Amazon targets the iPad

Jeff Bezos, chairman and chief executive officer of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle Fire at a news conference Wednesday in New York. The e-reader and tablet has a 7-inch multicolor touchscreen. (Mark Lennihan ~ Associated Press)

NEW YORK -- Amazon is taking on the untouchable iPad with a touch-screen tablet of its own.

The company on Wednesday introduced its entry in the rapidly expanding market for handheld computers -- a device called Kindle Fire that connects to the Web, streams movies and TV, displays e-books and supports thousands of apps.

It's half the size of an iPad and will be less than half the price when it goes on sale Nov. 15. Amazon is offering the Kindle Fire for $199. The bare-bones iPad sells for $499, the most expensive for $829.

Of course, competing with the iPad won't be as easy as swiping a finger.

Analysts at one research firm, Gartner Inc., say three of every four tablets sold this year will be iPads. Apple sold almost 29 million of them from April 2010 through June of this year.

Amazon sells more than 1 million e-books, 100,000 movies and TV shows, and 17 million songs. It hopes it will succeed where other companies have failed because the tablet is designed to tap into Amazon's massive storehouse of media content.

"The reason they haven't been successful is because they made tablets. They didn't make services," CEO Jeff Bezos said.

Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a New York media event that was stage-managed much the same way Apple choreographs its product launches. He walked a stage extolling the product while technology sites live-blogged the event.

The CEO also introduced three versions of its popular Kindle e-reader, all with black-and-white screens -- a basic model for $79, a touch-screen version for $99 and a touch-screen with 3G wireless service for $149.

The Fire will run a version of Google's Android software, used by other iPad wannabes, and will have access to apps through Amazon's Android store.

Unlike competing tablets, it will not have a camera. Bezos said the camera would be superfluous, since practically everyone has one in their phone anyway.

It also lacks a microphone and a slot for memory expansion, common features on other Android tablets. The Kindle Fire will run on Wi-Fi networks but will not connect to cellular networks, as some iPads and many Android tablets can.

The new Kindle e-readers dispense with the keyboard that the device has carried since it launched in 2007. The Kindles will come with on-screen advertising unless customers pay $30 to $40 more.

Bezos said he doesn't see the Fire as eventually replacing the Kindle, which is exclusively for reading.

"What will happen is people will buy both. Because they're really for different purposes," he said.

Comments