The Internet has been buzzing about the possibility (the inevitability, really) of a new Kindle-branded Amazon tablet for a while. Now it’s finally here. Announced officially at an Amazon press conference this morning, the Kindle Fire is the newest addition to the Kindle family and brings some remarkably new functionality to the Kindle we’re familiar with, all for a competitive, come-at-me-iPad price of $199.
So, let’s break it down, the Kindle Fire is a touchpad. Although it only has two-finger touch support, it has touch support, which sort of elevates it to the big boy tablet arena. As for physical specs, the Kindle Fire operates on Android, weighs about 14.6 ounces and has a 7-inch touchscreen which clocks in at around 3 inches smaller than competitor iPad. Whether you see that last bit as an advantage or a flaw is matter of preference.
Of course, with a price point like $199, one is likely to ask “well, what doesn’t it have?” The answer? A lot of stuff. In exchange for coming in at $300 less than the iPad, the Kindle Fire sacrifices an internal camera, an internal microphone, and 3G connectivity (but it still has Wi-Fi). To mitigate those deficiencies, the Kindle Fire promises to hook you up with content, content, and also some content. The Fire not only comes with free Amazon Prime, a $79 value, but also access to the Android app store, the Kindle store, Amazon cloud storage and, presumably, any new things Amazon may or may not be rolling out. The Kindle Fire also comes ready to surf the web, albeit with the new Silk browser. The jury’s still out on whether its boasted efficiency is counterbalanced by any lack of content compatibility.
The Kindle Fire seems to be an incremental step up from the standard Kindle (which is now priced to move at $79), but it looks like it’ll sit in a weird place beneath the iPad. While it has a touchscreen and apps, it doesn’t seem to go quite far enough. Not to mention its connection with Amazon could mean that it’ll probably eschew preferable, vetted services like Netflix (which it does not seem to support) for the experimental, just-learning-to-walk, Amazon-branded substitutes. Of course, like every hardware launch, you can never tell how good it’ll really be until everyone either picks it up or passes it over, so it’s pretty hard to predict the future right now. If you’re an early adopter, time to get adopting so we can see where this device is heading. If not, sit back and wait a few models while the Kindle Fire tries to find itself.