Amazon unveils Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon announces three new e-readers and its first ever tablet, the Kindle Fire, at an event in New York City this morning. And the good news for consumers is that they're all priced below $200.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
4 min read
Watch this: Amazon Kindle Fire unveiling

Amazon didn't disappoint tech enthusiasts this morning at its big press conference in Manhattan.. The company announced not one, but three new devices, all below the $200 price point.

As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said more than once during the presentation, the company is all about "making premium products at non-premium prices." The new products included three new e-ink e-readers and the much-anticipated Kindle Fire, a tablet for enjoying all of Amazon's multimedia content.

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The Kindle Touch, which allows people to easily read on their device one-handed, is designed as a Barnes & Noble Nook-killer and will cost $99. Amazon also showed off a 3G version, which will sell for $149. A cheaper and smaller non-touch control Kindle will sell for $79.

But the big news of the day was the 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet. This Fire is Amazon's stab at the crowded tablet PC market, which is already dominated by Apple's iPad.

But at $199, the Kindle Fire is sure to find a bigger audience than other Apple iPad challengers, namely Research in Motion's BlackBerry Playbook and Google Android tablets from companies such as Samsung. Most other tablets are more than twice the price of the Kindle Fire, retailing for around $500. More importantly, the Kindle Fire is priced even lower than B&N's Nook Color, which retails for $249.

That said, the lower price point means that Amazon hasn't packed the device with specifications found in more expensive tablets. While the device has a dual-core processor, it lacks other features, such as a camera, microphone, and 3G wireless access. Still, the device offers people an inexpensive way to consume movies, music, books, and magazines streamed or downloaded through Amazon's cloud services.

Amazon lights a Fire with its Kindle tablet (photos)

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Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted that he thinks the Kindle Fire is more of an Apple iPod Touch replacement than an iPad-killer. Indeed, Amazon seems to be going after its core audience of e-reader customers who are interested in a tablet but not willing to spend a lot of money. In other words, this device is geared toward customers who may be considering buying the Barnes & Noble Nook Color rather than those with their heart set on an Apple iPad.

Still, the Kindle Fire is more than an e-reader. It offers the ability to play games and surf the Net. Amazon also announced its own custom Amazon Silk browser for the device that speeds up the download of rich Web sites.

Amazon is also offering free cloud storage to customers of the devices. Since most of the content is backed Amazon's cloud, the Kindle Fire is also wirelessly synced to the cloud service, eliminating the need for users to manually back-up or sync their content.

And Amazon has included its Whispersync technology, which delivers digital books to the Kindle and now will also work with movies and television shows. The benefit here is that people will be able to view a movie or TV show on their home TV, pause it, and then pick up where they left off on their Kindle Fire, much like Netflix allows people to do between its TV, PC, and mobile apps.

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In all respects, the Kindle Fire is a device made to consume Amazon content. And Amazon is trying to make it as easy as possible for Kindle Fire users to access that content. Bloomberg reported earlier that the Kindle Fire will come with a 30-day trial for the Amazon Prime service, which is service that includes free two-day shipping from Amazon's store as well as some free video streaming. The service costs $79 a year.

Content is key for Amazon, and it has been in a race with other streaming providers to build its online content library. Recently it announced a deal to license movies and TV shows from 20th Century Fox, bringing its library to roughly 11,000 titles. Netflix is its closest competitor in the video streaming arena, and it has over 20,000 titles available for streaming.

Amazon also plans to deliver digital versions of magazines to the Kindle Fire, and the company has reportedly signed up several publishers, including Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith, to have digital versions of magazines ready at launch.

The CNET crew was at the New York event where the new products were unveiled. So stay tuned for more stories with hands-on first-impressions of the new devices. There's also an archive of the live blog from the event.