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Amazon introduces its tablet computer, the Kindle Fire

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos introduces Amazon’s $199 tablet, the Kindle Fire, in New York City on Wednesday.

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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos introduces Amazon’s $199 tablet, the Kindle Fire, in New York City on Wednesday.

NEW YORK — Amazon is taking on the untouchable iPad with a touch-screen tablet of its own.

The company on Wednesday introduced its entry in the rapidly expanding market for handheld computers — a device called Kindle Fire that connects to the Web, streams movies and TV, displays e-books and supports thousands of apps.

It's half the size of an iPad and will be less than half the price when it goes on sale Nov. 15. Of course, competing with the iPad won't be as easy as swiping a finger.

Analysts at research firm Gartner Inc. say three of every four tablets sold this year will be iPads. Apple sold almost 29 million of them from April 2010 through June of this year.

Amazon sells more than 1 million e-books, 100,000 movies and TV shows, and 17 million songs. It hopes it will succeed where other companies have failed because the tablet is designed to tap into Amazon's massive storehouse of media content.

"The reason they haven't been successful is because they made tablets. They didn't make services," CEO Jeff Bezos said.

Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a New York media event that was stage-managed much the same way Apple choreographs its product launches. He walked a stage extolling the product while technology sites live-blogged the event.

The CEO also introduced three versions of its popular Kindle e-reader, all with black-and-white screens — a basic model for $79, a touch-screen version for $99 and a touch-screen with 3G wireless service for $149.

Those devices will further pressure competitors like Barnes & Noble as they try to break Amazon's dominance in electronic book sales.

The Kindle Fire's size, with a screen that measures 7 inches diagonal, makes it a close match to Barnes & Noble's Nook Color tablet, which came out last year. But while Barnes & Noble sees the Nook Color as jazzed-up e-reader, Amazon has broader goals for the Fire as a platform for games, movies, music and other applications.

All that content makes the Fire the only credible competitor to the iPad this year, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"In theory, Sony could do something similar, but they haven't, and it doesn't look like they will," she said. "They have a tablet, but they only went halfway on the services."

Epps thinks Amazon could sell as many as 5 million Fires by the end of the year but will probably sell closer to 3 million because it's coming out so late.

The Fire will run a version of Google's Android software, used by other iPad wanna-bes, and will have access to apps through Amazon's Android store. It will not have a camera, as practically every competing tablet does. Bezos said the camera would be superfluous, since practically everyone has one in their phone anyway.

Bezos said he doesn't see the Fire as eventually replacing the Kindles.

"What will happen is people will buy both. Because they're really for different purposes," he said.

iPad vs. Fire

A look at some of the major differences between Amazon's just-announced tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, and Apple's popular iPad:

Price: The Kindle Fire, which connects to the Web over WiFi networks, will cost $199. The iPad costs $499-$829, depending on storage capacity and wireless capabilities.

Screen size: The Kindle Fire's display measures 7 inches at the diagonal, while the iPad has a 9.7-inch display.

Software: The Fire runs Google's Android software. The iPad uses Apple's iOS software.

Storage: The Kindle Fire includes 8 gigabytes of internal storage, and free Web-based storage for any digital content from Amazon, such as Kindle e-books, movies or music. The iPad includes between 16 gigabytes and 64 GB of storage space, depending on price.

Weight: The Kindle Fire is 14.6 ounces, while the iPad weighs about 21 ounces.

Apps: Kindle Fire users will have built-in access to the Amazon Appstore, which includes thousands of free and paid games and apps. Apple currently offers more than 425,000 free and paid games and apps in its online App Store — more than 100,000 of which are tailored specifically for the iPad.

Camera: While the iPad has front and rear cameras for taking photos and video chatting, the Kindle Fire does not include a camera.

iPad vs. Fire

A look at some differences between Amazon's just-announced tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, and Apple's popular iPad:

Price: The Kindle Fire, which connects to the Web over WiFi networks, will cost $199. The iPad costs $499-$829, depending on storage capacity and wireless capabilities.

Screen size: The Kindle Fire's display measures 7 inches at the diagonal, while the iPad has a 9.7-inch display.

Software: The Fire runs Google's Android software. The iPad uses Apple's iOS software.

Weight: The Kindle Fire is 14.6 ounces; the iPad about 21.

Apps: Kindle Fire users will have built-in access to the Amazon Appstore, which includes thousands of free and paid games and apps. Apple currently offers more than 425,000 free and paid games and apps in its online App Store — more than 100,000 of which are tailored specifically for the iPad.

Camera: The iPad has front and rear cameras for taking photos and video chatting; the Kindle Fire does not include a camera.

Storage: The Kindle Fire includes 8 gigabytes of internal storage, and free Web-based storage for any digital content from Amazon, such as Kindle e-books, movies or music. The iPad includes 16 gigabytes to 64 GB of storage space, depending on price.

Amazon introduces its tablet computer, the Kindle Fire 09/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 9:00pm]
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