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Is the Kindle Fire the Android tablet that fans were hoping for?

After months of anticipation and leaks, does the Amazon Fire live up to the hype? Is this the droid we were looking for?

Amazon Kindle Fire
Sarah Tew/CNET

After months of rumors and speculation, the Amazon Fire is now a reality. Making its official debut yesterday, the 7-inch tablet ultimately ended up looking more like the Nook Color than the iPad, with very little hints of Android.

In fact, aside from the multitasking, Web browser, and Amazon Appstore, most users will be hard-pressed to identify the Android 2.3 platform under the hood. Taking this into consideration, I began to wonder how this will affect the sales of the Kindle Fire. Are Android fans going to buy this in hopes of getting a lower cost tablet experience or is this going to appeal to the Kindle and e-reader crowd looking for a little more?

After all, isn't this supposed to be the Android tablet that gives the iPad 2 a run for its money? Well, if the early figures are any indication, I suspect this device will fly off shelves as it looks attractive on all fronts.

Looking at the Kindle Fire from a pure hardware standpoint, the device doesn't hold a candle next to other Android tablets. While it does feature a dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, and 8GB of storage, it's missing key features found in traditional tablets.

Chief among the omissions is a camera (or two), Bluetooth connectivity, a microSD expansion slot, and GPS. Granted some of these items are also missing from the Nook Color and this does not seem to matter to most. Even the developer and hacker community seem to overlook many of these so-called shortcomings. Plus, I imagine the Kindle Fire will be rootedand hacked in record time, given the amount of interest.

As we head into the fourth quarter and the prices get more competitive, the tablet landscape will continue to evolve. Calling the Nook Color and Kindle Fire a "tablet" might be a stretch, but they are certainly more than just an e-reader. It's entirely too early to call the race but Amazon looks to have a slight edge going into the shopping season. It has taken the company considerable time but it finally has a convergence device that will deliver books, movies, apps, games, Web, and more. By contrast, Barnes & Noble is spreading its wings a bit and expanding the content and services after the tablet's debut.

Who wins here? Ultimately it's the consumer.

In an era where companies like Hulu, Netflix, and Blockbuster are jockeying for position and relevancy, Amazon may come out ahead in the content land grab. It's been putting pieces together for years, offering a little something for everyone. Much like Google did with Android, Amazon has to come up with a way to tie all of these together.

Related stories
• Kindle Fire First Look video
• Amazon's 2011 Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G (hands-on photos)
• Kindle Fire vs. Nook Color spec breakdown

To call the Amazon Kindle Fire an Android tablet is simply not telling the whole story. Without rooting or hacking the device, it offers consumers a terrific experience at a very affordable price. It just so happens that the tablet has Android at its core.

Android tablet manufacturers, on the other hand, love to tout the latest and greatest hardware, extolling the virtues of high-end CPUs, GPUs, MBs, and GBs. The problem we have seen thus far is that this stuff is not cheap. Try explaining all the fact card statistics to an average consumer and watch their face. They don't care about all of that hooey; they just want to be able to check Facebook and play Angry Birds.

Apple has taught us that it's not what a device has that's important, it's what it can do with it. Amazon, for its part, seems to be one of the only players paying attention in class.