Amazon launches tablet computer, the Kindle Fire

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11:07 PM September 28th, 2011

By: Charlotte Raab, September 28th, 2011 11:07 PM

Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle Fire at a news conference, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011 in New York. The e-reader and tablet has a 7-inch (17.78 cm) multicolor touchscreen. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

NEW YORK—Amazon, maker of the popular Kindle electronic book reader, unveiled a tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, on Wednesday in a challenge to Apple’s market-leading iPad.

The Kindle Fire, which has a seven-inch (17.78-centimeter) screen, smaller than the iPad’s 9.7 inches (24.6 cm), will cost $199 and be available on November 15, the US online retail giant said at a launch event in Manhattan.

The Kindle Fire features Wi-Fi connectivity and is powered by Google’s Android software. It does not have a camera like many other leading tablets, including the latest iPad.

Presenting the new tablet to the press, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said the Kindle Fire features a new Web browser called Amazon Silk.

According to technology analysts, an Amazon tablet could pose the most serious challenge yet to Apple’s dominance of the fast-growing market for touchscreen tablet computers.

“More than any other recent tablet introduction, Amazon’s entry is set to shake the still-solidifying market to its very core,” independent technology analyst Carmi Levy told AFP.

“Unlike hardware manufacturers who lack the pockets and the resolve to slug it out with Apple in a protracted war over market share, Amazon has both the resources and the will to stay in the game as long as it needs to,” he said.

According to technology research firm Gartner, the iPad will account for 68.7 percent of the 69.7 million tablets sold this year and will remain the top-selling device over the next few years.

At $199, Amazon is significantly undercutting Apple with the price of the Kindle Fire. Apple’s cheapest iPad sells for $499.

The Seattle-based company is hoping to drive Kindle Fire buyers to its online store, which features books, music, movies, TV shows and games for the device.

“Over the past few years, Amazon’s customers have gotten used to one-click purchases of books and other published content via the Kindle,” Levy said.

“(Amazon’s) goal is to drive as much business as possible to and through its online retail presence,” he said. “Amazon doesn’t need to maximize its profits on every tablet sold.

“It’ll take thinner margins – or even per-unit losses – if that means getting as many Amazon tablets into consumers’ hands before the all-important Christmas shopping season,” the analyst said.

Bezos, at the launch event, said Kindle Fire owners would have access to 11,000 movies and television shows – plus 17 million songs – at Amazon.com.

Technology research firm Forrester has forecast that Amazon could sell 3-5 million tablets in the fourth quarter alone.

Apple sold 9.25 million iPads last quarter and has sold nearly 30 million since launching the device in April of last year.

Amazon shares were up 3.18 percent at $231.34 in early trading on Wall Street.

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