Peter Kafka

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Amazon Finally Challenges the iPad, With the $200 Kindle Fire

Surprises? Not really. The Kindle Fire is what everyone thought it would be: A seven-inch Android tablet focused heavily on media consumption, priced way below Apple’s iPad.

But the $199 price — $300 below Apple’s cheapest tablet — is lower than than the most optimistic reports I’ve seen. For context, recall that Amazon’s now-primitive original Kindle started out at $399 in 2007.

So yes, this is serious competition for the iPad. No way around that.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos used some of his stage time to introduce a new line of touchscreen, black-and-white Kindles, priced at $99 and $149, and cut his lowest-priced device, which still uses old-timey buttons, to $80.

“We’re going to sell many millions of these,” Bezos said, over and over again. No reason to doubt him. [UPDATE: You can watch the entire event here.]

Greetings! I’m here on the way, way, West Side of Manhattan with a couple hundred angry reporters, who were expecting to be the first to hear about Amazon’s new tablet. Alas, all of us seem to be behind Bloomberg, which published these details about the Kindle Fire a few minutes ago:

  • $200
  • Wi-Fi-only
  • 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime

So that may be that. Still, I’m sticking around to liveblog the details anyway, because why not! Also, the lighting here is kind of cool — like a Virgin America flight, as Wired scribe Fred Vogelstein just noted.

9:57 am: Good morning! Amazon is piping in some Adele, which is basically what you have to listen to at any big corporate media event these days. Good thing it’s pleasant enough.

10:01 am: In addition to specs, Bloomberg also now has a product shot they’re showing. We’ll have it here shortly.

10:04 am: Here’s a video about people praising the Kindle. It’s easy to use, you see.

10:05 am: Here’s Jeff Bezos, in standard Bezoswear.

10:09 am: Apologies for tech issues. Trying again. All you’ve missed so far is Bezos conducting an oratorical victory lap to celebrate the Kindle’s success. Well-deserved, so can’t begrudge him.

10:13 am: OK — trying once more! Note sure if this problem is on our end, or the connection here. In any case, we will soldier on.

10:14 am: Here’s a new product that isn’t the Kindle Fire: The Kindle Touch — a black-and-white touchscreen Kindle. “Lighter, unbelievable build quality. People are going to love this device.”

10:14 am: Showing off new touch controls, critiquing Nook’s system — doesn’t work for one-handed reading. “EasyReach” features new “tap zones.” “This is the kind of quality and nuance that you can focus on in a dedicated device.”

10:16 am: New “X-Ray” feature — “lets you look at the bones of a book.” Tap on screen, click on term, get a Wikipedia link. Information isn’t accessed via wireless, but stored along with book data on the device itself. “When we download the book to you, we also download a side file that has all of this interesting information.”

10:19 am: Bezos teasing us with pricing, citing pundits who want a $99 Kindle.

10:20 am: Yup. $99.

10:21 am: And another device: Kindle Touch 3G. Free 3G.

10:22 am: $149 for this one. “This is the top-of-the-line Kindle.”

10:22 am: Both these ship Nov. 21, I believe he said. “We’re going to sell many millions of these.”

10:23 am: More Kindles coming. “What if you don’t want touch? Well then, you could have a $79 Kindle.” Actual gasp from someone in the audience here.

10:24 am: “What we’re doing is making premium products and selling them at nonpremium prices.”

This one is shipping today. “We’re going to sell many millions of these.”

10:24 am: What about the Special Offers Kindle? Those have been the best-selling Kindles, Bezos says. Now adding “AmazonLocal” to these. Based on my experience so far, this will not be a huge draw. Especially if you’re a dude.

10:26 am: Time for a commercial break. Two annoying twentysomethings blabbing.

10:27 am: OK, time for the main event.

10:27 am: Playing up video assets.

10:27 am: Chatting up Cloud Player. See where this is going?

10:28 am: And shout-outs for Android Appstore and Amazon Prime. Getting closer …

10:29 am: Spending more time on Amazon Prime, and its connection to free streaming movie service.

“We’ve already committed hundreds of millions of dollars” to license programming. CBS, NBCU, Fox, etc.

Again, it’s important to remember that this is all catalog stuff. No current shows.

10:31 am: And now some praise for Amazon Web Services, which shouldn’t be relevant for a consumer-focused event, but whatevs.

10:33 am: “We asked ourselves, is there some way we can bring all of these things together into a remarkable product offering that customers would love?”

10:33 am: The answer is yes — it’s called Kindle Fire.

10:34 am: Talking up content, cloud storage — “so you can delete things whenever you want.” That model, of backing up your own stuff, “is broken.” “We feel the same way about syncing” — cut to picture of Apple USB connector — so they have WhisperSync that connects both books and movies/TV from device to device.

10:36 am: Demoing device now. Featured on Bezos’s demo homescreen: “X-Men: First Class” movie, Cut the Rope game, Esquire magazine, Amazon Prime, Angry Birds, Marie Claire magazine, Adele record.

10:38 am: (BTW — Just li’l ol’ me here, so we’ll add product shots as we get them. Until then, I suggest letting me create a vision for you with my words, man. Far out! Also, check out TheVerge. Those guys are good.)

Here’s some X-Men. And here’s more Adele! It’s too loud for Jeff.

Now he’s multitasking — reading while Adele keeps belting about how much she likes to roll in the deep.

And some Fruit Ninja — apologies, initially thought this was Cut the Rope. “Also, I have to admit, I find this a little uncomfortably therapeutic.”

10:41 am: “I still have more for you.”

Some time travel back to Amazon’s original home screen. Ancient!

Here’s new homepage: 630KB, compared to 10KB page from ye olden times. Standard Web pages are crazily complicated, with lots of objects, etc. Bezos is explaining.

“It is difficult, challenging, for mobile browsers to display modern Web pages rapidly.”

So what’s Amazon’s answer? Use EC2 to “accelerate mobile Web browsing.”

“Amazon Silk” is a split browser — “it partially lives on EC2, and partially lives on Kindle Fire.”

Video about how the browser works.

Engineering talk. Relevant for people who know what “block building” is.

10:46 am: Big idea, if my little liberal arts brain can grok it: Make external servers handle most of the heavy lifting; only shove the stuff you really need to get to via “last mile.”

10:49 am: “The great thing, in my opinion, is you don’t have to think about any of that,” says engineer Brett Taylor.

10:50 am: Back to Bezos. Running through stats. “Eighteen million songs, movies, TV shows, books, magazines, apps and games.”

10:50 am: Price……

10:50 am: Price……

$199. Knew that. Thanks for nothing, Bloomberg! (I mean, actually, thanks a lot.)

10:52 am: Ships Nov. 15. “We’re making many millions of these, but I still suggest you preorder today.”

10:53 am: All done. Time to go play with product. Thanks for following along! I’ll be back with more thoughts in a bit.

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