After many months of rumors, leaks, and speculation, Amazon has just officially unveiled its first tablet, the Kindle Fire. It’s called the Kindle Fire to differentiate it from the company’s Kindle e-book readers, and it runs Android, although you’ll probably not notice that at all.
In fact, the ironic thing is that Amazon’s Kindle Fire will clearly (and quickly) become the best selling Android-powered tablet, yet ‘Android’ as we know it from Honeycomb tablets or Gingerbread phones is nowhere to be seen.
That’s because Amazon has heavily built on top of Google’s mobile operating system. The Kindle Fire therefore has a user interface designed by Amazon, which went a lot further than manufacturers such as Samsung or HTC usually do when customizing the OS. In fact, you may even say that Amazon forked Android. It used Android bits, but changed what consumers see as the essence of Android.
So yeah, no Google apps here anywhere, although there is a Mail app made by Amazon which will work with all the usual email services, including Gmail. The Kindle Fire banks heavily on integrating Amazon’s countless different services into one affordable device. Like Apple usually does, Amazon chose not to make public very detailed hardware specs, instead focusing on software and convergence.
Image via Bloomberg
We do know some things though. The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch 1024×600 IPS touchscreen with Gorilla Glass. The tablet is powered by an unnamed dual-core processor running at a yet-unknown frequency. It’s unclear how much RAM there is, but the built-in storage is 8 GB. Amazon estimates that it will be enough for 80 apps plus either 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.
The battery will last for 8 hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video playback. Both figures are achieved with Wi-Fi turned off, and Amazon doesn’t provide any battery stats for Web browsing, so expect things to get worse when you use the Internet. The charging time via power adapter is rated at 4 hours.
The Kindle Fire lacks 3G connectivity or cameras. It has Wi-Fi (obviously), a 3.5 mm headset jack, and is pretty light at 413 grams. Its dimensions are 190x120x11.4 mm.
The Kindle Fire ships with Amazon’s Appstore on board, for all your Angry Birds needs. You can watch movies, TV shows, read books and magazines, and listen to music, all thanks to Amazon’s amazing ecosystem. All the content you get from Amazon is stored ‘in the cloud’ for free and is synced with the Kindle Fire or any other device you’re using to access the content.
The Kindle Fire comes with a rather innovative Web browser, called Amazon Silk, which features some neat tricks to make browsing faster. It has a unique connection to some dedicated Amazon servers which pre-store common content from around the Internet, so when you need to load a page it won’t get its components from dozens of different sources. This is akin to what Opera is doing with its Mini browser and Turbo mode on Opera Mobile and the desktop client. Silk, however, will also pre-render pages it thinks you may want to go to next, based on the behavior of other Kindle Fire users. The Silk browser is Flash-enabled.
Amazon has also expanded Whispersync, its cloud sync service that remembers, for example, the last page you read in a book on one device, then shows you that exact same location on another device. Whispersync now works with video too, so you can start watching a video on the Fire and then continue watching it on your TV, if you want. And finally, a document and PDF reader is built into the Kindle Fire.
The Amazon Kindle Fire costs $199, and it comes with one month of free access to Amazon Prime (which offers free 2-day shipping on all Amazon purchases as well as access to instant streaming of over 10,000 movies and TV shows). Pre-orders for the Kindle Fire have already started at Amazon.com, and the tablet will start shipping on November 15. Just in time for the holiday shopping season. And you can certainly bet that this will be one of the best selling items to be gifted this year.
For now, the Kindle Fire is US-only. We’re hoping it will launch internationally, yet among its main features is clearly the tight integration with Amazon-provided content. Since content deals (for movies, books, TV shows, music, magazines, and so on) are per country, launching the Kindle Fire elsewhere without such deals makes little sense, so we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out. It may however be safe to assume that we won’t be seeing the Kindle Fire outside the US this year.
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