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Gadgets & Gizmos

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Amazon announces new Kindles including color Kindle Fire for $199

28

September

Amazon announced a trio of new Kindles on Wednesday in New York, verifying rumors about their flagship color Kindle Fire tablet while adding some surprises both in their product line and pricing structure for the popular devices.

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The Kindle Fire is a 7-inch, Android-based color tablet with a multi-touch display and WiFi. Running on a dual-core processor it's designed for multimedia content including music, games, and videos. Designed to access the content on Amazon's site, it also provides access to the Amazon Appstore with thousands of available Android apps. With 8GB of storage it's rated to hold up to 80 apps plus either 10 movies, 800 songs or 6,000 books. It utilizes the new Amazon Silk web browser that renders graphics elements in the cloud for faster page loads and web browsing with support for Flash content.

ko-aag-screen._v166971923_.jpgCompletely wireless (WiFi connection needed) the Kindle Fire does not need access to a computer to remain in sync. Using Amazon's Whispersync technology the device automatically syncs your library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, highlights and videos across multiple devices. Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours for reading and 7.5 hours for video playback. It includes to speakers and a headphone jack but does not have cameras or a microphone. Overall dimensions are 7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" and it Weighs just 14.6 ounces. It's available for pre-order now at $199 and is scheduled to ship on November 15.

Two additional Kindles, the Kindle Touch and the new Kindle, also were announced to round out Amazon's lineup.

The Kindle Touch is a multi-touch version of the popular E Ink reader in a new design that's 11 percent smaller and 8 percent lighter. With 4GB of storage you can store up to 3,000 books. It comes with WiFi only for $139 and with WiFi and 3G for $189. During the announcement prices of $99 and $149 were touted, respectively, for the Kindle Touch devices but those prices are for the units with "Special Offers" (translation: ads). That was pretty misleading on their part.

kw-slate-05-lg._v166788135_.jpgSome new features were introduced with the Kindle Touch. The X-Ray feature is an advanced content look-up system provides additional context for passages across a book with detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari. EasyReach is a new page-turning system that allows you to turn pages with either hand simply by tapping the screen. And the Kindle system now allows you to borrow books from your public library. You can order the Kindle Touch models now and they will begin shipping on November 21.

The new Kindle also was announced and at 6.5" x 4.5" x 0.34" and just 5.98 ounces, it's reported to be the smallest and lightest Kindle made to date. It's a basic e-reader with no touchscreen, simple page-turn buttons and a 5-way controller for screen navigation. It lacks the premium features of the Kindle Touch, like X-Ray Read-to-Me, so this is the one to get if all you want to do is read books. It has 2GB of storage which is said to hold 1,400 books. The Kindle is only available as a WiFI device and it's available now for $109 ($79 with ads).

kt-slate-04-lg._v166940139_.jpgThis is a strong lineup of devices and they are bound to be extremely popular going into the holiday season. The Kindle brand is very strong and commands a lot of loyalty from its customers, even in the face of so many choices. At $199 the Kindle Fire is poised to tap into a market that isn't quite ready for the expense of an iPad or full Android tablet but instead wants something for light web surfing and multimedia content. With Amazon's continuing efforts to deepen their inventory of online content, this is a natural fit and as long as the Kindle Fire performs well from a hardware standpoint, it will do well. The other Kindles will likely attract up-graders and also will attract new customers who were waiting for a touch-based e-reader.

With that said, the Kindle Fire is not the iPad killer that some have predicted. And honestly it's not an Android tablet killer either because the regular Android tablets are doing that to themselves. But that's OK, because it really wasn't intended to be either of those things (although the Barnes and Noble Nook Color should be looking for cross hairs about now). Had it been released as a full-blown Android tablet with access to Gingerbread, at $199 it would be a game-changer. In making it more proprietary Amazon is adding their own game, designing the Kindle Fire to attract a different audience with the hopes that the device will be the ticket to the purchase of a lot of their popcorn. Sure, people will hack it and make it an Android, but most people just don't want to bother with that.

With no new iPad coming out before the holidays I wouldn't be surprised to see Kindle Fire sales outpace the iPad in the short run. If you want one I would order it now because it's going to be the hot ticket for the bow and wrapping paper season.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 2:25pm]

    

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