Tonight was always going to be a big night for Amazon, but it turned into a pretty big night for UK consumers too.
The American retailer finally gifted us its Kindle Fire tablet, with the brand new 7in Kindle Fire HD set to hit our shores on 25 October, alongside an updated version of the original Kindle Fire. The computer tablet version of the famous e-reader was launched in the US just under a year ago, but the silence regarding a possible UK launch had been deafening.
So deafening, that some thought it would never arrive. With quarter one and two sales slowing for the Kindle Fire in the States, analysts thought Amazon may shirk the European challenge and focus on living with the stiff competition on home soil first.
But unless analysts opt to state the absolutely bleeding obvious, which they often do, their predictions can be well wide of the mark, as Amazon proved emphatically this evening. Sceptics felt the arrival of the Google Nexus 7 along with the new iPad this year would deter the US firm, but the very characteristics and pricing structures of the tablets unveiled tonight show Amazon is boldly setting out to make the tablet market its own.
The 7in Kindle Fire HD looks the popular Nexus 7 straight in the eye. The same-size screens both sport 1,280x800 pixels, but Amazon is claiming a “more advanced”, reduced-glare display, not to mention the “fastest Wi-Fi on a tablet” thanks to a first in ‘dual-antenna’ for increased bandwidth. Moreover, it’s undercut the 16GB Nexus 7 model by £40, with the 16GB Kindle Fire HD priced just £159.00. Spending that much only gets you the 8GB version of the Nexus 7. Piling more pressure on Google is the 32GB version of the Fire, doubling the memory capacity of the top Nexus 7 and coming in at just £199.
Considering the most remarkable aspect of the Google tablet launch this year was the low-end pricing, Amazon has pulled the proverbial rabbit out the hat with the costs of the 7in Fire. The retailer must be hopeful those pre-orders are already flying in ahead of the 25 October release.
Not content with making a scene in the 7in market, Amazon is making its move on the big boys too. Big in size and also big in clout, as the all-conquering iPad is challenged by the new 8.9in Kindle Fire HD – though only in the US for the time being. A glance at display specs sees the Fire's 1920x1200 resolution slightly behind the 2048x1536 on Apple’s larger 9.7in offering. But with the 32GB edition of this Fire priced just $369 compared to the $599 tag on the latest iPad, the latter will have to be thrashing the Fire all over the park to stop people considering a move to this well-priced alternative. Other specs, including its 1.5GHz dual-core processor and intriguing Dolby stereo speakers, suggest the Fire will not just be a cheap imitation either.
Amazon rounded off tonight’s proceedings with a flourish. Also hitting America is the 8.9in Kindle Fire with 4G LTE connectivity. Priced at $499, the device is bound to cause a stir in the 4G-ready US, especially as Amazon has stayed true to the value theme by offering a $49.99 a year price-plan for 250MB data per month, 20 GB of additional Cloud Drive storage, and a $10 Amazon Appstore promotional credit. With the UK’s much delayed 4G rollout due this month, 4G LTE products now warrant a bit more attention in our tech circles, and Brits will be hoping Amazon is planning a similar launch over here soon.
Before all the Kindle Fire news stole the show, Amazon also announced it was launching a new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. The front-lit, super-thin and super-light device is also limited to the States for now, but going by the company’s general strategy, this should eventually be available in the UK too.
It seems Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was in a buoyant, even bullish mood in California tonight. We often talk of companies 'raising the stakes' in various markets, but an early look at Amazon's offerings suggests such language is not mere hyperbole in this instance.
Happy to reference rivals, Bezos argued that Android tablets are floundering at present because they're gadgets, and people don't want gadgets. "They want services," he said. Bezos considers the Kindle Fire to be a service. As well as greeting you by name, it comes with pre-loaded content, makes recommendations, and stores everything in the cloud. What’s more, Amazon already has a multi-faceted ecosystem, and an untouchably extensive library of music, books, videos and more, which can really deliver that ‘service’. This could well be the trump card of Amazon’s renewed assault on the tablet market.
Needless to say, performance will be the true decider of the new Kindle Fires’ fate. Though ITProPortal will be sure to analyse all the new features and delve into the nitty-gritty of specs comparison with rival tablets soon enough, so we can assess just how much of a game-changer this new range will be come October.