Well, it’s finally here. The long rumored Amazon tablet has arrived. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, wowed the media today with the newest entrant into the tablet market. Of course, the $199 price tag is an eye catcher, but this tablet cuts some corners and does a few things differently to squeeze under the $200 mark. It will be interesting to see the actual BOM for this baby, since it may be more than the selling price.
The specs are those of a quality tablet, starting with the processor, reportedly a 1-GHz OMAP dual-core processor from Texas Instruments. With a 7” color IPS LCD display, covered by Gorilla glass by the way, screen size is the same as the Blackberry PlayBook and some other tablets. I prefer the 10” wide-screen displays, but I guess this is a matter of taste—and pocketbook. The Kindle Fire saves cost on memory, with a paltry 8 GB, but it may not matter all that much since this tablet will play mostly in the cloud.
Other ways that Amazon pinched on the hardware was by eschewing a camera (or two) and microphone. So you can forget about video conferencing. This is a WiFi only device—no 3G—which actually makes sense to me, since 3G really is a bit too slow to download or view streaming movies and videos, one of the prime uses for tablets. There’s no mention of enhanced audio capability either, which may dull your music and movie listening. There is mention of just one connector—power. So you can’t add memory to this tablet or connect USB devices to it or play movies on the tablet on your TV via HDMI as some tablets can do. Amazon plans to do all this wirelessly it seems or has other workarounds in mind. Losing this hardware has made the Kindle Fire slim and trim; it weighs in at just 14.6 oz. Battery life is around eight hours, depending on the app and whether WiFi is on or off.
As for software, Amazon has made strides both in the OS and the browser. This is an Android tablet with Amazon’s own special user interface sauce. Users will not have to perform any kind of setup; Amazon does this for you. To use it, users will simply flip through their content using the multi-touch display or have it ready and waiting in an icon try. There’s also a browser called Amazon Silk. The browser breaks new ground in that it works very closely with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) engine cloud to give users what they’re looking for in a quick efficient manner. For a more in-depth explanation, check out Introducing Amazon Silk. For apps, users can visit the Amazon Android app store and for content, Amazon.com—with free cloud storage to boot..
To sum up, as far as tablets go, you have to give up something to get something. In this case, you have to give up size, connectors and some other hardware elements to get to the $199 price tag. But, this is an interesting enough device in terms of its software and connection to the cloud that users might find that they don’t necessarily miss the tradeoffs made in hardware. The Kindle Fire goes on sale at Amazon.com on November 15th.