Microsoft announced the debut of "Kindle for PC," a free application for reading Kindle e-books on PCs, during the Oct. 22 launch of its Windows 7 operating system.
In addition to displaying Kindle e-books on desktops and laptops, the application also allows users to download Kindle books from Amazon.com's Kindle Store. In addition to proprietary Kindle e-readers and PCs, users can also access their books on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
News of the Kindle application was announced during the Windows 7 launch event in New York City. Headlined by Steve Ballmer, the event was designed to emphasize both Windows 7 and Microsoft's full-throated embrasure of its "three screens and a cloud" strategy, in which its operating system powers a variety of devices-smartphones, televisions and PCs-whose data is stored in the cloud.
Windows 7 also includes touch-screen functionality that comes into play with the Kindle app, with users able to navigate through pages by swiping the screen, as well as zoom in and out with a finger-pinching motion. In a bit of cloud-synchronization technology, bookmarks saved on Kindle e-books being read on the PC will transfer onto a Kindle device, as will the automatic forwarding to the last page read.
Much of that functionality, although likely in development for weeks and months, seems a direct counter to the functionality in a new e-reader, the Nook, being produced by Barnes & Noble. Announced on Oct. 20 in a New York City event, the Nook also allows e-books from its online store to be ported from its proprietary e-reader onto other devices, and lets users transfer their bookmarks between devices.
Perhaps in response to the Nook, Amazon.com chopped the price of its Kindle device by another $20. Now $259, the device can download books in the U.S. and 100 other countries through a built-in AT&T 3G wireless connection.
In the same motion, Amazon.com also eliminated a U.S.-downloads-only version of the device that it had previously been selling at that $259 price point. Amazon now markets the Kindle and the $489 Kindle DX, which features a 9.7-inch screen in contrast to the original Kindle's 6-inch, and is still only capable of downloading within the U.S.
That price-lowering, combined with the new Kindle PC app, suggests that Amazon.com sees the Barnes & Noble device as yet another competitive threat in the increasingly crowded e-reader space.