By Steve Windwalker
Amazon announced an impressive array of new hardware and services at small-group briefings last week, but the big news is the company’s introduction of the all-new Kindle Fire 6 tablet at just $99 — with a price, features, and hardware that allows the company to call it “the most powerful tablet under $100.” All of these models are available for pre-order right now, and all will begin shipping in October.
But that wasn’t all. The Kindle briefings also rocked some major new offerings in the all-important Kindle ecosystem for kids, in new eInk ereader hardware and software, in high-end Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 enhancements, and in family- or household-friendly features for most kinds of Amazon digital content across the full array of Kindle and Kindle-compatible devices:
- Amazon announced a new-generation of eInk Kindles, including its “thinnest, most advanced Kindle ever” — a Paperwhite model that is now called the Kindle Voyage — at $199 and, in a continuation of its strategy of offering highly affordable entry devices, a new $79 basic Kindle with a touchscreen interface (for the first time) and a 20% faster processor and twice the storage of its $69 predecessor.
- For children, Amazon is now offering what amounts to a dedicated kids’ Kindle that includes, for $149, a Kindle Fire 6, a molded rubber kid-friendly case, over 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, games and educational apps via a free one-year subscription to Free Time Unlimited as well as a quad-core processor, a vivid HD display, fron- and rear-facing cameras, Dolby Digital audio, and “an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guarantee.”
- At the higher end, Amazon has held its $379 price for a new-model Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 featuring a quad core 2.5 GHz processor, a 70% faster graphics engine, 339 ppi display, exclusive new Dolby Atmos audio and a brand-new Fire OS 4 “Sangria” operating system that “adds hundreds of new features and platform enhancements, incluidng Firefly, ASAP, Smart Suspend, and other Amazon-exclusive features.
We had a chance to test drive all of these models today and it’s a strong array that should help Amazon continue its dominance in the ereader and ebook markets while gradually carving out a larger slice of the tablet market. As impressive as the new hardware is, a lot of what Amazon rolled out today involved nice, incremental enhancements in ease of use and performance that will make a more gradual, but very positive impression on customers. Among these are free unlimited storage for photos taken on Fire devices, a Smart Suspend power-saving system, “ASAP” for time-saving predictive streaming, and a new “Family Library” feature that allows family members to easily share apps, games, audiobooks, ebooks, and Prime Instant Video content, even if they use different Amazon accounts.
We’ll have more to share about all of this in the coming weeks and months, but we wanted to give an idea of what we all have to look forward to.