The Amazon Hardware Warrior
Driven by its huge content ecosystem, Amazon will be looking to increase its userbase with more powerful hardware in a wider range of formats at an event in Santa Monica, being held shortly (see below for updates). That includes a new, more powerful, Kindle Fire, a larger version of the tablet (shown off in a TV advert aired during the NFL season's opener between the Cowboys and Giants) and a smartphone to take on the likes of Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy range.
The advert also showed off a "paperwhite" model of the popular Kindle device, showing that Amazon won't leave behind the product that launched it into the gadget market. But, it is the prospect of a more powerful tablet, a larger brother for it and a smartphone that paints a tempting picture for Amazon customers in the run up to Christmas.
Power of the Amazonites
With all these devices splashed across the front page of Amazon's web stores (and it is highly likely that Kindle Fire will see a worldwide release this time around), the company can bank on massive multiple sales as folks pick them up for friends and family Christmas presents.
With Amazon, there won't be any fuss about new proprietary charging leads (which Apple will no doubt suffer from next week), there won't be any hype about fantastic new camera capabilities, expect a decent specification across the range of devices that will run a modified version of Android to leave as many hooks as possible to Amazon's stores and services.
Since Amazon can't use Google Maps on modified Android devices, it is likely to partner with Nokia (who launched its own Windows Phone 8-powered Lumia 920 yesterday) to provide the high-quality Nokia Maps app. Ahead of the event, Amazon stock hit an all time high at $251.59, up over 2%, showing the value in a successful tablet portfolio.
Amazon's Big Show
We'll have news from Amazon's event as it happens (things kick off at 10:30AM PST), the event is due to last two hours, so Amazon likely has a lot of ground to cover:
The event is starting now.
It begins with a look at the new advert, mentioned above, with Jeff Bezos on stage to highlight Amazon's ecosystem, saying "last year there were more than two dozen Android tablets launched but nobody bought them. Why? because they're just gadgets."
He says, "Kindle Fire is a service that comes out of the box with your content preloaded. It makes recommendations for you. It has the very lowest prices. It keeps your place for you, and it keeps all of your content in the Amazon Cloud, backed up, worry-free."
First up is the new Kindle Paperwhite, which offers an easily adjustable fiber-optic lit screen, higher resolution for smoother text and images, the ability to change the font and more. It will offer an eight-week battery life and touchscreen.
One neat feature is that it monitors your reading speed and will tell you how long you have left to the end of a chapter or the book. It will be available on 1 October and cost $119 or $179 for the 3G version.
Light the Kindle Fire
As expected, the new Kindle Fire isn't a massive hardware beast, for $159, it offers a faster processor, improved battery life, double the RAM and around 40% performance improvement. But, again, it is now only $159 which makes it an impulse purchase for potentially millions of users.
The bigger news, literally, is the Kindle Fire HD with an 8.9" 1920*1200 display, it is 8.8mm thick and weighs 20 ounces. Inside is a new Texas Intstruments OMAP 4470 processor, Dolby Digital Plus and improved 5GHz WiFi with dual MIMO antennas for better streaming and downloads, which puts it above the iPad 3 and Nexus tablets, and it costs $299.
The Kindle Fire HD will start at a 16GB model with new features like WhisperSync for books and audiobooks, links between movies and IMDB, and improved access to games. There's also a new high-class email service with Exchange support, Facebook and Skype.
As a family device, Kindle Fire now offers separate profiles for family members, child settings like time limits and age-ratings. That and a host of smart gaming, social and buying features make the Kindle Fires the center of a family's digital and shopping worlds.
With a 7" HD model for just $199, the battle is truly on for the smaller tablet market, the smaller model will ship on 14 September, with the larger screen version out in time for Christmas on 20 November. To top that lot, Amazon also announced an 8.9" 32GB 4G LTE model selling for $499.
With the event wrapping up there's no sign of the smartphone, but that's a lot to digest, and we've read today, the phone is early in development, so may be due to make an appearance later in the year.
After the event, Amazon.co.uk updated with news that the Kindle Fire update and HD models will be available in Europe. Kindle Fire HD will be available for £159 in 16GB and £199 in 32GB - and the all-new Kindle Fire, now even better and only £129. No 4G model as Britain doesn't have a 4G network yet.