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Amazon Kindle Fire

 Amazon Kindle Fire Available now (US), 2012 (Elsewhere)
29th September 2011

The Amazon Kindle Fire forms part of Amazon's brand new family of Kindle devices announced today. But what sets the Kindle Fire apart from those other simple e-book readers is that this is an Android tablet with a 7" full colour display.

Tablets are getting pretty common these days, but even the best of them don't seem to be able to compete with the all-conquering Apple iPad series. It seems that no matter how good your tablet is, going head-to-head with Apple never seems to work.

Amazon's approach is different. They're not really interested in the hardware, they're interested in the services and products that you can buy with the hardware. Just as one of Apple's key selling points with the iPad is iTunes and the music, books and movies you can buy from there, Amazon has the Kindle store which is mainly e-books at the moment, but will surely evolve over time. In the US, Amazon has about three quarters of the e-book market.. so the customer base is already there.

A quick look at the hardware is probably in order. The Kindle Fire has a 7" 600 x 1024 pixel display, it has 8GB of internal flash memory (with a cloud backup service for Amazon content), and it supports 802.11b, g and n WiFi. The battery is quoted as giving up to 8 hours of reading time or 7.5 hours of video playback with the WiFi switched off. There is also a USB connector and a 3.5mm audio socket, although the Kindle Fire does not support cellular connections or come with a camera.

 Amazon Kindle Fire The Amazon Kindle Fire has a heavily customised version of Android. The user interface is Amazon's own design, and it looks very different from a run-of-the-mill Android tablet. The Kindle Fire can read a variety of e-book formats and document types, and it plays back most major music formats. Streaming TV shows and movies can be downloaded directly from Amazon, and Amazon Prime members can get free access to 10,000 of the 100,000 titles in the Kindle video library.

One neat trick that Amazon have done is to build in web acceleration, using a combination of Amazon's cloud services and the processing power of the Kindle Fire itself using a new browser called Amazon Silk. There's also an email client and we guess quite a few other built-in applications. When it comes to apps, Amazon appear to have their own market of pre-tested applications including the all-important Angry Birds. We suspect that you will only be able to install from Amazon's own application library, rather than the standard Android market.

One key feature is price. The Amazon Kindle Fire costs $199 in the US, the cheapest iPad 2 is about $470. Even the cheapest Samsung Galaxy Tab is $300. Admittedly, the iPad 2 is a more powerful device, but it looks like Amazon are subsidising the Kindle Fire significantly and it looks like very good value indeed. And at this price, it also looks like an interesting candidate for rooting and converting to something like Cyanogenmod.

The Kindle Fire isn't meant to replace the existing Kindle, and indeed Amazon have launched a whole new range of e-book readers to complement it. The Kindle Keyboard (the reader most people are familiar with) may be much more basic than the Kindle Fire, but it is almost half the weight and has a battery life measured in months. Of course, you can still read Kindle books on your smartphone and PC as well.

In the US, the Amazon Kindle Fire will be available from November 15th onwards. There's no word on availability in Europe, although we are certain that Amazon will sell it in markets other than the US. We suspect that the Kindle Fire will sell in very large numbers when it is released, and that at last Apple has some serious competition in the tablet market.

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Amazon Kindle Fire at a glance

Available:

Q4 2011 (US)

Network:

None

Data:

WiFi

Screen:

7" 600 x 1024 pixels

Camera:

None

Size:

Medium tablet
190 x 120 x 11mm / 413 grams
7.5" x 4.7" x 0.45" / 14.6 ounces

Bluetooth:

No

Memory card:

None (8GB internal)

Infra-red:

No

Polyphonic:

Not applicable

Java:

No

GPS:

Not specified

OS:

Android + custom interface

Battery life:

8 hours reading / 7.5 hours video playback

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