Amazon turns heat up in tablet market with 8.9" Kindle Fire HD

Amazon turns heat up in tablet market with 8.9" Kindle Fire HD

Summary: Amazon's new Kindle Fire HD might be the most serious competition for the iPad yet -- in both the consumer and enterprise markets.

TOPICS: Amazon, Tablets
Credit: Rachel King, ZDNet

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. -- While the Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon's answer to the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the new Kindle Fire HD must be the answer to Apple's iPad.

See also: CNET Live Blog from Amazon's media event in Santa Monica
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite might be most paper-like e-reader ever

But while the first Kindle Fire was basically a media-consumption device, the next generation of the Kindle Fire has the potential to be very competitive with both enterprise and education customers.

Released during the last quarter of calendar year 2011, CEO Jeff Bezos commented that the Kindle Fire accounted for 22 percent of tablet sales in the U.S. last year.

"Nobody would have predicted this when we launched this product less than a year ago," Bezos said, quipping that Amazon will keep the Kindle Fire around.

The entry-level 7-inch version got some significant upgrades thanks to an all-new processor with double the ram and 40 percent faster performance. Even better, the new Kindle Fire is coming with a price drop as Bezos commented that Amazon wants to produce "the best tablet any price."

Priced at $159, the upgraded Kindle Fire (now with 16GB) is available for pre-order today and ships September 14.

But the real focus of the presentation was the new 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD.

"We decided to go big," Bezos remarked while walking out with each of the new Kindle Fire models in his hands.

The HD edition includes an advanced, true wide polarizing filter with full spectrum color at all angles and a laminated touch sensor without any air gaps.

But beyond just a pretty screen, Amazon is trying to outpace Apple with some serious internal hardware ranging from a Dolby audio engine exclusive to the Kindle Fire HD as well as a new system called MIMO, which essentially improves Wi-Fi reception by using those echos for better signals.

Bezos boasted that prior to today, only a small end of high-end laptops incorporated MIMO technology, comparing the Fire HD to the iPad 3 and Nexus 7 -- neither of which include the technology.

Thus, Amazon asserts that the Kindle Fire HD promises 41 percent faster Wi-Fi than the iPad 3 and 54 percent more than the Nexus 7.

When it comes to downloading and streaming HD content, that is something that is incredibly important to consider. Media consumption is essentially the whole point of the Nexus 7, and it is to a certain extent on the iPad.

Furthermore, Amazon is trying to take on the iPad more directly with a larger focus on productivity. Bezos glossed over all new email functionality, which includes "world-class" Exchange support, faster access to new email, and improved sync reliability for contacts and calendars.

The Kindle Fire HD could also prove to have a niche in the education space as well thanks to the new X-Ray feature, which basically zooms in on everything from character names in books on any upcoming Kindle or integration with IMDB for actor biographies on the Fire.

But on the Fire HD, X-Ray is extended further with a textbook search tool that looks so simple at first that it's a wonder why no one had ever thought of it sooner. That matched with an 8.9-inch display, the Kindle Fire HD would be very appealing to both students and educators.

Right now, the iPad is likely the most prominent tablet in the enterprise sector on top of being the dominant tablet in the consumer market place.

But at the right price point, the Kindle Fire HD could seriously disrupt all that as Amazon has shown it is committed to producing a tablet that covers both productivity and entertainment, putting it in prime position to get involved with the BYOD trend.

And Amazon likely hit a sweet spot. The Kindle Fire HD 7" with 16GB will retail for $199 and ships September 14, while the Kindle Fire HD 8.9" with 16GB will really only be a little bit more at $299, shipping November 20.

Amazon is also turning things up a notch with a 4G LTE version of the 8.9-inch tablet at $499. That is tied along to a $49.99 per year package deal that is comprised of 250MB of data per month along with 20GB of cloud storage and a $10 Amazon Appstore credit.

For more analysis about the new pricing scheme, check out our further analysis on ZDNet.

Topics: Amazon, Tablets

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  • Well done Amazon

    I love my Nexus 7 and I don't plan on updating it until I see what shakes out with Windows 8 and Google in the coming months but I think that Amazon has done what it needed to do with these tablets.

    $199 for a 8.9 inch tablet sounds like a winner to me. It has the specs to interest people that are already commuted to the Kindle ecosystem and the price to lure in new people.
    • Google Nexus 7 and available in Europe, the Kindle is not available in Euro

      One problem for Amazon, the Kindle Fire is not available in Europe. The Google Nexus 7 is available in Europe as well as the United States, and soon the Asian markets. So it can be argued that the Google Nexus 7 will have a greater market share than the Kindle HD and thus become more popular.
    • 299

      The 199 refers to the new 7 inch tablet, unless the article got the prices wrong.
    • except the 8.9" model is $299.00

      Good price still, but how's the quality and how well does it work?
      • No UK release

        In the UK, we don't have any Kindle Fire, let alone the 8.9". $299 is getting close to iPad in cost and what if the mini iPad comes out. I know people keep harking on about being locked in to Apple. I am fine with that personally.
    • No open interface

      just to compete w/ Google Amazon increased the size of their tablet. Too bad that all apps will have to be remade/recompiled for tablet size that's not 7" or 10"s. Like the iPad, you are also locked into only what Amazon will let you install.
    • 299

      The 8.9" Fire HD will sell for $299. The 7" Fire update is $199. Lets stay realistic here.
  • "We decided to go big,"

    Amazon *had* to go big. One word: eTextbooks.

    How much is the Kindle Fire HD?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • The Kindle Fire HD will be $299 U.S. Nice.

      Missed it in the last paragraph.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Glad I Waited

    Glad I waited to see what Amazon is offering before buying a Google Nexus 7. Any ideas on the price of this new Kindle Fire HD?
  • just wait

    until Apple sues Amazon too.
    • My guess is that Apple won't sue Amazon.

      If push comes to shove, Amazon will pay royalties to Apple rather than go to trial.
      M Wagner
  • Kudos Amazon

    Make sure you patent your x-ray technology. Then sue Apple $1,000,000,000 for allowing the user to search on the iPad. Apple has this turnabout coming to them for their ridiculous patent on the rectangle with rounded corners.
  • Kindle Fire what Kindle fire????????????????

    Its all right for you guys, in the UK we still haven't access to the standard Kindle fire I am not buying anything till I have seen the fire. Really pissed of at Amazon. Maybe will waite for the Surface!
    • no need to write

      if you check out the UK website you will find the Fire HD (and others) available for pr-order (delivery in October) in the UK - the HD priced at a competitive £149

      If you dont mind the limitations of a customised android and tie in to Amazon store then it offers good value for money. It doesn't however come with any freebies other than a one month connection to their acquired Love Film streaming service. As far as I can see it has no way to connect using 3g which may put some UK customers off as LTE 4g will be a long time coming here in most areas
  • Incoherent

    I considered commenting on this story because as the owner of two iPads and two Kindles the content is important to me.
    Unfortunately, I'm too preoccupied by the writing to address the content. In short, the writing is borderline incoherent. I won't even bother getting into sentence structure or overall composition.
    I realize that the web has bred a proliferation of incompetent writing, editing and reporting, and that readers' expectations have been lowered commensurately. But for a respected news organization such as ZDNet, this article reaches a new low.
    Rachel King needs to learn how to write and report, and her editor needs to be reprimanded. On second thought, I might be wrong to assume that anyone calling himself or herself an editor even looked at this drivel before it was posted.
    Scott Wasser
    • I've seen much worse...

      ..on this website. Trust me.
      • Re: Incoherent

        Most of us have seen writing that runs from mediocre to incoherent. A child learns language from his parents and some parents don't measure up as speakers or writers. Their children have a tough row to hoe!
        draco vulgaris
    • My IQ dropped by two points...

      after reading your comment.

      If you don't have anything positive to contribute then go away. People like you who only find fault and complain are a drag to society.
      • Media criticism is legitimate

        As a former journalist now enjoying a tech career, you're wrong, ryanmc, dead wrong.

        We readers are obliged to call out the writers and editors who present us with regurgitated press releases and groundless speculation. Readers can make up their own mind who's right and who's wrong.

        Simple attention to the rules of grammar can warn of a post written in haste. I will leave the rules of grammar to those who can comprehend them.

        Less apparent is the story's failure to explain what the capabilities of the tablet are, lost in the fangirl drool over the tech. What will it run? Can you edit Office files? What content can you create? Do you have full access to the Google Play Store, or is this another walled garden?