Announcing its long-awaited assault on the crowded tablet market, Amazon unveiled three new Kindle Fire machines today, two of which will be available in the UK.
During the presentation in California, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said, "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices." This implies that Amazon sees the new tablets almost as a loss leader for its products and services that include LOVEFiLM and cloud storage, and explains, in part, the firm's aggressive pricing for the new machines.
The cheapest tablet, a revamped, upgraded and cheaper version of the old Kindle Fire (previously only available in the US) will sell at £129 in the UK, while the better equipped Kindle Fire HD comes in at £159. Both have a 1280x800-pixel (7in / 17.8cm) screen. The cheaper Fire has 8GB of storage, while the HD comes with 16GB or 32GB.
A larger version of the HD with a 1920x1200-pixel (8.9in/22.6cm) screen was also announced, but there is no news of a UK release.
All three tablets will run a customised version of the Android operating system. The 8.9in versions will be powered by Texas Instrument's OMAP 4470 1.5 GHz dual-core processor with a 1.2GHz version at the heart of the smaller models.
Many analysts had been expecting an Amazon smartphone to be unveiled, but this did not occur. Also missing was the rumoured free Kindle, suggesting that Bezos' generosity only goes so far.
The £159 UK price for the 7in Kindle Fire HD is identical to that of the Google Nexus 7 8GB tablet although its hard disk is twice the size at 16GB. (The 16GB Nexus is £199, as is the 32GB Fire HD.) Like the Nexus, though, it appears to lack an SD slot to expand onboard storage. Amazon boasts that the new machine features a new high-definition LCD display, Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics, custom Dolby audio, a front-facing HD camera, two Wi-Fi antennas and stereo speakers. As well as a smaller hard disk, the cheaper version lacks some of its big brother's connectivity.
The new tablets (UK release date 25 October) enter a crowded field. As well as the Nexus, the 7in Kindle Fire HD will soon have competition in the shape of the Kobo Arc, which is expected to have similar spec and pricing and is due for release in November, as well as Microsoft's Surface which is likely to retail in the US for $199 (£125) when it is released next month.
The 16GB ($299) and 32GB ($499) 8.9in models with the more powerful 1.5GHz processor will go head-to-head with Apple's iPad and will have optional 4G connectivity. These appear to be restricted to the US for now.
Amazon also announced a new Kindle e-reader – the Paperwhite – with a sharper display, extended battery life and illuminated touchscreen, allowing it to be used in the dark. This takes on Barnes & Noble's Nook GlowLight and soon-to-be-released Kobo Glo e-readers.