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Amazon's tablet half price of iPad - but Kiwis marginalised

UPDATED: The US media has been split over Amazon's Kindle Fire, which has a killer price ($US199), but lacks a number of hardware features sported by the larger-screen Apple iPad (including a camera, microphone, GPS, Bluetooth and 3G).

NBR asked local digital publishing commentator Martin Taylor for his take.

"I think Amazon will find a decent sized niche of this smaller form factor," Mr Taylor said.

"It also buys them time and experience before they take on the iPad in the same way Apple used the Touch to build a base before taking on the phone market."

The Digital Strategies director doubted Amazon would release full-blown  iPad competitor before Christmas 2012.

(Asked at today's launch of the 7-inch Kindle Fire about the possibility of a 10-inch, iPad-size model, an Amazon VP said only "Watch this space.")

Mr Taylor - who traditional book distributor Addenda as well as his new media consultancy - said publishers shouldn't wait for the Fire to arrive in NZ.

"The usual delayed New Zealand roll-out makes it even more important for local publishers to re-focus on the tens of millions in the international market," the eBook advocate said.

"And it's time for magazine publishers as well as book publishers to get on board. A lot of our great niche magazine publishers should look at international markets now, something that print logistics and local advertising requirements have made difficult in the past."

Amazon's new 7-inch tablet "Kindle Fire" tablet will sell for $US199 - half the price of Apple's 9.7-inch  iPad, which starts at $US499 (or from $799 to $1289 in NZ, depending on specs); the same price as BlackBerry's 7-inch PlayBook tablet.)

CEO Jeff Bezos said the Fire would go onsale November 15. Amazon began taking pre-orders through its website this morning.

As expected, Mr Bezos outlined a strategy where Amazon will recoup its money on the cut-price tablet through selling content.

Kindle Fire customers will get discount access to Amazon's Prime Instant Video movie and TV streaming download service.

They will also be allocated free cloud (online) storage, to encourage them to use Amazon's cloud-based music service.

The free cloud storage is aimed squarely at Apple's coming cloud version of iTunes, which developer reports indicate will come with an annual fee (a plan that may now be revised). Many Apple fans will be hoping the company reviews the cost of its iPad, too.

The bad news: as expected, the Kindle Fire is US-only - a function of its associated movie, TV and music streaming services being confined to North America. New Zealanders could be in for a long wait (Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment).

Similarly, the Amazon AppStore for Android is, for the time being, restricted to US residents.

Amazon Kindle Fire - key features

  • $US199 ($NZ260)
  • 7-inch back-lit touchscreen display (over rumours of a 10-inch model, Amazon offered only "stay tuned")
  • 413 grams (9.7-inch iPad 2: 601g; 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook: 425g)
  • Google Android operating system software
  • Free cloud (online) storage
  • 8GB of internal storage (iPad: 16GB to 64GB)
  • Wi-fi (but no 3G cellular)
  • Dual core processor
  • No camera
  • No GPS
  • No Bluetooth
  • No microphone (= no Skype)
  • Released November 15, US-only

The company says the Kindle Fire's "Silk" web browser utilises Amazon's EC2 cloud computing platform (an online service sold to business customers) for faster browsing.

Apple has sold around 29 million iPads since the first model was released in March 2010. 

A recent survey put iPad's tablet market share at 80%. It competes against RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook (which has so far sold under 1 million units), plus Android-based tablets including Samsung's Tab and Motorola's Xoom.

New "old" Kindle
Amazon also launched new models in its original e-book-specific, mono screen Kindle range, adding touchscreen capability.

The 6-inch Kindle Touch costs $US99 with wi-fi, or $US149 with wi-fi and 3G. The non-touchscreen Kindle is also being refreshed and will cost $US79.

Sadly, none of the new models are availale for pre-order outside the US at this point - though we can grab the "international" Kindle at the now reduced price of $US109 (or $NZ144 at Amazon's exchange rate, plus $28 delivery. If you can't wait a week, local retailer Dick Smith sells it for $209.).

Amazon also offers its Kindle software reader as a free download for several platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Google Android and Apple iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad).

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

Yay :o) Look forward to seeing some competition here!

Given we cant really use the cloud services in NZ due to data costs (ie Amazon prime - even if we could access it), a normal eInk kindle is still the best bet for NZers.

Considering what it actually costs to make a tablet device Amazon will be loosing money on every device sold. If they "are" making money on it, that tells me the device construction is cheap and nasty as Apple has the entire top end supply chain of materials locked up for the forseeable future with iPad manufacture.

I doubt very much that they will sell enough downloadable content to make money and catch Apple.

Amazon will still be making some money on parts.,2817,2381890,00.asp - 32GB 3G iPad 2 costs either $270 or $320US, depending on your source.

The A5 processor of the iPad is more expensive than a Tegra 2, which in turn is more expensive than a single core processor.

Considering the slower processor, smaller screen, lack of 3G modem - Nice and cheap. Considering Amazon's reputation and the build of their current products, this should be a nice little unit for the price. I think that a Barnes and Noble Nook Color would be nicer, though...

[These pricing tear-downs never include the cost of a factory or assembly plant, people, design, marketing, distribution etc etc - CK]

More affordable for public schools now....?

For $109 that's great value, although a lot of their eBooks are a lot more expensive than the ones on the page you linked to Chris.

If I hadn't already bought an iPad I'd be in for one of these, especially because of the E Ink which is much easier on your eyes that the iPad display if you are reading for long periods of tie like I do.

Finally a realistic price. Now would be the time for a NZ newspaper to give them away with a subscription to the paper and deliver the paper as a Kindle feed.

[Personally I use the software version of Amazon's Kindle service, which I have installed on a laptop, an iPad and an Android tablet (a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

I've found most Kindle e-books cost around $7 to $10.

I was dubious about ebook, which seemed convenient yet inherently naff. But now that's almost all I buy.

You can't beat the price, the range, or - especially - the ability to download a book in seconds after reading a review.

Love the Kindle software. Frankly, not that fussed whether I access it through my iPad or Android hardware. Both offer a great experience - CK].

Will be interested to see user reviews on kindle touch as I think it will be the best one for kiwis.

But like my iphone, I don't want a cheaper version..I live on my IPAD and it is still a status symbol...

..and it is easy to use and well supported..

Kindle touch now available to NZ
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