updated 09:55 am EDT, Wed September 28, 2011
Amazon Kindle Fire confirmed early
Amazon officially if partially entered the tablet arena on Wednesday by launching the Kindle Fire. The seven-inch tablet uses a heavily customized version of Android 2.1 and is a showcase for Amazon Prime, Amazon MP3, Cloud Player, and now much more optimized magazines on the Kindle bookstore with a newsstand for titles from Condé Nast, Hearst, and Meredith. The $79 Prime subscription gets the usual free two-day shipping as well as unlimited access to Amazon Internet video; a 30-day trial comes with the sale.
Using a heavily modified Android build, which uses a "bookshelf" metaphor for organizing content based on recent items, keeps the tablet out of using Google apps. It's partly made up for through the Amazon Appstore, which will have key apps like Angry Birds or Pulse's newsreader. A web browser, Silk, is now much more prominent and is joined by a universal search that looks for both all content the owner has access to as well as the web. It even predictively load upcoming pages, much like Google Instant, and optimizes content to speed up the loading times.
The notification bar also has full settings at top along with quick controls for playing music in the background.
Along with screen size, it keeps costs down through a feature set closer to the Nook Color, such as its use of just Wi-Fi for Internet access as well as the absence of a camera. A 1024x600, IPS-based display gives it richer colors, and it still manages to perform well with a dual-core, 1GHz TI OMAP processor where the Nook Color and rivals are currently using single-core chips.
A total 8GB of storage is small by competing tablets' standards but is compensated for by the cloud movie and music services, which can still send a hard copy for those who need access offline.
Battery life is relatively short at seven hours of continuous Wi-Fi video streaming, although it should stay competitive for browsing.
Pricing on the Kindle Fire will be even lower than expected, at $199. The price is $50 lower than a Nook Color and just 40 percent that of the fuller-featured iPad. Pre-orders start today but won't ship until mid-November.