Amazon distancing itself from Apple's playbook with Kindle Fire HDX

Amazon distancing itself from Apple's playbook with Kindle Fire HDX

Summary: Forget virtual assistants. Amazon is installing real people into the latest Kindle Fires.


SEATTLE---School is back in session, and the holiday season is around the corner. Pumpkin spice lattes aside, it's also the perfect time of year for a new Kindle Fire release.

First launched two years ago, the Kindle Fire brand has grown to be one of the best-selling products across Amazon's vast empire.

See also: Amazon Kindle Fire wants in at the workplace with Fire OS 3.0 | Amazon debuts revamped Kindle Fire HDX range, Fire OS 3.0 (pictures)

Just honing in on a few of the new features added to its tablet brand, it is clear that Amazon is now moving well away from whatever playbook Apple has established for the tablet market and into new territory.

The debut of HDX series is a markedly subdued occasion compared to the flashy affair that Amazon threw together at the historic Barker Hangar in Santa Monica at this time last year, calling in the technorati from coast to coast.

This time, however, Amazon invited just a fraction of that media pool to its highly buzzed-about (but still evolving) South Lake Union headquarters in Seattle for a more intimate introduction with the company's founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos.

The new owner of the Washington Post Company met with reporters in tiny groups to offer a true hands-on look at the new devices.

Touted to be smaller, thinner, and lighter than their predecessors, many of the hardware specs span both the 7-inch and 8.9-inch models. Here's a glance:

  • Operating system: Based on Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), but built upon significantly by Amazon's developers to produce Fire OS 3.0 (more on that in a separate article)

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2Ghz quad-core processor; touted to offer three times better CPU action and four times better on the GPU

  • Memory doubled to 2GB of RAM

  • More lamination on the display for visibility from more angles with less glare

  • Front-facing cameras

The only major differences between the two (aside from dimensions and weight) can be found on the camera and screen resolutions. While the 7-inch model lacks a rear camera, the 8.9-inch version comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash.

HDX display technology

This is the first spot where not only the upgrades become immediately evident, but also Amazon's tablet business strategy as well.

I only had a short window of time to demo the new tablets on Tuesday. The HDX display was the first time since I saw Apple's trademark Retina display on the iPhone 4 in 2010, and without thinking, I said, "Wow."

The resolution on the 7-inch edition has been bumped up from 1,280x800 to 1,920x1,200 at 323 pixels per inch. The 8.9-inch one was boosted to a 2,560x1,600 resolution with 339 pixels per inch.

Amazon reps boasted that the HDX technology includes 100 percent RGB representation (meaning more vivid colors across the board), and the difference between these models and the previous generation (and arguably any other tablet aside from the iPad 4) is clear cut.

Amazon also added a "real-time" contrast sensor on top of an ambient light sensor that automatically lights up individual pixels (rather than the whole screen) based on current lighting conditions, either outdoors or indoors.

True, Amazon might be playing catch-up to Apple in this regard, but there is something else baked into the HDX series that might be unlike anything we've seen before on a tablet — or any device, for that matter.

Call for "Mayday" >>

Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Cloud, Hardware, Tablets

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  • What is saving the Fire HD is Prime

    The Amazon Prime bundle is the only reason the Kindle Fire is selling. If Amazon props the bundle or even if it just limits the service, the Fire would die faster the the MS Surface.

    Not only is Kindle using a 3 year old version of Android, except for being an good virtual store for Amazon and a decent colored ereader, so far is no good for anything else.
    • US-centric

      Many of Amazons services does not work in many countries outside of the US. If you live outside of the US, just buy an iPad, surface or Nexus tablet and install the kindle app.
    • The Tablet Fanboys Love to Hate

      How is Android 4.3 a 3 year old version? You have something newer? And your assertion that the Fire would Fire without Prime...that's equally absurd. Much as it pains you, the Fire in North America is the most-used Android tablet. Also, in a survey that measured who"loves" their tablets, only the iPad and Fire has measurable results.
      Rich Brown
      • Not sure which I like most Kindle HD or Prime or Amazon's selection

        When you have a superior product success is not assured. When you combine three superior products tablet, services, and selection you have a winning combination. What is wrong with combining all three in the same experience?

        Also, get rid of the 1920X1080 pixelated displays. If Amazon can produce a product a tablet at these prices with 1920X1200 or 2,560x1,600 at these prices then all the other big manufactures (HP, Dell, Lenovo) are just plain lazy.
        • The others have higher margins.

          The Fire series price is cheaper because Amazon is basically selling a content device. They are making money off of all the books and such people are paying for. The other companies have a sole revenue stream... selling their device. When the first Fires came out it was believed that Amazon was selling them at near or below cost, knowing they would make the money on content. It is like Glucose Meters... the meters are cheap... some are even given away. They make the money selling test strips. Same with the Fire!
          Thomas Kolakowski
          • Exactly

            iTunes rules of course for the moment in the music universe, but it's no longer out of reach. No one else can match Fire's available content in other arenas. The judge's short-sighted ruling on Apple's arrangements with publishers has ensured that Amazon will have a near monopoly in some sectors of the book market down the road. Will prices be so low then? I'm already seeing a few prices higher than they used to be. So a major revenue stream may get even bigger.

            Since no one else can subsidize the cost of the devices they sell and no one can compete on the basis of $$ per unit of power, screen clarity or any other hardware measure you choose.

            But unless Kindle gets serious about creating an environment that meets the use cases of business users, they won't dethrone iPads, Android tablets or even Windows-based tablets. The ending is not yet written.
          • No complaints

            Amazon has put everything together better than any one else. The should get credit for a great job. They do at get credit when they make a lot of money. They could have stayed with the existing Fires and there was no real competive force that caused the upgrade. They should get extra credit for this. Maybe trolls are just jealous.
      • How many tablets other than Nexus

        run 4.3? How many smartphones other then Nexus run 4.3?

        Nexus products are designed more for developers than they are for the general public.
        • Not true

          Nexus is for people who like android but don't want all the bloated crap the phone makers pile on.
          new gawker
      • Actually

        Prime is one of the few things the Fire line has going for it - and one of the main reasons the Nook line is going away. If it was not for Prime the Fire would be gone and the Nook would be doing well as the Nook has far superior hardware and essentially the same software - just a different UI.
      • I have a Kindle HD..

        It was free with my cable plan. Compared to the iPad, it's a POS. Slow, quality if apps suck compared to iDevice apps. Doesn't have a lot of apps available as the iPad. Crashes a lot. I can go on and on. Considering the new Kindle runs the inferior OS that is Android, you can keep it. I'll be getting the new iPad mini with retina display that's debuting next month at the special Apple event.
    • Read the Article!

      Android 4.3 os not 3 years old! It is less than a year old!
      • less than a year?

        No less than 2 months.
    • Android is junk.

      I would rather buy a Surface being that its a better choice, alot more usefull, and it runs windows 8 and not that Android crap.
      Troll Hunter J
      • Funny

        NOT ONE tech writer brags about owning ANY MS hardware. Hmmm maybe there is a reason. Over priced, anemic hardware with an OS with no useful apps. GEE I want one too... NOT!
      • Nobody cares.

        Go ahead and buy a Surface for any reason you care to invent. Nobody cares what you do, and very few care about the Surface. If you really want to run Metro, there are better choices from other manufacturers, but even those aren't selling very well.

        Surface won't make even a tiny dent in Android sales for at least 5 years. They likely won't even surpass iOS tablet sales by then. The genie is out of the bottle. Everyone on Earth knows they don't need Windows in order to use their tablets. That ship sailed long ago. Microsoft is trying to catch up with a quickly moving target.
        • There are no Android sales, are there? People buy devices.

          Android devices aren't a single company. It is true, Windows Surface isn't the best hardware out there. The Windows 8 is, of course, one of the options as far as operating systems go. It's probably fine for a tablet or phone OS. However most people don't really care about all that as much. If Microsoft comes up with a better device they'll buy Windows phones and tablets. If they come up with a cheaper device people will buy that.
          Andrej Petelin
      • Wait...

        a limited version of Windows 8 (which only runs Windows Metro... er, Windows 8 apps) makes mediocre hardware more useful than something with more than decent hardware running a very curated version of Android?

        My money's on the Fire HDX.
      • Surface runs Windows 8?

        Or you meant Surface Pro which is typically 2x more expensive than high end Android tablet of similar capability. If you meant Surface RT, no it does not run Windows 8, which means you can't run any software that runs on Windows 8, and I doubt it will make them any more useful than any Android junk.
    • Funny

      You have got to be kidding me, Prime sucks compared to Netflix, about the only thing I use Prime for is renting movies and I could use Vudo for that. There is so much you miss being locked into Amazon. So tell me, Why should pass up everything I can get and do on my nexus 7 tablet for a Kindle?