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.

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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.

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Topics: Mobility, Amazon, Cloud, Hardware, Tablets

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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