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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  • Choppedliver - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    I'm sure it does, since Plants vs Zombies is clearly displayed at the bottom. Much more intensive than angry birds.

    And amazon has their own android app store.

    Anyone who thinks this is going to be purely an e-reader/movie watching device with all that hardware inside is delusional.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    It's gonna be another Nook option to those that don't mind a little hacking. Though with full featured (and larger) tablets approaching $300 (Archos, sales, etc.), the market for this isn't gonna last long.
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    No need, it has the Amazon Appstore.

    Most high profile apps are available for the same price. And you can't beat those free apps (Cut The Rope is free today).

    Of course, the XDA crowd will root it and open up its functionality, but I think it will be a surprisingly functional $200 tablet out of the gate.
  • gevorg - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    The Kindle Touch is awesome! I would still prefer iPad for entertainment, but will use the Kindle as a dedicated reading device that doesn't kill the eyes. Kindle Touch + iPad FTW.
  • steven75 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    I'm thinking that's a good combo.
  • kingbee1333 - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Already preordered, tied in to amazon ecosystem via thier android app store, kindle books and videos, seems like a nobrainer at this price. 3g conectivity seems to be an oversight, but at the price and no contracts with the nice display and soild soc seems like a nobrainer for me. It's going ot be much less enticing for anyone already invested into apples ecosystem apps etc.

    Seems like amazon is the first company to treat the hardware as a comodity of thier content. Where as other tablet makers are looking to profit from the hardware, and apple is looking to profit from hardware and content. Amazon was brillaint to make thier own app store. Google can't be happy with this.
  • jecs - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    I am gladly surprised because I read on other site this device has an IPS matrix and all the features for $199. I don't need a tablet really but now I am glad this option is available. And I really hope this device to become a huge success to bring other options down in price.

    Obviously I want to read a good review first and even hold it in my hands and use it, but it looks like the smartest move on the tablet market since the iPad was introduced.

    It is even more simplistic in appearance than the iPad, but that I don't feel it resembles the Apple line. It is not an iPad COPY, it is even simpler, more feature and market oriented and that is just $199?
  • munsie - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    The $200 price point sounds great, but is that with or without the special offers? Amazon clearly breaks out the price difference on the other models ($30), but the option is missing for the Fire. So does that mean that it only comes with the special offers or it only comes without? If it's without, it a much more attractive device. But I suspect it's with, considering how close it is in price to the other less capable models.

    And as far as it being an iPad killer, I think it's too early to make claims like this. The PlayBook, which it's apparently based on, hasn't been killing the iPad. Granted, it's more expensive, but I suspect that's because RIM can't afford to subsidize it like Amazon can. Also, the iPad has a larger display. If the 7" tablet market takes off, Apple could decide to make a smaller iPad at a cheaper price.

    One more thing -- when the first iPod touch came out in 2007, I remember $400 for the 16GB model. Today, the touch starts out at $229 and the $400 model has 64GB. The iPhone also got significantly cheaper (at least for the consumer) over the same period. I don't see why Apple wouldn't be able to make the iPad cheaper as well over time, especially if they figure out a way to subsidize some of the cost with either iTunes sales or with the carriers.
  • JasonInofuentes - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Special Offers relies on the eink screensaver to display ads as unobtrusively as possible. Since the eink screens don't use power except on page turns, there's no battery hit. With no eink in the Fire, it's likely it has no Special Offers. As far as Apple trying to compete on price, Apple makes money on every single thing it sells, they prefer not to subsidize because the risk of failure is too high. Instead their content sales just add to profits. More likely is a model where they begin selling old models at discounted rates as component costs come down, while selling a newer model at the original price. This may drive iPod Touch prices down though, since 7" makes a much more compelling media experience than 3.5".
    Thanks for the comments, keep'em coming!
  • jecs - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - link

    Great point for the iPod Touch Vs Kindle price/use.

    I already have an iPod Touch 2G and I have no plans/need to update unless it dies. I am using it mostly for music. But now the Kindle with an 7' IPS screen is the right size for me at a lower price than the iPod Touch. It is not a direct replace for the Touch for me but is a better device for internet browsing and movies.

    I don't know how great gaming will be on the Kindle as Amazon doesn't promote the graphic processor(?) but either I don't think they expect this to be a real gaming tablet.

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