What did we learn from Amazon unveiling its Amazon Kindle Fire in downtown Manhattan today? Well, officious Amazon staff prevented any journalist from actually getting their hands on the new application so the definitive verdict on Kindle Fire will have to wait. But in the eyes of many, the most important thing about the Kindle Fire is something you don't need to touch- its price.
It will retail for $199 when it starts shipping on November 15. “What does the Kindle Fire have that the Apple iPad 2 doesn’t have? Two of them for a start” was the joke doing the rounds. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, was especially fond of the mantra: “Premium products at non-premium prices.” He said it four times and Amazon personnel were also fond of repeating their boss’s most cherished statement.
Here’s what we do know about Kindle Fire. It will bring together movies, TV shows, music, magazines, books and apps. Its screen is 7-inches compared to the iPad 2’s 10-inches. It weighs just 14.6 ounces, and is small and light enough to carry on the Tube. The Kindle Fire uses Amazon’s Whispersync service to download movies, music and books from the company’s online store. It has a dual core processor and a heavily customized interface with Amazon’s own Silk browser. Kindle Fire’s name is taken from a quote from the French philosopher Voltaire: “The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbors, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all.”
Rumors that it would provide direct competition to the iPad 2 are wide of the mark. Its rich stream of content-centric platforms differs from Apple’s more general service-oriented approach. Amazon heavies were determined to prevent me from finding this out for myself but it looked like the Kindle Fire is easy to browse the web, play games and read.
Some analysts griped that Kindle Fire could have more buttons, the only button is the power button. “I’m surprised there is no volume button,” one told me, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If you’re listening to music with the screen off, to lower the volume, you have to touch the screen which is a bit of a drag. There’s also no HD, no webcam or mic.”
Bezos is himself breezily cocksure the price tag and streamlined content avenues will bring success. “We’re going to sell many millions of these”, he declared. Bezos delighted in reading out quotes of predictions that the Kindle would fail. He will be hoping this time around that the received wisdom on Kindle Fire’s chances of success- broadly positive- will not be wide of the mark.