Amazon introduced not one, but four devices in New York on Wednesday, starting with three new e-readers based on the company's e-ink technology and priced at $79, $99, and $149. The clear headliner of this launch is the $199 Kindle Fire, a 7-inch color tablet device based on the Android operating system and powered by a dual-core TI OMAP4 processor, capable of streaming videos and running demanding video games. The high-res, 169-pixel-per-inch screen is said to use in-plane switching technology similar to that used by iPad, for an extra-wide viewing angle suitable for watching videos with others.
The device has an eight-hour battery life, Amazon says, but results will surely vary depending on processing demands. Web and email access is Wi-Fi only, with no 3G models at this time. It's no small consolation that Amazon's (mobile-network-based) Whispersync technology is built in, so as to encourage purchase and rental of Amazon content. That's clearly where the profit in this device will lie for Amazon.
The real story with Kindle Fire is not the hardware but the ecosystem, which includes content, cloud backup and a new Amazon Silk "split browser" that resides both on the device and in Amazon Web Services Cloud. Amazon's deep trove of content includes more than 100,000 movies and TV shows, 17 million songs, 1 million Kindle books, hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and 16,000 Android apps from the Amazon Android App store.
All content that customers purchase is automatically backed up or archived in Amazon's cloud, which is good thing since there's only 8GB on onboard memory (versus 16 to 64 GB for the iPad2, depending on the model).
[ Is Kindle Fire right for you? See Amazon Kindle Fire: 4 Key Considerations. ]
And to improve the browsing and streaming experience, the Amazon Silk browser architecture aims to radically speed performance by splitting processing workloads between the device and Amazon EC2. The number of data-request, back-and-forth hops between the Internet and the device is said to be dramatically reduced, eliminating associated delays, and optimizing browsing and streaming.
Given the Kindle Fire's display size and lack of 3G options, it's no head-on competitor to the iPad 2. But in the great big price-sensitive consumer market, a $199 ticket to a tablet-content-consumption experience will sell. That may put a big dent in demand for the 9-inch, $499 iPad (lowest-priced wifi model) competitor from Apple.
InformationWeek.com was live at the Amazon launch event, to get up close and personal with Kindle Fire. Take a look at what we learned about its case, display, browser, and more.