Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

Summary: Amazon's next-generation Kindle, the "Fire" has been announced and demonstrated this morning. Finally, college students have a cheaper iPad alternative.

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Finally -- at long last, something to appease the student market. Priced at $199, the Android-powered tablet is the next-generation Kindle, boasting a 7-inch, colour display with Wi-Fi connectivity -- but without a camera, microphone, or a 3G connection.

Amazon Kindle Fire (Source: Bloomberg)

Amazon Kindle 'Fire' (Image via Bloomberg)

The last three points alone -- if anything -- bolsters the impending relationship between the upcoming tablet and college students.

Though 3G is not a necessity for a college-focused laptop, Wi-Fi functionality often designated to campus and the college library is a must.

But the killer feature here is the price: at $199, it is a viable competitor to the iPad in at least student circles.

Focusing on what students do the most -- downloading books, reading, using social media and more reading, the Kindle Fire will have the best of both worlds. But the absence of 3G should come as a blessing. Not only do students not need yet another mobile contract to contend with on a monthly basis, it offers a connection to social media on the move that can allow certain distractions to not get in the way of productivity.

Calling it an 'iPad competitor' can be fair; but 'killer', perhaps not.

Though students have taken to the iPad particularly well, with many wealthy schools offering the tablet as part of the schooling year, less wealthy schools have also been given the chance to access the technologies the iPad gives.

Still, the iPad is for an elite students with the available funds, but offers little in terms of 'at the desk' productivity'. While the iPad is a valid and reasonable device for browsing and socialisation, meaningful tasks are still taken to the desktop or laptop for -- essay writing and research as a prime focus.

For reading, however, many younger people as previously discussed may not find the iPad a viable reading resource. iBooks are still expensive, PDFs have to be manually loaded to the tablet.

Amazon's Fire, however, could break the mould. It won't kill the iPad, but will offer a bridge between tablets -- just as the iPad was meant to bridge the desktop with the laptop.

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Topics: Amazon, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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41 comments
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  • What do you think of the new 'Fire'?

    Is it something you would buy as a college student, or is it something you would buy for your kid? Do you think it is a viable replacement for an iPad, or does the iPad reign as the 'ultimate' tablet still? <b>Have your say.</b>
    zwhittaker
    • I don't see this as an iPad competitor

      @zwhittaker

      Nothing about this screams "tablet" to be any more than the Color Nook does. Just because it has a touch screen and can be used as one does not make it one.

      This is a color e-reader.

      The iPad does everything this does and more. Yes, it costs more. You get what you pay for, though, and in the end I'd think a college student would want something of quality for their money.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • You make no mention of what a student might need....

        @Michael Alan Goff

        Nor do Iknow what they need by the way. BUT if this does what they need it's a pointless statement to say the ipad does more. My desktop does more than my ipad but that's irrellevant too.

        I have an Aus transformer and an ipad. If I want something for the kids in the back of the car will I buy another one? NO... but I might buy the amazon gadget if it plays video etc. As for 3G? Do I want to pay individual service contracts or get one on a myfi... no brainer. It's not as simple as 3g in the pad but for 4 of us sharing its ideal, and its way cheaper than 4 contracts.

        I'll be having a look at it. Obviously no self respecting Apple owner will; because they've just spent 500 notes on theirs irrespective of how much functionality they actually use. (mine came from work, I bought the Asus) Early days.... lets see how it performs.
        johnmckay
      • Here are some things a student might need

        If the question is whether or not this is a suitable iPad replacement for students, it is relevant to say it does more.

        This will be running a modified version of Android, which limits what it will do. As I said, this really isn't a tablet when you look at it. This is a color e-reader.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • iPads problem is...

        @Michael Alan Goff

        There is no way to get what your paying for. Your paying at least $500 and what you can get in the computer world for $500 should be more then what the iPad is. And there is no question of that. The iPad is a device that is largely for people with more money then brains.
        Cayble
      • Wrong

        @Cayble

        The iPad is for people who need what an iPad delivers. If they can get 500$ worth of use out of it, and not all things are better done on a full computer, then it was worth it. Stop being a hater.
        Michael Alan Goff
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @Michael Alan Goff

        This is a tablet for the masses.

        How many people are actually creating content on an iPad? How many people are even creating documents on an iPad?

        I just watched a CNET video earlier today that was mentioning that the majority of tablet users use their devices for content consumption and e-mail. That's reading books, watching videos, browsing the web, and playing casual games.

        The iPad does everything this does and more?

        Doesn't give me access to 950,000 books and magazines. Doesn't give me access to free HD videos.

        The Fire is going to directly attract people to Amazon Prime, and for those of us who have been loyal Prime customers since 2005, we're just getting even more stuff with our subscription.

        You're right about one thing though. You *do* get what you pay for.

        With an iPad, you're paying to look cool and for a "lifestyle". When my Amazon Fire arrives on November 16th, I will have paid for a useful device to read my PDF journal articles from Science and Nature, to have quick and easy access to all the content on my 5GB Amazon Cloud Drive, to have access to my purchased textbooks - now in color, and access to all my music.

        All in something that weighs less than a pound and will see me through an entire day on campus.

        So you're right... this college student *did* want something of quality for his money. And Amazon delivered.
        cbozeman
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        "Doesn't give me access to 950,000 books and magazines. Doesn't give me access to free HD videos."

        It doesn't just give you 950k books. You can get the Kindle app. Does Kindle not have what you want? How about the Nook app? How about the iBooks app?

        Not sure about the free HD movies. Must be an Amazon prime thing, which.... iPad users can take advantage of.

        If the Fire does what you need it to do, fine. But don't proclaim your uses and needs as that of the majority. A lot of people, college students should really be in this group, should be doing more than content devouring. College students should be doing some content creation.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

      @zwhittaker

      A stripped down Kindle Fire is no match for the Playbook, which you can now get at Staples B&M for $250.

      Playbook specs:

      Starts at 16GB ($250 at Staples B&M stores)
      Front camera, 3 Mega Pixels
      Rear camera, 5 Mega Pixels
      HD video recording
      Built-in Video Chat
      Full Flash playback so you can watch videos on Amazon.com, Crackle.com and Youtube.com/shows, etc.
      HDMI out and can play full 1080p standard profile on high-end flat panels

      Also, the CPU/GPU combo in the playbook is the best of the field right now, see the Anandtech.com review.

      Within weeks we'll have QNX OS 2.0, which will have an Android virtual machine to run android apps, quite possibly including Netflix, which just opened up its app to almost all Android devices in the last week or so.
      sagec
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @jacec

        I just checked the Staples web site and find the Playbook for $299 after rebates. Where is it available for $250?
        lawsob
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @jacec I TOTALLY agree with you. I was going to write the same comment. It is much much better to get a discounted Playbook for just a little more money. It is a great and powerful device.
        Eventhough the bad publicity around it, actual users I know with both iPad2 and Playbook tend to leave behind their larger Apple device and use more often their portable 7" device.
        guylh
    • Price is the killer feature. For sure.

      @zwhittaker <br><br>The price point of the iPad has always been its downfall. Perhaps the most amazing thing Apple has ever accomplished is the fact that they can sell a device like the iPad as much as they do for as much as they do considering how little it is really good at.<br><br>The iPad is a rather perplexing quandary in many respects because its not that its useless, its that its not really $500 worth of useful to the average consumer. Of course if you have piles of money, a $500+ gadget you may not have to get much use out of it because $500 isn't such a huge deal to you, but for those who $500 is a big deal the iPad seems like a very odd purchase for Mr. Joe Average who doesn't have any specific purpose for an iPad beyond his general work-a-day computing needs. And that of course is where the quandary comes in.<br><br>Sure, an iPad can be a "handy" thing to have laying around the house, but...at $500 or more? Think of the kinds of things you can purchase with $500 that would actually be more then just handy. Suppose you needed a television, $500 can get you a half decent TV. And most families would consider having a TV more then handy. How about a gaming system? Or a custom built computer tower? Or how about a stove? Or a new multi media stereo receiver or a nice surround sound system? These are all things that do fill specific needs and most people who want or need these things would consider owning them to be more then handy because they do fill a specific need or want. For large numbers of the average public who purchased an iPad, its seldom if ever replacing any device, nobody had an iPad type tablet before the iPad so its not really like it is an item the average person really needs to fulfill any particular need. For most...its just handy. And it cost at least $500, and there is the problem. You can count on the fact that for many, they thought they were actually getting a lot more for their money then what the iPad actually is. But even then, if those who purchase one get attached to its "handiness" I guess it begins to create a want in those who have purchased it and might actually make them feel the purchase was worth while after some time. But that $500 price tag for an iPad still makes Apples feat of getting millions to go out and buy this thing at this price is miraculous to say the least.<br><br>At $199 for the Fire is obviously a considerable discount off the iPads price and it no doubt will make many consider purchasing one who have seen the iPad type form factor for what it is, and that is a device primarily for content consumption and not content creation. For people who need to get significant value for their money and don't see a $500 device that barely does half of what a netbook could, a $200 tablet may have many of those kind of people considering again if a $200 tablet is more in keeping with what these things can actually do efficiently and make the item more valuable to own.
      Cayble
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @Cayble

        > The price point of the iPad has always been its downfall

        You haven't seen the sales figures then, have you?
        seraph82
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @serah82

        Really nice point! I have always admired Cayble's comments over the years but his bias does tend to get in the way of objective reality sometimes.
        kenosha77a
      • Because

        @Cayble Nothing says family useful like a gaming system or a custom built tower.
        To many they are carrying around all their maagazines, newspapers, music, web, games, books and yes, even work in a very small package.
        So what is "useful" would seem to depend on the definition. You go on and on about it but don't bother to tell us how it's not useful... to you. Big grand statements ain't gonna get it done.

        As for the article, I'm not so sure. The cost is attractive but there are limitations. The $99 touch would seem to offer all one would need for reading if that's the big selling point.
        We'll have to wait for hands on to see how much of the Fire is a big Amazon store in your pocket and how much one can do outside of it.
        oneleft
      • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

        @Cayble

        "The iPad is a rather perplexing quandary in many respects because its not that its useless, its that its not really $500 worth of useful to the average consumer."

        Have you actually seen what an "average consumer" does with their bargain basement PC? Surf the web, write an email or two, visit social media sites, handle some pictures or video, watch YouTube videos and maybe write a letter they need to look a little more professional than something handwritten. All things the iPad does and does in very mobile convenient form factor. Cloud storage and 3g or a wireless connection virtually eliminates any storage issues.
        The iPad price factor covers, simplicity, mobility, functionality, durability and versatility something the other tablet producers simply have not been able to copy.
        Now we've got another device a kind of quasi tablet reader thing that has yet to find its way into consumer hands and we already know its been hobbled. Perhaps the Fire will have enough functionality and versatility (amazon tablets have already proven their simplicity, mobility and durability so I doubt those attributes will change) to make up the fact that what you've basically got is a one stop amazon shop right in your hands. Kind of like walmart only you don't have to go out side and fight the trafic.
        house63
    • RE: Amazon's Kindle Fire; At $199, finally a viable college tablet

      @zwhittaker
      For an e-reader, I'll take the $79 kindle (longer life, better reading)
      For other functions you mention, my smartphone does most, and...
      For real college tasks, my laptop is still indespensible.
      Now, why am I spending another $200?
      batpox
  • Lack of 3G? Not a problem-- find a friend with...

    a 3G hotspot smart phone. I don't know the ratio on campus, but with the rollout of 4G phones moving apace, 3G+ connectivity for anyone who can WiFi into a phone hotspot will soon be easy.

    Now watch for Amazon to start leasing them to universities by the thousands-- one for every student (future customer). With a price point this low, they could do it.
    ClearCreek
  • For reading,

    The screen will suck. Just as it does with every other color device of this class. Eyestrain indoors, unreadable outdoors.

    Color eInk. Where are you?
    People
    • I love it... never seen it but a true expert responds none the less.

      @People

      Why bother commenting such biased nonsense? Why not at least wait till you can make an educated judgement? I doubt Amazon would risk their reputation on junk, and I reckon we need to wait on some decent reports on the device.
      johnmckay