After months of hype, Amazon today announced the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet with a $199 price tag. Amazon also refreshed its line of e-readers with a $149 Kindle Touch 3G, a $99 Kindle Touch without 3G, and a non-touch $79 Kindle.
The pricing alone is sure to spook both Apple and Barnes & Noble. Here are the details on the Amazon Kindle Fire and the new Kindle e-readers.
Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet
The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch IPS display with 1024-by-600-pixel resolution, plus a dual-core processor and 8GB of storage; it promises 7.5 hours of video playback. While the Fire has a USB port for file transfers, it offers neither a camera nor a microphone. The tablet measures 7.5 by 4.7 by 0.45 inches, and weighs 14.6 ounces.
But this tablet isn't supposed to be about tech specs--it's meant to be a dead-simple slate for consuming Amazon content. At the top, the interface has a search bar that can search locally, in the cloud, and on the Web. Below that is a strip of content categories, followed by a stylized list of recent content. On the bottom of the screen, users can pin their favorite apps, books, and other media.
Amazon's digital storefronts include ebooks, movies, TV shows, music, and apps. Several magazine publishers are bringing their periodicals to the tablet as well. Although the Kindle Fire doesn't offer much internal storage, users may store any purchased-from-Amazon content in cloud storage for free. Amazon made no mention of Google services, so don't expect Google Maps or the Android Market to be built in.
Although the tablet is based on Android and runs Android apps, it uses a heavily modified version of the operating system that focuses more on simplicity than on advanced features.
For browsing the Web, the Kindle Fire uses a new browser called "Amazon Silk," which taps Amazon's cloud computing services to render pages faster. An email app is also built in, with support for multiple mail services in a single inbox.
Amazon says the Silk browser resides both on the Fire and on its own servers. For each page request, Silk divvies up the work between the tablet and the cloud. The result, according to Amazon, is quicker page loads and lower latency.
The Kindle Fire costs $199, including a free month of Amazon Prime, and ships November 15. Amazon is taking preorders on its website.
New Kindle E-Readers
Amazon is not abandoning its E-Ink readers with today's tablet announcement: The company also announced new Kindles along with the Kindle Fire tablet.
The Kindle Touch uses the same infrared touch system found in Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's touchscreen e-readers. With this Kindle model, Amazon is touting what it calls the "EasyReach" system, which lets users tap a short horizontal strip along the top of the screen to call up the menu, touch a narrow vertical strip along the left side to go back one page, or tap anywhere on the rest of the screen to go to the next page.
The Kindle Touch will cost $99 with Special Offers--a service that displays ads and deals on the device's home page--and $139 without them. A 3G model will cost $149. Amazon is taking preorders now, ahead of the November 21 ship date.
Related Slideshow: Meet Amazon's Four New Kindles
In addition to the touchscreen Kindle, Amazon will launch a non-touch Kindle with Special Offers for $79. This model drops the physical keyboard of previous Kindles in favor of a small set of buttons on the bottom bezel, along with the usual left and right bezel buttons for page turns. Amazon says this model is 30 percent lighter than previous Kindles. Without Special Offers, this Kindle costs $109. Both versions ship today.
Video: Amazon Unveils Kindle Fire Tablet, New E-Readers