Amazon launches tablet

29 September 2011

SEATTLE: Amazon, the ecommerce giant, has unveiled its much-anticipated tablet PC, a device described by the company as a "premium product at a non-premium price."

The Kindle Fire has a seven-inch screen, which is around 50% smaller than that for Apple's iPad. With a price tag of $199, the Kindle Fire is also roughly half as expensive as the market leader.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's CEO, argued the other slates taking on the iPad - like HP's TouchPad, Motorola's Xoom or RiM's PlayBook - have simply not "been competitive on price" and are just "a piece of hardware".

"What we are doing is offering premium products at non-premium prices," he told Bloomberg. "We don't think of the Kindle Fire as a tablet. We think of it as a service."

Alongside a WiFi, but not 3G, web connection, the Kindle Fire provides customers with access to over 10,000 apps, including those from Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and Netflix.

In a bid to drive revenues, Amazon has also automatically installed an app optimising its ecommerce site for Fire users, and is offering a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, the paid-for express delivery service.

The Kindle Fire does not have some of the add-ons boasted by the iPad 2, such as a built-in camera and microphone. It also has a limited 8GB of memory, versus 64GB for the top-of-the-range iPad.

However, Amazon's slate offers consumers an unlimited storage capacity for books, music and films via a cloud computing platform, with the hope of fuelling purchases of these products through its website.

The model adopted for the Kindle Fire closely resembles that employed by the original Kindle, Amazon's e-reader, which was considerably cheaper than many alternative appliances.

Forrester, the research group, has reported 60% of tablet owners have acquired goods or services using this gadget. Moreover, 40% of Amazon's sales come from books, movies and music, categories being transformed by the digital revolution.

"[Tablets] are a huge tailwind for our business," said Bezos. "Certainly this is a for-profit business. Let's put it this way. We are and always have been very comfortable at operating at extremely low margins."

While rivals to the iPad have yet to gain major traction, Bezos suggested the long term outcome would be different. "These industries are so big, there are going to be multiple winners," he said. "When I look at something like the Kindle Fire, what I want is to be one of the winners."

Data sourced from Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff