Amazon revealed new devices, mostly updates for its Kindle range of eBook readers, on Thursday.
However, the lineup added a redesigned version of its massively popular Kindle Fire tablet, with a larger screen and a $299 base price.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, himself presented and held up all the new products, including two new Kindle Fire HD tablets, at a Los Angeles event on 6 September 2012 for everyone in attendance to see.
The media event, held in the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport, saw the world’s largest online retailer push itself into the top tier of the tablet market.
Kindle Fire HD
Amazon introduced a $499 version of the Kindle Fire with an HD display, 4G LTE connectivity, an 8.9-inch screen, and a new annual data plan of only $50 but offers 250MB of data per month – that’s 3GB of data per year.
The larger Kindle Fire HD now places Amazon in direct competition with industry leader Apple iPad.
During his keynote, Bezos explained how the release of over two dozen Android tablets from several OEMs last year failed to align with customers.
“Nobody bought them,” he remarked.
“Why? Because they are gadgets and people don’t want gadgets anymore. They want services, and they want those services to improve on a constant basis.”
Note that the 7-inch version either comes in 16GB and 32GB built-in storage, with the latter costing $249.
Amazon said the 7-inch version will be available for shipping from 14 September, whereas the 8.9-inch devices will wait until 20 November.
The introduction of Amazon’s $499 Kindle Fire HD tablet followed speculations on the launch of a mini Apple iPad.
After Bezos’ presentation, Jay Marine, Vice President of Amazon Kindle, declined to comment in an interview where he was asked about the hearsays, but said Amazon is extremely thrilled to compete with tablet makers with its high-end 4G LTE device.
“I think we’re going to do really well and customers will ultimately decide,” said Marine.
Colin Sebastian, a senior equity research analyst of Robert W. Baird, said Amazon has the opportunity and potential to create good market share in a developing market with its latest products.
He said speculation on the launching of new Amazon Kindle devices earlier this year was critical in the company’s stocks performance.
“What they’ve shown here today is that they are a real technology company that can give Google and Apple a run for their money this holiday,” said Sebastian.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also announced keeping the original Kindle Fire tablet and cutting its price from $199 to $159.
Originally launched in November last year, the first Kindle Fire gave a run for the money because of its low price; it cost less than half of the $500 Apple iPad.
The pricing made the device a bestseller during the Holiday season, which span from Christmas Eve to the New Year.
Amazon has yet to disclose actual sales figures on the Kindle Fire, but industry followers consider it was the second bestselling tablet of 2011’s last quarter.
Amazon launched the list of new tablets, including the updated Kindle Fire, to attract new users to its growing portfolio of digital content, which now has over 22 million from Brezos’ presentation.
“We don’t need those big margins on the hardware and we don’t even want them because it would misalign us with customers,” said Amazon Kindle VP Marine.
According to market research firm IHS iSuppli, Samsung had exceeded Amazon’s sales in the media tablet market nearly 2-to-1 for the first half this year, with around 4.4 million tablet shipments.
Apple, the world’s most valuable company, remains insurmountable with 28.8 million iPad shipments during the period.
Then Google entered the tablet market with its $199 Nexus 7 over the summer.
Clearly threatened by the search giant’s less-than-$200 price point, Amazon updated the Kindle Fire’s specs sheet and reduced its price by as much as $40.
Updated Kindle eBook Readers
Amid the string of new tablets and services announced on Thursday, Amazon unveiled an updated line of Kindle e-readers to add what it calls Kindle Paperwhite.
Paperwhite is a feature that highlights new technology on how the device lights the screen to render external light sources superfluous.
In addition, the price of the basic Kindle is now $10 less at $69 and will ship on 14 September.