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Amazon unveils Kindle Fire tablet for $199

Internet retailer's tablet will sell for $199 and could mark the first significant competitors to the iPad.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
3 min read

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the Kindle Fire. Sarah Tew/CNET

Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire, an Android-powered tablet that acts more like a color e-reader on steroids and will retail for $199.

The Amazon Kindle Fire. Amazon via Bloomberg

"We're building premium products at non-premium prices," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during the presentation.

The Kindle Fire will be available on November 15 and is available for preorder now. Bloomberg earlier reported the $199 price point and details on the device.

The Kindle Fire marks Amazon's first foray into the tablet market, which has so far been dominated by Apple's iPad. But with its low price--most tablets retail for around $500--and the established Kindle brand, analysts believe Amazon's product could represent the first legitimate competitor in an area where many other high-end Android tablets have missed the mark.

"We believe that the launch of an Amazon tablet will significantly boost the tablet market and inject a much needed competitor to Apple's iPad," Adam Leach, an analyst at research firm Ovum, said ahead of the event.

The specifications, however, are lower than other comparable high-end tablets. While it has a dual-core processor, it lacks many of the other typical features found in a tablet, such as a camera, microphone, and 3G wireless access. It also only has 8 gigabytes of storage space. The device is more intended to compete with Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, which is essentially a stripped down Android tablet.

The Kindle Fire will also use an older version of Android intended for smartphones, but Amazon remade the user interface, giving it a completely different feel from rival tablets. It can also play games and can surf the Internet using its own custom Amazon Silk browser that uses a combination of cached content on the device and on the Web. The company claims it can predict your browsing habits and preload favorite websites for faster browsing.

Bezos said that most of the content is backed up in the cloud and that the device features wireless synching. The company's Whispersync technology, which delivers digital books to the Kindle, will also work with movies and television shows.

The Kindle Fire comes with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, the company's premium service that offers free two-day shipping and streaming video. The service normally costs $79 a year.

Amazon has slowly been building up its online content, adding new shows and movies. Amazon recently signed a new licensing deal with 20th Century Fox to bring in its library of shows and movies for streaming.

Amazon has also reportedly signed agreements with several publishers, including Conde Nast, Hearst, and Meredith, to have digital versions of magazines ready at launch.

Amazon is attempting to go where other tablet makers have failed. The past few months have seen a number of companies stumble out of the gate with their supposed iPad-killer. Hewlett-Packard scrapped its WebOS hardware business after the lackluster sale of the TouchPad, only to revive interest by holding a fire sale at $99 a unit. Research In Motion flopped badly with its PlayBook and is similarly trying to spark sales through a number of discount programs with its retail partners

. Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha acknowledged initials problems selling its Xoom tablet when it was priced higher than the iPad.

As an e-reader, the Kindle has been instrumental in driving sales of digital books for Amazon and bringing that category of device into the mainstream despite earlier efforts by Sony. The catalyst for its success has been its low-powered e-ink technology, which enables users to read the device from anywhere, as well as the ease in which a person can buy a digital book over the air.

Another smart move: Amazon's decision to create apps on other devices such as the iPad and Android phones, allowing people to read their books on any device but still stick with the Kindle library.

Earlier today, Bezos unveiled a trio of new e-ink Kindle readers, ranging between $79 and $149.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. PT: to include additional details on the Kindle Fire and new photo.

Updated at 7:21 a.m. PT: to include additional details on the Kindle Fire and background on the tablet market.

Updated at 7:01 a.m. PT: to include picture of the Kindle Fire.