By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 28, 2011

A first peek at Amazon’s answers to the iPad, priced from $79 to $199

The setting is a soundstage on Manhattan’s West 37th Street. Four TV satellite trucks parked outside. A full battery of cameras. A tent full of journalists cooling their heels.

The event was scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but this is Amazon (AMZN), not Apple (AAPL), and we are running late.

10:03 The lights dim. A video of Amazon customers extoling the virtues of the Kindle.

10:05 CEO Jeff Bezos takes the stage. “Four years ago we set out to reinvent the book.” Starts a recap.

Slide show of claim chowder to the effect that the Kindle was dead on arrival.

Displays graph of physical books sold on Amazon against Kindle books sold. E-books are on a much steeper curve, passing physical books circa 2010-2011.

Four years ago, 90,000 books. Today 1 million, not counting all the free books not covered by copyright. Talks up the virtues of e-ink. The wonders of battery life. The free-backup. Text-to-speech. Integration with Ecosystem. Whisper-sync. Etc.

10:15 Finally shows a new device: Kindle Touch. A dedicated e-reader with no keyboard. New features:

  • Reach around for left-handed readers
  • X-ray to show you the bones of the book, allowing you to look up stuff like key words from Wikipedia stored locally (not wirelessly), information about characters, etc.
  • Infrared interface

Quotes a lot of journalists saying how many Kindles Amazon would sell at $99.

“Let the fervor begin.” Priced at $99, one fifth of an iPad. This is Wi-Fi only. Add another $40 if you want it without ads.

Second product: Kindle Touch 3G. $149. ($189 without ads)

“Were going to sell many millions of these.”

What if you didn’t want touch? A $79 version ($109 without ads). Under 6 ounces. Wi-Fi only. Buttons on the side and below the screen. No keyboard (hitting a square rocker switch brings up a keyboard that you navigate with up and down arrows). This one ships today. “We’re going to sell many millions of these.” Too.

Special offers (i.e. ad-supported) Kindles instantly became their best-selling Kindles. Sounds like he might do the same thing with these, but he doesn’t make any announcement to that effect.

Shows 30 second TV spot.

Recap of 15 years of Amazon. It sounded like we were heading for the end of the new announcements, but then he pulled out…

Kindle Fire. This is a color touchscreen device that’s not a dedicated e-reader. It has all the content, says Bezos. All the movies, songs, apps, books, magazines, etc.

Syncing wirelessly (big laugh when he shows a photo of Apple’s USB cable) for books and movies.

This device can search the Web. Carousel of content in most-recently touched order. No mention e-mail. Apparently no native e-mail app. Big downer.

Demo of movie. X-men. 16 million colors. 169 pixels per inch. Gorilla glass (like iPad). Music demo. Adele.

Fruit Ninja demo. Mentions dual core processor.

Bloomberg is reporting the price point on the Fire is $199.

Video introduces Amazon Silk, a new Web browser for displaying complex pages like Divides the work to be done between what can be done on the back end (on Amazon’s EC2 cloud) and what is done on the device. On video Amazon engineers explain how hard it is to get huge Web pages quickly. “Our back end has some of the fattest pipes on the Internet.”

Bezos is back. Delivers the price point: $199. Ships Nov. 15. Suggests you pre-order today.

10:55 And that’s a wrap. The commentary on the blogs offer some specs and shortcomings for the Fire:

  • 7-inch display (vs. 10 for the iPad)
  • No camera or microphone
  • Wi-Fi only (no 3G option)
  • 8GB internal memory (vs. 16GB for the low-end iPad, 64GB for the high)
  • A 2-point multitouch screen (vs. 10-point on the iPad)
  • No native e-mail client (although Amazon’s reps say there will be one by the time it ships)

Ship dates:

  • $79 reader: Today
  • $99 and $149 Touches: Nov. 21
  • $199 Fire: Nov. 15

For more information, see the press kit here.

You May Like