Amazon's got a tablet! The online book retailer and Kindle-maker has lifted the lid on the long-rumoured Amazon Kindle Fire, a 7-inch slate that runs a heavily modified version of Android, and is set to be incredibly cheap.
The Kindle Fire will cost just $199 in the US, which equates to about £130 in Her Majesty's sterling of the realm. We don't yet know whether Amazon will be bringing the Fire to the UK, but that would be a seriously affordable tablet compared to the iPad 2, which costs £399 for the cheapest model. That's Andy Pad territory, for heaven's sake.
As you'd perhaps expect from something with a price tag that low, the Kindle Fire is rather measly in the hardware stakes. There's no camera, no microphone, and you won't get access to Amazon's brilliant Whispernet 3G network, because the Fire doesn't support 3G connectivity, only Wi-Fi. It does sync wirelessly though.
It looks a lot like the BlackBerry PlayBook, weighs roughly 415g and has a dual-core processor. Reasonable specs then, but nothing mind-blowing.
So long as it doesn't feel completely horrible to use, you won't hear us complaining. The Kindle Fire is built to deliver software, not hardware. That means ebooks, music and movies from Amazon's suite of entertainment services.
Amazon offers tens of thousands of movies and TV shows available to download via its Instant Video player, access to 17 million streaming MP3s via its Cloud Player service and -- of course -- ebooks via the Kindle app. Colour magazines are available too, via an app called Newsstand, and all of these services will be hurtling toward the Kindle Fire like an out-of-control multimedia steam train.
WhisperSync works with movies, which means you can stop watching a video on the tablet, then switch to your big-screen telly and commence playback at the point you left off. You can delete anything from your Kindle Fire and get it back whenever you fancy, too.
Apps are delivered courtesy of Amazon's own Android Appstore, which has an edge over Android's default Market app store because apps are tested for quality, and you can demo them before buying using an online simulator.
The Amazon Kindle Fire is running on Android, but not any version of Android you're likely to recognise -- it appears to have been heavily modified to suit Amazon's needs.
On the one hand that means you won't get to do all the fun tinkering that Android allows, but on the other it could make the tablet itself much simpler and more intuitive than many Android tablets.
There's just one fly in the ointment, however. In fact, it's more of a massive mutant bee, and that bee is the fact that lots of Amazon's multimedia gubbins -- including the video and music services -- aren't available in the UK.
That means that even if the Fire comes out over here, it's usefulness could be hampered because all the coolest Amazon services might not work. We'll let you know as soon as we hear more.
We've also heard whispers of a second Amazon Kindle tablet coming in early 2012, so you might want to hold off putting this new tablet on your Christmas list until we know a little more about that.
The Kindle Fire is out on 15 November in the US, we'll let you know as soon as we hear about UK availability.
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