The move intensifies Amazon's competition with Google, which launched its own 7" tablet, the $199 Asus-made Nexus 7, in July, and with other platform owners like Apple and Microsoft, both of which are also bringing new tablets to market.
Noting that there were more than two dozen Android tablets that "nobody bought" last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos proposed a different approach. "People don't want gadgets anymore," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "They want services that improve over time."
It might be more apt to say that companies don't want to sell commoditized gadgets anymore. They want a relationship with customers, access to their data stream, and the predictable revenue stream arising from platform lock-in. Software as a service has shifted to hardware as a service because hardware can limit the presence of competing software.
Or as Bezos put it, "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices."
[ But how successful was the original? Read Amazon Kindle Fire: Total Number Sold Remains Mystery. ]
Amazon's Kindle paperwhite lists for $119, or $179 with optional free 3G Whispernet connectivity, and is scheduled to ship on October 1. The new basic Kindle model now lists for $69, $10 less than previously, and is scheduled to ship on September 14.
The Kindle paperwhite, an upgrade to Amazon's Kindle Touch line, features 25% more contrast, 62% more pixels (212ppi), and a standby battery life of 8 weeks.
The updated 7" Kindle Fire lists for $159 and ships on September 14. It boasts twice as much RAM as its predecessor and 40% faster performance, according to Amazon.
The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD lists for $299 and is scheduled to ship on November 20. It boasts 1920 x 1200 resolution, a TI OMAP 4470 processor, a built-in camera, dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus, HDMI out, and 16 GB of storage.
A second model, the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE, comes with 32 GB, at a cost of $499, plus a $50/year data plan that offers 250MB/month.
Bezos says the Kindle Fire HD is the first tablet with MIMO (multiple in, multiple out), a way to use multiple antennas for faster WiFi.
In addition, Amazon has enhanced the Kindle Fire with features like parental controls, support for multiple user profiles, and Microsoft Exchange support.
Amazon last week said that the first version of its Kindle Fire tablet, available since November, 2011, had sold out, and accounted for 22% of U.S. tablet sales during the past three quarters. Research firm IDC estimated that Amazon had sold about 6.7 million Kindle Fire devices during this period.