NEW YORK -- Amazon on Wednesday unveiled the Kindle Fire, the company's first tablet computer and venture into a market beyond its popular electronic-ink powered reading device.
Chief executive Jeff Bezos took to the stage here at Stage37 in Manhattan to reveal the device, which carries a 7-inch IPS display (clad in Gorilla Glass) and which very much resembles RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook, manufactured by Taiwan's Quanta.
"Amazon Web Services, Amazon Prime, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Instant Video, our MP3 store, Appstore for Android -- we asked ourselves, is there some way we can bring all of these things together into a remarkable product offering that customers would love?" he asked. "The answer is yes. It's called Kindle Fire."
As suspected, the device runs on a version of Google's Android operating system, but looks little like existing Android tablets on the market. It has a dual-core processor.
But the real story here is content. The Fire finally gives Amazon a device to fully leverage the myriad types of content it already sells, including movies, TV shows, music, documents and applications. Bezos played up the device's ability to display magazines (for which it had an extensive library already in place, aptly called "Newsstand") and its use of Whispersync to download movies, TV shows and other kinds of content the e-Ink Kindle can't handle.
The Kindle Fire will be $199. It will be available for pre-order today and ship Nov. 15.
"This is an unbelievable value," Bezos said.
Bezos also unveiled Amazon Silk, a "split" web browser that "partially lives in Amazon EC2 [cloud computing platform] and partially lives in Kindle Fire."
"It is difficult for mobile devices to display modern web pages rapidly," Bezos said.
The company says web pages will display much faster. (There are demo stations positioned outside; we'll let you know if it's up to the task.)
ZDNet comment: Is the Fire enough to ward off challenges from Barnes & Noble's Nook Color 2, expected immediately before the holiday rush? In this early peek, it's unclear, but there's no discounting Amazon's credibility among consumers -- and its aggressive pricing scheme.