In what amounted to Amazon's biggest and most strategic connected-device announcement in its 18-year history, the online retailer and Web services provider Sept. 6 unveiled and demonstrated three new versions of its popular Kindle tablet PC.
- an 8.9-inch high-definition Kindle Fire with 4G connectivity, 32GB of storage and a bold new $49.99-per-year data services plan;
- a 7-inch Kindle Fire with double RAM, a faster processor and longer battery life; and
- a backlit Kindle e-reader featuring what Amazon calls a Paperwhite display that enables users to read in the dark.
Each of the three devices is available for order starting today (Sept. 6) from the Amazon Website. The Kindle Fire HD will begin shipping Nov. 20. The 7-inch Kindle Fire and the Paperwhite e-reader will ship Sept. 14.
Amazon is being aggressive with pricing, with the top-end Kindle Fire HD selling for $499, in contrast to $729 for a comparable iPad; $159 for the 7-inch Kindle Fire; $199 for a Google Nexus 7 and $69 for the new e-reader.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who made all the announcements at a media event in Los Angeles, claimed that a Kindle Fire HD and a one-year data plan will cost about half of what a comparable Apple iPad and its own plan will cost.
"An iPad 3 costs $729 for the device. A 12-month data plan, with 250MB worth of downloads per month, 20GB of cloud storage and a $10 App Store credit, will cost $230, for a total of $959. Our Kindle Fire HD costs $499 for the device, and the comparable service package is $50 per year, for a total of $549," Bezos said.
Amazon 'Spooked' by Nexus 7?
Regarding the 7-inch Kindle Fire, "Amazon is clearly spooked by Google's Nexus 7 coming in at $200 for a much more capable device, and it's upped its own hardware specs while reducing the price to $159, which is clearly an attempt to keep it somewhat attractive in the face of that new competition from Google and Asus," Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, remarked in a media advisory following the launch event.
About the Paperwhite, Dawson wrote that "the new pure e-readers reaffirm Amazon as the clear leader in this space. The $69 price point for the basic Kindle is unbeatable, and the Paperwhite devices are now the best-in-class for backlit e-readers. There's no-one else that does these things this well, this cheaply."
The Kindle Paperwhite comes with a lighted display with what Amazon describes as "much better contrast" than previous Kindles. The display is lit by a bulb located on the top that shines down the display.
Amazon is claiming that the device--thanks to power-efficient processors supplied by Intel--will have eight weeks of battery life, even when the light is turned on. The reader still has its sharp display with no glare from a glossy screen, Bezos said.