Home Your Tech Mobility Will Amazon's Kindle Fire fire up the tablet market?

Will Amazon's Kindle Fire fire up the tablet market?

Amazon's much-rumoured tablet has been announced. The Kindle Fire is an aggressively priced 7in colour device with a new approach to web browsing.

A revamp of Amazon's Kindle range includes the introduction of the Kindle Fire. Featuring a 7in multi-touch IPS display, the Kindle Fire weighs just over 400g.


One shortcoming that may be a deal breaker for some potential buyers is that (at least in its initial version) the Kindle Fire is a Wi-Fi only device with no provision for 3G connectivity. On the upside, it does have more memory than other Kindles - the 8GB of storage is enough for 80 apps plus either 10 movies, 800 songs or 6000 books, company officials claimed.

All content from Amazon can be redownloaded at any time. Kindle Fire includes one month's Amazon Prime membership (usually $US79 per year), giving streaming access to more than 11,000 movies and TV shows, among other benefits. Since a one month free trial is available anyway, it is questionable whether it should be considered part of the Kindle Fire package.

The new device also extends Whispersync to video content, so if you don't reach the end of a movie during a flight, when you get home you can pick up where you left off using a compatible TV, set-top box, Blu-ray player, or computer (Windows or Mac).

As for apps, Amazon will offer "All the most popular Android apps and games, such as Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, Cut the Rope and more", all tested on the Kindle Fire by the company. To encourage frequent visits to its app store, there will be a new free paid app every day.

Page 2: Silk browser offloads work to EC2.

The Kindle Fire runs the new Amazon Silk browser. Unlike other browsers, Silk moves some of the workload into the cloud.

The processing of each page request is dynamically distributed between the Kindle Fire and Amazon EC2, the company's cloud computing system. Company officials say this "split browser" approach helps deliver complex web pages faster and with less drain on the device's battery.

Since EC2 is connected to the Internet's backbone, the EC2 servers can retrieve content with less latency, which is especially important when page elements must be loaded serially. EC2 servers also have more processing power than a mobile device.

The portion of Silk that runs on EC2 also 'learns' the characteristics of pages, enabling it to start sending content that makes up a requested page before the device knows it needs those files. Silk also learns from user habits to preload the page that users are most likely to visit next. An example provided by Amazon is that if 85% of visitors to a certain news site click on that site's top headline, Silk can make an intelligent decision about pre-loading that page.

The Kindle Fire costs $US199 and is set to ship on November 15. Pre-orders are only being accepted from US customers.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO, said "Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we've been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers. With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, the convenience of Amazon Whispersync, our revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser, the speed and power of a state-of-the-art dual-core processor, a vibrant touch display with 16 million colours in high resolution, and a light 14.6 ounce design that's easy to hold with one hand - all for only $US199. We're offering premium products, and we're doing it at non-premium prices."

Page 3: More new Kindles.

In related news, Amazon has refreshed other parts of its Kindle lineup.

The latest version of the basic Kindle is 18% smaller and 30% lighter than its predecessor, while retaining the same 6in eInk display. The price is $US79.

The new Kindle Touch adds multi-touch operation to the 6in eInk display, is marginally larger and heavier than the basic model, and can play audiobooks. Due to ship on November 21, it will be available in Wi-Fi only ($US99) and Wi-Fi plus 3G ($US149) versions.

The low prices of the Kindle and Kindle Touch are partly due to a subsidy from special offers and sponsored screensavers. Without those, the prices are $US109, $US139 and $US189 respectively.



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.