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The Lowdown: Amazon Announces Kindle Fire Tablet; Kindle Touch E-Book Reader

At yesterday’s press event, Amazon not just announced new iterations of its Kindle E-Book reader, but also a new tablet customized for content consumption through its integration with Amazon’s content eco-system. Ever since Amazon announced plans to introduce an Android tablet, a portion of gadget enthusiasts as well as the tech press had considered it the only potential iPad killer owing to Amazon’s content eco-system, which is already mature, albeit only in the First World. Here’s a lowdown of the announcements that Amazon made during the launch event of its Kindle Fire Tablet:

– Kindle Fire: The Kindle Fire is a 7 inch tablet, equipped with a colour IPS screen, unlike its e-book readers which feature an e-ink display. It is powered by a 1GHz Dual-Core processor, and is Wi-Fi only and does not support 3G connectivity. The Fire runs a heavily customized version of Google’s Android operating system and features deep integration with Amazon’s E-Books and Music stores and Video streaming service. Although, it can run Android applications, it does not ship with Google’s Android Market app store and instead offers Amazon’s own App Store. Amazon also announced a Newsstand with 100 exclusive graphic novels” from DC Entertainment in addition to magazines and newspapers, in Fire-optimized form, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Wired, The New Yorker, and others.

The tablet’s internal memory is also limited to 8GB, as Amazon offers free storage for all purchased content on its cloud servers. The Fire’s Silk Web Browser processes web pages on Amazon servers to deliver a faster web browsing experience on the device. Amazon has priced the Fire attractively at $199, and the device will start shipping 15th November onwards. Sadly, for the time being, its US only.

Our Take: While the Kindle Fire appears to be a great content-consumption device, a majority of content including Amazon’s Video streaming service, Amazon Prime, music downloads and even App Store(although there have been reports that it was working in India) is US only. E-Books, which Amazon picked up to create an entire eco-system surrounding them are available in India, in addition to periodicals. But then, Amazon has apps which are available on smart phones and tablets including on the Apple iPad and Android based Tabs. So unless other services make way to India, which is a bit difficult owing to our small market size and regional licensing issues, it will make more sense to go for a multi-utility tablet such as the iPad. Of course, the price point of the device makes it an attractive proposition, since Samsung’s 7inch Gingerbread Galaxy Tab still costs more than Rs 20,000, and the iPad starts at Rs 29,500. But then the Kindle Fire is not available officially anywhere else except the US.

– Kindle and Kindle Touch: Amazon also introduced a $99 touch-screen enabled Kindle, with an E-ink display, running on Amazon’s own proprietary OS. The cost has been subsidized by introducing “special offer” ads from Amazon’s partners. However, this is also a US only product for the time being. The reader has Wifi connectivity inbuilt, however, a 3G version is also available for $149.

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The regular non-touch screen Kindle is now priced at $79, and also comes with “special offers” ads, which are displayed as screen savers or on the Kindle’s home screen. This is the only version of Kindle which ships to non-US markets. Buyers will need to pay extra to get ad-free Kindles. This is a Wi-Fi only device and does not support 3G connectivity.

Our Take: There is no doubt that Amazon has an advantage over other players in terms of E-books. The Kindle has a large fan-base and users who don’t want to use LED backlit screens for e-books will continue to remain loyal. The touch-screen was a much desired feature. We feel that the touch Kindle will be introduced at a later time internationally, since Amazon would be looking to meet the elevated demand in the US, with the holiday season approaching.

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