Kindle Fire

Earlier reports of the device now known as the Kindle Fire have varied wildly and with speculation rampant about what Amazon might announce the finished product appears to fall nicely in between the greatest device ever and a serious disappointment. We'll begin with pricing. Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, repeated one line more than any other during the event today, "premium products at non-premium prices." By pegging the Fire at $199 he certainly is following through on the latter claim. This undercuts even the Barnes and Noble Nook Color, while providing specifications that match devices more than twice it's price. So, bargain? You bet.

 

And what you get for that $199 is a stylish black device with a 7" IPS 1024 x 600 screen, and a 1 GHz dual-core ARM processor. At 11.4mm the Fire is thicker than other slates, but as we've discussed before, a thicker device can still be pleasant to hold, so long as the form factor works. Reports from gdgt's Ryan Block indicate that Quanta Computers, who designed the BlackBerry PlayBook, were responsible for the design of the Kindle Fire, and by all accounts they seem to have not strayed far from that design. Holding to that design may include using the same TI OMAP 4430 SoC, though we have yet to confirm that. What we can confirm is that at 413 grams, this is one of the lightest weight tablets we've seen. 

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Amazon Kindle Fire Apple iPad 2 BlackBerry PlayBook Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Dimensions 190 x 120 x 11.4mm 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8mm 194 x 130 x 10mm 230.9 x 157.8 x 8.6mm
Display 7-inch 1024 x 600 IPS 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 IPS 7-inch 1024 x 600 8.9-inch 1280 x 800 PLS
Weight 413g 601g 425g 447g
Processor 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz Apple A5 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz TI OMAP 4430 (2 x Cortex A9) 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 (2 x Cortex A9)
Memory ? 512MB 1GB 1GB
Storage 8GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
Pricing $199 $499 $499 $469

Hardware isn't the whole store with the Fire, though. Amazon is selling a platform from which to experience it's various Amazon services, and it is leaving none of them from this party. Obviously, and this is the last mention of Android you'll find in this piece and their PR. For third party apps there's the Amazon Appstore. This will be the only official means by which buyers will be able to load their apps onto the device, though intrepid hackers will no doubt make quick work of the device. Amazon's MP3 store is on hand as well as Amazon's Kindle app and e-book store. This brings us up to apps, music, magazines and books. The addition of Amazon Prime Instant Videos rounds out the offerings with over 100,000 movies and TV shows from the likes of Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal. Buyers will be treated with an expanded WhisperSync service that now allows users to mark their place in movies and TV shows, as they already do with books and magazines. Amazon is even leveraging EC2, their web services provider to enhance the browsing experience with Amazon Silk.

Amazon Silk Browser

 
The Kindle Fire is the first device to ship with Amazon's Silk browser. According to Amazon, Silk is a split-browser that leverages the company's EC2 cloud. The idea is simple: rather than simply going out and maintaining connections with all of the various servers that supply content for a single web page, Amazon will deliver as much of that as possible via its own cloud. The benefit of delivering content via Amazon's cloud is it minimizes the number of independent DNS lookups and handshakes the browser has to perform to load a single webpage, not to mention that Amazon's cloud should hopefully deliver more consistent performance due to the scale of its deployment.
 
Amazon is also doing some prediction in Silk. As Amazon's EC2 cloud aggregates usage data from Silk users, it can develop models for web page access patterns. The browser is then capable of prefetching what it thinks will be the next web page you click on based on historical data from a number of other users. I've always thought browser prefetching makes a lot of sense and it appears that Amazon is going to try to do some of that here with Silk.
 
 
Amazon's cloud can also deliver size optimized content depending on the device you're using. The example Amazon gives is a 3MB jpg that can be compressed to 50KB without you being able to tell the difference on a Kindle Fire. Silk will work with EC2 to determine the appropriate size of the image that it should send down to you. 
 
Given that the Kindle Fire is WiFi only, I wonder how much of an impact Silk's network optimizations are really going to have on the overall experience - particularly on fast WiFi connections. Web browsing on mobile devices is still largely CPU bound and with the Kindle Fire shipping with (presumably) the same CPU power as a number of other Android tablets that bottleneck shouldn't really change because of Silk.
 
We also don't know anything about Silk's underlying parsing and rendering engines. As Google has shown us, web page rendering performance depends just as much on software as it does hardware. Amazon is addressing the network part of the problem with Silk but there are also CPU and software issues that are either unchanged or big unknowns at this point.
A $79 Kindle! And Wrap-up
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  • JoeMcJoe - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    yep, all the new e-ink kindles include lots of advertising. Reply
  • marvdmartian - Thursday, September 29, 2011 - link

    Agreed on the US only pity.

    My niece just moved to Japan (to teach), and I'd love to get her one of the Kindle Fire's, as I know she was looking to get an e-reader before she left (but don't believe she did). She would LOVE the multi-media capabilities of the Fire, but when I contacted Amazon, they stated that not only is the Fire selling only the in the US, but that they are only supporting it's functions (buying material from Amazon, storage on the Amazon cloud, etc) in the US also.

    Seems a little bit short sighted to me. :(
    Reply
  • etamin - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    so who is handling the 3G? and just curious why there is a ? next to the (2x Cortex A9s) in the spec chart. The OMAP 4430 does indeed have 2x Cortex A9s in it. Reply
  • z0mb13n3d - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    I think the '?' is because they might not sure if it does have the OMAP 4430 in it, although almost everything is pointing at that being the case. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    As the article says, they don't know for sure if that's what it's using.

    Not bad hardware, but I'm done with Amazon and Kindle after the crazed right-wing moderation going on there...
    Reply
  • Craig234 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    "Not bad hardware, but I'm done with Amazon and Kindle after the crazed right-wing moderation going on there... "

    Hear, hear.

    I've ended my near boycott after they made a deal with CA, but I'm still wary.
    Reply
  • A5 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    There is no 3G on this yet. I assume that's on the list for version 2... Reply
  • etamin - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Ah sorry about the wording. My question about 3G was actually meant to reference the Touch. Reply
  • Guspaz - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    To be honest, it's largely irrelevant who does the 3G service, since it's free once you've paid the up-front cost. It might only be relevant in terms of coverage; even performance isn't that big a deal when it's primarily used for whispersync of books.

    In Canada, the 3G service is provided by Rogers. But to be honest, I find that I leave wireless turned off (all wireless, 3G and wifi) 99% of the time on my Kindle 3. It drains the battery, and I only need it when I want to buy a book, it's useless the rest of the time.

    In hindsight, I would have bought the wifi, not the 3G.
    Reply
  • Lord 666 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    ;) Reply

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