Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Breaks Tablet Ground

Third-generation Kindle sports a Mayday button, to call for tech support.
Three storage configurations -- 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB -- are available. Support for 4G LTE wireless networks is also an option. The 7-inch model is available with or without a front-facing HD camera. The 8.9-inch model comes with a front-facing HD camera and with or without a rear-facing 8MP camera.

Amazon claims the Kindle Fire HDX's battery lasts for up to 11 hours of mixed use or 17 hours of reading. It notes that the 8.9-inch model weighs 13.2 ounces, making it 34% lighter than its predecessor. The email and calendar apps have been revised, as has Amazon's Silk browser. The device has also been made more business friendly with support for hardware- and software-based encryption, Kerberos Intranet, secure Wi-Fi connections, VPN integration and wireless printing.

Prices range from $139 to $579, depending on options.

The Kindle Fire HDX runs on a version of Android that Amazon has taken to calling Fire OS 3.0, although there doesn't appear to have ever been a public Fire OS release from Amazon designated 1.0 or 2.0. The operating system even has its own codename, "Mojito," not to be confused with Yahoo's JavaScript framework called "Mojito."

Amazon Kindle VP Dave Limp says what makes Fire OS different as a platform is its focus on making customers' recently viewed content and media libraries immediately accessible on the home screen and its integration of Amazon services such as the Mayday button, Second Screen and X-Ray for Movies, TV and Music. Nonetheless, it's not too different: Mike George, VP of Amazon's Appstore insists developers can adapt their Android apps to Fire OS "with little to no work."

Even so, comparatively few developers have undertaken the ostensibly minor chore of making their Android apps available on the Amazon Appstore: Google Play has about 600,000 apps compared to over 100,000 in the Amazon Appstore. Yet, in revenue, Amazon's Appstore is far closer to Google Play than can be measured in app counts. Metrics firm Distimo said in April that the top 200 paid apps in Google Play during the month of March earned $5.1 million, compared to $3 million for the top 200 paid apps in the Amazon Appstore.

Amazon is now accepting orders for its new devices. The 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX is scheduled to ship Nov. 14. The 8.9-inch model will ship Dec. 10.

9/26: Corrected Appstore figures

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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