After months of anticipation about Amazon’s entrance into the tablet market, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a suite of new handheld devices on Wednesday at a media event in New York, including not just the Kindle Fire tablet but also two new touch-screen Kindle e-readers.
The tablet had been the focus headed into the day with rumors about its various features circulating far and wide. Bloomberg confirmed many of them right before the event.
The Kindle Fire will cost $200, have wi-fi but not 3G and give users a 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. That last bit is a modest surprise, as some predicted no free Prime and others a free year-long subscription.
Despite Amazon's recent streaming deals with the likes of Fox and CBS, which many saw as a threat to Netflix, the device will carry a Netflix app.
That will be one of the many apps available through Amazon's take on the Android App Store, which will also offer the likes of Pandora and Angry Birds.
As anticipated, the tablet lacks a microphone and camera, though, again, it costs consumers less than half what the iPad does.
In order to generate sufficient revenue given the lower price, Amazon will bank on the tablet spurring increased sales of electronic books, movies and music through its own services, which has happened with e-book since the release of the Kindle.
Many of Amazon's own stores and apps will be prominently displayed, including Amazon MP3 and several cloud-related services, such as the Amazon Cloud Player and Amazon Cloud Drive.
The cloud is key to this new device, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made clear on Wednesday. He described a pair of models as being broken – syncing with a cord and backing content up.
Instead, consumers can access most of their data in the cloud and transfer it wirelessly.
Given the importance of selling Amazon products, it is no surprise that this tablet is more focused on reading, video and music. Because its touch screen has only "two-point" touch as compared to the iPad's "10-point" screen, it is less suited for gaming.
While the tablet is the biggest news, Amazon also seized on this moment to launch a new line of e-readers, differentiating them from its new tablet.
The new premium e-reader is the Kindle Touch 3G, which costs $149 and will ship Nov. 21 — in time for the holiday season. As its name indicates, it comes with a touch screen and 3G internet.
For those who do not need 3G on their e-reader, there is the Kindle Touch, which has a black and white screen. It also comes with the “x-ray” feature, which lets you flesh out your understanding of a book without internet. If there is a term you want to know more about, you can click on it and go to a Wikipedia page. That information comes as a companion to an e-book purchase.
Finally, there will also now be a "bargain" Kindle, offered for just $79.99.
While it was assumed Wednesday would be about a new challenger to the iPad, these new e-readers may cause a lot more consternation for Barnes & Noble and its new Nook than the Kindle Fire does for Apple.
Thus far, the market seems to agree. While Amazon's shares are up almost 5 percent so far today, Barnes & Noble's are down almost 9 percent. And Apple? Up half a percent.