Amazon's new Kindle family [the competition]
Yesterday Nokia and Motorola took part in dueling press events. Today was Amazon's day in the sun, and what a day they had. In addition to a new "Paperwhite" eInk Kindle with a higher contrast, whiter background, better resolution, more backlit display, Amazon more impressively updated and expanded their Android-based Kindle Fire line-up with a trio of new tablets.
First up they updated the existing Kindle Fire with a faster processor, double the storage of the original, and increased battery life, all while dropping the price to $159, with shipping coming on September 14th. That's just an update to the original - there are new Kindle Fires as well. They come in 7-inch and 8.9-inch varieties, both with HD branding to denote the greatly improved screen on both. The 7-incher sports a 1280x800 screen, while the 8.9-inch version has an impressive 1920x1200 resolution. Both include a dual-core TI OMAP processor, with the 8.9 inch tablet getting a 1.5GHz version, while the smaller tablet gets one clocked at 1.2GHz. Both also have stereo Dolby Audio speakers and a high-bandwidth Wi-Fi antennae that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spent entirely too much time talking about.
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD starts at $199.99 for a 16GB tablet. The bigger 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD also starts at 16GB, though getting more pixels, battery, and whatnot will bump the price up to $299.99 - still a relative bargain price compared to competing tablets in that price range. Lastly, there's the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G (say that five times fast). It includes an LTE radio that Amazon engineered themselves, and starts at 32GB (with the option for 64GB) and will start price-wise at $499.99 - again, a bargain compared to the competition. The 7" tablet will be available on September 14th - in just over a week - while the 8.9" version won't be hitting the streets until late November. But that's dates and pricing, which is more than either Motorola or Nokia could say yesterday.
That bargain pricing clearly demonstrates Amazon's long-term strategy. They'd rather sell the hardware with slim margins or maybe even at a loss, and then make up the difference selling high-margin content like ebooks, movies, apps, and everything else Amazon sells, then bother trying to compete in the full-margin business with the likes of Apple and Samsung. Amazon views themselves as a content company, and uses the Kindle line to sell that content. Apple says they're a software company who makes hardware to carry that software. Google's taking the middle road between the two with its Nexus line, but it's all but clear that their partners like Samsung, HTC, Asus, and the others view themselves almost entirely as hardware companies.
Just how much to Amazon believe themselves to be a content company? For one, they're offering the 4G version with a data plan that offers 250MB per month, 200GB of cloud storage, and $10 in Amazon AppStore credit - all for $49.99 a year. Yes, that's an annual rate of $50, not monthly. Amazon's doubtlessly subsidizing a significant portion of the unspecified service (though judging from the flaming 4G logo, we'd have to say it's AT&T). Another sign of how Amazon views themselves as being a content provider and not a device manufacturer? All of the new Kindles are partially subsidized with lockscreen advertisements, previously an optional discount when buying a new Kindle. We'd prefer the option to opt out and pay the fee associated with doing so, but clearly Amazon's earlier experiment with this advertising model proved lucrative enough that they're making it the default for all Kindles.
And before you say, "Oh, what a nice device on which to possibly install Open webOS," don't waste your breath or typing time. Amazon's tablets are locked down and run such a heavily-customized version of Android that getting any of the now four models of Kindle Fire tablet to run webOS would be an exercise in futility and lost man hours… no matter how cheap the hardware may be.
Preorder them all, should you dare: