Amazon's new line of Kindles, including the Kindle Fire, will present a significant challenge to Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Kobo and Sony's e-readers.
Amazon's Kindle Fire seems poised to make a significant play in the tablet market, where its competitors range from Apple's iPad to the growing legions of Google Android tablets.
The Kindle Fire will retail for $199.99, significantly undercutting the sticker price for virtually all the tablets currently on the market. It will link into Amazon's extensive multimedia offerings and cloud services. And it will feature Amazon Silk, an accelerated mobile browser that splits processing duties between the device and Amazon's EC2 Web services cloud.
The Kindle Fire made its debut at a Sept. 28 event in New York City, headlined by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Whether the tablet proves a significant marketplace hit-or disappears with nary a ripple-the revamped Kindles he unveiled onstage could have a significant collective effect on the e-reader market.
The three new Kindle models include the Kindle Touch ($99), Kindle 3G ($149) and a $79 Kindle e-reader. They rely on a touch interface, and also the same grayscale screen that emblemized the Kindle franchise to this point. The $79 device is available now, while the Touch and 3G will ship Nov. 21, a few days after the Kindle Fire.
Amazon's latest moves are clearly meant to complicate life for Barnes & Noble, which offers a Nook Color ($249) based on Android and a touch-based grayscale Nook reader ($139). The Kindle Fire also features an Android-based operating system.
"With three new e-ink readers ... Amazon is looking to fire a double tap to the heads of Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Sony, its major competitors in that market," Allen Weiner, an analyst with Gartner, wrote in a Sept. 28 research note. "Nor was Amazon about to let B&N take mindshare control in so-called -reader tablet' market with its $249 Nook Color... at the same time, Amazon needed to face pending efforts in the color reader tablet space from Kobo and Sony-a lethargic but potentially dangerous competitor-in this arena."
He added that the Kindle Fire "could keep B&N from becoming a global player" by thwarting the latter's talked-about plans for worldwide Nook distribution. It would also challenge Kobo, "which has set up a number of international distribution agreements," and "put a major dent in any plans Sony-a global player-would have in this market."
Looks like the e-reader market is due to become a little more cutthroat.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.