Amazon has launched its much-anticipated Android tablet, the Kindle Fire. Priced aggressively at $199 (about £129), well under half the price of Apple's cheapest iPad, the Fire has a seven-inch touchscreen display, compared to the iPad's 10inch, and runs a specially modified version of Google's Android operating system. It will ship in the US on 15 November, but Amazon has 'no plans' to make it available elsewhere; insiders expect it to reach the UK next year.
The Kindle Fire comes with 8GB of storage, half that of the entry-level iPad, along with access to free cloud storage. Like the Kindle eReader, it features Amazon's WhisperSync, allowing users to keep track of where they are in an eBook, TV show or movie on whenever device they use to view it. A built-in web browser, Amazon Silk, uses split architecture to deliver pages faster by carrying out a degree of pre-rendering on Amazon's servers- a scenario that raises questions about Amazon's access to users' browsing data and its potential ability to hide this commercially valuable information from other services, such as Google.
The tablet can also run apps, but the number available is a fraction of Apple's 500,000, including over 90,000 specifically for the iPad, and the Kindle fire's processing power falls well short of current iOS devices, meaning apps will be less ambitious. Amazon is positioning it as a cheap, simple device with easy access to a range of services. 'Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we've been working on for over 15 years into a single, fully integrated service for customers,' said Amazon co-founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
Bezos announced three new Kindles besides the Fire. The revised basic unit is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, and sells for just $79 (about £52) in a version that plays targeted ads alongside content. The sole UK model is ad-free and costs £89.
The Kindle Touch has a touchscreen and a feature called X-Ray, which finds all mentions in a book of a particular idea, character, place or topic and can access extra information from Wikipedia and Shelfuri, Amazon's user-generated literary encyclopedia. The Touch costs $99 (about £65) with 'special offers'- ads - or $149 (about £97) without.
The final new Kindle is the $149 (about £97) Touch 3G, which adds the ability to buy books over a mobile phone network. No 3G option is currently available for the Fire.