Amazon introduced a high-resolution, big-screen version of its best-selling Kindle Fire Thursday that surely will heat up its battle with Apple for tablet supremacy.
In a media event in Los Angeles, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Kindle Fire HD, the second-generation of its color tablet that can play movies, music and games, as well as display books. The new tablet comes in two sizes, it’s original 7-inch screen and a new 8.9-inch model. The 7-inch model with 16 gigabytes of storage will sell for the same $199 as its earlier version and will ship Sept. 14. The bigger model is priced at $299 for 16GB of storage, while a version with built-in 4G LTE connectivity will sell for as little as $499. Both go on sale Nov. 20.
“We are not building the best tablet at a certain price. We have just built the best tablet at any price,” Bezos said.
He also introduced a new version of Amazon’s low-cost Kindle e-book reader that now sports a 6-inch front-lit display which produces a white background with the black text. The Kindle Paperwhite also has a touchscreen and can run for eight weeks with the display light on, Bezos said. But with the lighting, users can now read their e-books in a darkened room, something that couldn’t be done with earlier Kindle readers that use E-ink technology.
The Kindle Paperwhite will sell for $119 for a Wi-Fi-only model and ship Oct. 1. Another version that also includes 3G Whispersync connectivity is priced at $179. Amazon also lowered the price of its cheapest Kindle e-reader from $79 to $69 while also increasing its screen resolution.
But it’s the announcement of its larger-sized Kindle Fire HD that is likely to make competition fierce for Apple’s ubiquitous iPad, which ranges in price from $499 to $829.
Like Apple’s computer tablet, the new Kindle Fire HD sports a high-resolution display, at 1,920-by-1,200 pixels (although still slightly lower than the newest iPad), dual stereo speakers, an HD front-facing camera for video conferencing, and it has an improved Wi-Fi system with two antennas and utilizes “multi-input, multi-output” (MIMO) technology for better Internet reception. Bezos claims the wireless performance of the new Fire is 41 percent faster than the iPad’s.
The tablet, which runs on a modified version of the Android operating system, also will support the faster 4G LTE network, a feature the iPad does not yet have. Bezos also introduced a new data plan to go with the Fire in which consumers can use up to 250 megabytes of data per month, as well as have 200 gigabytes of storage on Amazon’s cloud service for $49.99 per year.
Unlike Amazon’s less expensive E-ink e-readers, the Kindle Fire line uses LCD color screens for multimedia applications besides reading books. Amazon has positioned the Fire to be more than just a tablet but a portal in which customers can buy movies, music, books and more. For example, users can stream movies on the Fire from Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, which this week acquired more movies from the EPIX video service.
Also during the event, Bezos announced a new independent book publishing service called Kindle Direct Publishing that allows authors to self-publish for free in exchange for 30 percent of the book’s royalties. Amazon also introduced serialized books that readers can purchase for one fee for all the installments.
Amazon has always kept sales figures for its devices a mystery, although Bezos said the Kindle Fire accounted for 20 percent of the computer tablet market.
The popularity of tablets erupted with the introduction of the Apple iPad in the spring of 2010, and manufacturers from Asus to Samsung to Motorola have tried to carve their niche in the market. Microsoft is expected to release its own branded tablet called the Surface sometime later this year.
Amazon’s stock rose $5.16 to $251.38 per share in Thursday’s trading.
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Kindle Fire HD
What is it • Amazon’s second-generation computer tablet with LCD screen that can play movies, music, games and display books. It comes with 16GB to 64GB of storage. It also comes in either a 7-inch or 8.9-inch model.
What’s new • It sports a higher-resolution screen. A higher-priced model is compatible with 4G LTE high-speed data network for connecting to the Internet away from a Wi-Fi hotspot. The processor is also faster than the first-generation Kindle Fire and has more system memory.
Release • Ships Nov. 20. Pre-orders began Thursday.
Price • 7-inch, $199; 8.9-inch, Wi-fi only, 16GB, $299; 8.9-inch, Wi-fi, only, 32GB, $369; 8.9-inch, 4G, 32GB, $499; 8.9-inch, 4G, 64GB, $599