increasing their revenues. Besides the ability to keep the copyrights, the authors will get revenues 70%.
Kindle Singles and Kindle Serials allows Amazon customers to pay either for a single installment of a book or for the first one and get the other installments for free. Singles such as the ones pictured below will be available for $1.99.
Other services launched by Amazon today include Whispersync for Voice (Whispersync for audiobooks), Whispersync for Games, and X Ray for Movies, a service developed in cooperation with IMDb.