The long-rumored Amazon kindle tablet is finally here. The new device — which has been dubbed the Kindle Fire — is poised to take on its Android and iOS competitors this holiday season, but does it stand a chance? Let’s take a look at what the new slate has to offer and see if we can determine where it will stand when the tablet wars dust finally settles.
Amazon’s take on the consumer tablet is a bit different than what we’re used to seeing from the droves of Android slates and Apple’s iPad line. With the Kindle Fire, it’s all about Amazon. If you’re looking for high-resolution cameras and a plethora of random third-party apps, this isn’t the device for you. But if your ideal tablet experience includes seamless eBook integration and a marketplace of the best hand-picked apps available for the Android platform, you may have found the perfect device. (Check out our Kindle Fire gallery to see the device from every angle)
The Kindle Fire runs on a highly-customized version of the Android operating system. Amazon has gone to great lengths to make its tablet stand out from the rest of the Android clones on the market by tweaking the OS to its own purposes. When new updates for Android roll out to the likes of the Xoom and Galaxy Tab, the Fire will likely rely on Amazon for software upgrades.
Books, movies, and music
As any web-goer can tell you, Amazon is the one-stop shop for just about anything you could ever want to buy online. The Fire looks to capitalize on that by allowing users to easily browse the company’s collection of downloadable movies, music, and apps. If there’s one digital storefront that could challenge iTunes, it’s Amazon’s massive archive.
Users will be able to rent, buy, and preview new content right on the device. You can place your favorite titles right on your home screen for easy access or browse your entire collection via tabs on the top of the screen. The Amazon App Marketplace includes hit games like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope, as well as social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter. There are thousands of additional downloads also available, and unlike the anything-goes nature of the Android Marketplace, Amazon’s version has a bit more quality control.
As early rumors have suggested, the Kindle Fire sports a 7″ backlit display with touchscreen capabilities. There is a generous bezel surrounding the entire display, which looks like it will be a perfect place to rest your thumbs as you page through an eBook. In short, the tablet looks a lot like the BlackBerry PlayBook, and with good reason — Gdgt reports that both devices were built by the same manufacturer, with the PlayBook used as a starting point for Amazon’s tablet wishes.
Compared to the iPad’s 9.7″ screen and the new Galaxy Tab’s 10.1″ display, the Fire comes up a bit short. However, with a slightly smaller form factor comes added portability. Not everyone wants to be lugging around a 10″ tablet on their daily trip to the coffee shop, but the sleek 7″ Fire may just be small enough to grab on your way out the door.
Enter the cloud
There is also a big emphasis on using the cloud to hold much of your content. With just 8GB of internal memory, the Fire will rely heavily on non-local storage to make sure you have as much room as you need for your movies and music — and at no additional monthly cost. The launch of Amazon Cloud Drive earlier this year was the perfect precursor, and with plenty of Amazon customers already using the service, it should be easy to access all that content with just a few taps on the touchscreen.
Fire owners who use Amazon to watch movies on their TVs will be able to wirelessly sync their content and stop a show or movie on one device and pick up in the same spot on another. Netflix customers will be familiar with this concept, and while it’s certainly a convenient feature, it’s not totally groundbreaking.
The Fire will also use the cloud for web browsing. A new browser called Amazon Silk aims to make rendering web content on the go faster than ever. In a demonstration during the Amazon press event today, company CEO Jeff Bezos showcased the smooth page transitions that the new tablet can perform while browsing the web. The built-in web browser can prioritize certain aspects of a web page to optimize performance, which is great when you’re using a mobile broadband connection.
Priced to sell
Perhaps the best feature of the Kindle Fire is its almost laughably low price of $199. In an iPad-dominated world, pricing a new tablet at less than half of what Apple is charging — the base model iPad 2 is $499 — is indeed a smart move. What’s more, the Fire already has a massive body of customers comfortable and loyal to the Kindle brand name, which is something no other iPad competitor can boast.
Amazon’s new tablet will begin shipping on November 15, and it looks to be a solid contender to the iPad. If there’s anyone who can pose a threat to Apple’s dominance in the tablet market, it’s Amazon, and the Fire is the first step towards achieving that goal. A rock-bottom price and list of impressive features should serve the company well in its first true tablet outing, but we’ll have to see how consumers respond before declaring it a success.
The company has been quick to spread the word on the web, and the first Kindle Fire ad is already lighting up social networking circles.