Via Tech Crunch, easily the biggest news to hit the tech market since Apple rolled out its latest thingamajig.
The Kindle Fire marks a significant departure from Amazon’s norm. The most notable change is obviously the multitouch 7-inch LCD rather than an e-ink display, but moreover, the Kindle Fire is a complete storefront for the retailer rather than just an ereader. The tablet features apps for Amazon’s Android Appstore, Kindle store, Amazon MP3, and Prime Instant Video. Nearly all of Amazon’s recent news, Amazon Cloud Player, Amazon Cloud Drive, Kindle Cloud Reader, the streaming deals with Fox and NBCUniversal, were in preparation for the Fire. With these cloud services in place, the Kindle Fire is a legitimate iPad competitor.
But it’s more than just Amazon apps. Users are free to load apps from Amazon’s Android Appstore including Pandora, Twitter, Facebook, and, most notably, Netflix.
The Fire runs a custom OS build that completely hides its Android 2.x underpinnings. Amazon built, without the help of Google we’re told, an experience centered around all of Amazon’s retail and cloud services. This is an Amazon tablet and not just a Kindle.
No camera, no mic, no 3G, and the screen’s smaller than the iPad’s, but — it retails at just $199, fully $300 less than the iPad, and that comes with a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime. It also comes with a proprietary browser called Amazon Silk, which apparently makes surfing much quicker by outsourcing some of the process to Amazon’s servers rather than doing it all inside the device. Jeff Bezos claims that they’re not selling the Fire at a loss, as many expected they would with an eye to making back the lost revenue via the resulting spike in Amazon media sales. I’m not sure I believe that, but maybe that’s just the Apple fanboy in me talking. If Amazon’s capable of cranking these things out and earning a profit on each one at $199, hoo boy.
Normally this is the point in our gadget posts where I ask why someone would buy this. In this case, I’m wondering why someone wouldn’t buy it. All I use my iPad for, really, is Twitter, e-mail, a little reading, and the occasional game, all of which the Fire seems more than capable of handling. If you’re constantly on the go then the lack of 3G is a problem, but if you typically use your iPad as a lying-around-the-house device, why not buy this instead and apply the $300 in savings to media purchases? In fact, precisely because Amazon’s brand is so strongly associated with retail shopping of all sorts, I bet they’ll see a surge in their storefront revenue even above and beyond what they’re expecting to gain from new customers via sales of the Fire. Why go to Target when Bezos has already reeled you in with free shipping via Amazon Prime? Just order everything through your new omni-device and never get off the couch. Exit question: What now, Apple?