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Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet just $199, sorry Apple

Kindle FireAmazon Kindle Fire is here. But first, some pleasant surprises.

This morning in New York City, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, was full of good news to accompany his long anticipated announcement. Months ago he told us to “stay tuned,” and we did. Bezos didn’t disappoint.

To begin the day, Bezos revealed the Kindle Touch (gee, that name sounds familiar). Wearing a sports coat and jeans, Bezos began by speaking of the original Kindle, “We set out to reinvent the book .” In a move paying homage to the device that began it all, Bezos announced its predecessor, the Kindle Touch, a pure reader that still uses e-ink and is about the same size and weight of earlier models. The main difference is the touch screen and the price of just $99. Yeah, less than a Benjamin.┬áThe Kindle Touch has a new feature called X-Ray, which gives context by providing Wikipedia info without the need to go into a browser.

kindle touchThen he revelaed the Kindle Touch 3G, which as you may have guessed, is the same as the Touch with the added feature of wireless mobility to download books anywhere. The 3G will cost $149. Both devices offer free service and Wi-Fi, no contract, no fees. The devices can be ordered today but shipping begins on November 21st.

Next Bezos revealed the most basic Kindle at the lowest price ever, a $79 bare-bones Kindle that’s 18% smaller than the current version with just four buttons and everything a pure reading device needs: e-ink display, built-in Wi-Fi, Whispersync, Amazon Cloud storage. This model starts shipping today.

And then came the big moment, the one building for many months… ta-dah, the Kindle Fire! Bezos unveiled the 7-inch display, dual-core processor that weighs 14.6 ounces. “And it has all the content,” he said. It’s Android-based, of course (poke at Apple). Storage for the Kindle Fire tablet is cloud-based, no backups of data is not needed. Bezos added, “That model (another poke at the iPad) that you are responsible for backing up your own content is a broken model. The most recently used items, no matter what the content is, will be stored in a task bar/carousel interface.” At a price well below cost, the Kindle Fire will retail for only $199 (the iPad starts at $499.) “We’re delivering premium products at non-premium prices,” Bezos said. Shipping begins on Nov. 15 and orders can be made now.

Bezos then Shelby Matthews and Devan Matthews Christmas 2009introduced another surprise, Amazon Silk, which is a new browser for the Fire. The browser now lives partially on Amazon’s servers. The idea is to improve mobile browsing, which Bezos admitted is challenging to display. This announcement raised many eyebrows in the press, because if Amazon Silk can make browsing web pages a faster experience, everyone will get excited about that, even some Apple users.

There will be three very happy ladies opening presents by the Christmas tree in our house this year. Thankfully, my wallet should still be feeling fat, at least from the gifts bought by a certain retailer. Thanks, Amazon.

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Amazon Tablet 7-inch Coyote Released Sept 28th, Hollywood Coming Soon

Amazon tablet Jeff BezosIt’s official after months of speculation. Amazon just announced on Wednesday, September 28th the release of its first tablet, a 7-inch iPad and Nook competitor nicknamed Coyote that will… hey wait, today is just Sept. 23rd. The thing on Wednesday is merely a press conference where select members of the media were invited with no other details given, so nobody really knows what it will be for.

Alright, so it’s highly speculative the rumors are all true, thanks to conspicuous leaks coming from… Amazon? The 7-inch tablet will run a forked version of Android OS and connect to Amazon’s ebooks, TV, music, movies, app store and everything else available in their galaxy of cyberspace. It’s priced below cost so Amazon makes up the difference and more on future services and products.

Will it really be priced at $249 or less? Seems likely, since the Nook Color is priced at $249 with updates coming soon. $249 is also half the price of the iPad at $499, another nice round figure for shoppers doing math in their heads.

Will the 10″ tablet be nicknamed Hollywood and be priced far less than the iPad and come out well before Christmas? Uh, probably yes, unless Amazon’s rumor mill isn’t working properly to line up shoppers in anticipation. My guess is the rumor mill works perfectly fine.

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Interactive Ebooks, The Next Big Thing

interactive ebooksHard to believe Amazon introduced the Kindle, the first e-reading device, in November of 2007. It’s less than 4 years old. In human terms, it won’t be entering kindergarten until next fall. By then, chances are most kindergarteners will have seen an interactive ebook. (There are already sites dedicated to the subject – http://interactive-ebooks.blogspot.com/.)

E-publishing is changing the industry on what appears to be a monthly basis. The latest phase is interactive ebooks ushered in by the tablet; Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, tablets by Motorola, Samsung, Dell, HP, and so many more will compete with each other in this arena and Amazon’s soon to be released Coyote and Hollywood (shh, it’s a secret).

interactive ebooksWhat’s the benefit to interactive ebooks? Probably easiest to see it with children’s books. Interactive learning for the A-B-C’s, counting numbers, even things like geography and vocabulary can be much more effective with video and audio to accompany the lesson. Plus the advances go beyond education. What fun for any reader when characters can be made either male of female with avatar features like hair and skin color options, height and weight, favorite activities, clothing, accessories, etc, can instantly be added to personalize the people in any story. Or a reader can actually upload her/his own photo and become the protagonist or antagonist of the story along with making decisions of how the plot plays out.

Beyond children’s books, imagine the effect on readers when sound effects are heard at just the right moment, like a woman’s scream or machine gun fire or the sound of a crowd cheering the game-winning play. Video’s can be inserted as well, whether they accompany the text or as a comment/interview with the author, the characters and more.

plot twistsAlternative endings can happen too. Reminds me of movies like Clue and Wayne’s World, where they dabble with a few different endings. Reader, where would you like to go from here? You can decide a happy ending or a tragic one, and these other possibilities abound…

Some of this involves small additions for the author to consider, like integrated apps for avatars/audio/video inserts, while other aspects involve larger ones, like alternative plot twists. It all creates incredible possibilities for story telling and the reader experience becoming more personal. Makes me wonder if the gap between big publishers and Indie authors will widen or narrow based on this new paradigm. Will Indies be able to keep up with big money to develop new apps for interactive ebooks, or will Indies come up with outstanding ideas and methods all their own? One thing for sure, we’ll see soon enough.

What are your thoughts?


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Amazon Tablet? Is It Really Coming?

Amazon tablet AndroidMuch speculation has been made the past few months on whether, or when, Amazon will introduce a tablet to enter the market and potentially rival Apple’s iPad. According to unnamed sources at Taiwan’s Digi Times, Amazon says over one million tablets will be shipped in the third quarter of 2011 making Amazon second only to Apple in terms of volume. Wow, really? Hasn’t that time period already ended?

Amazon hasn’t made an official announcement though a comment from CEO Jeff Bezos telling people to “stay tuned” seems to indicate either commitment to the project or blatant deception. Bezos has also mentioned that the new tablet will in no way replace the Kindle, which would continue to be offered as the best pure-reading device.

While the iPad is clearly the front runner in the tablet industry, Amazon will be joining a slightly crowded field with Acer, Dell, HP, Motorola and Samsung just to name a few. The field is already too large for everyone IMHO, and Apple’s dominance/customer loyalty makes one wonder how much of a dent the new Amazon Android tablet could make.

Additionally, Jeff Bezos probably never thought Amazon would be playing catch up with Barnes&Noble, but the brick and mortar company has seen great initial success with its Nook e-ink touch screen reader and Nook Color touch screen, both of which have been winning review competitions with organizations like Consumer Reports and CNET.

Has Amazon delayed too long? Perhaps, perhaps not. The internet power already has a few things going that could help it immensely in a tablet debut. These points come to mind:

1. Amazon customers have a loyalty that matches Apple’s. Some claim to buy everything beyond groceries and gas from the online megastore, and that Amazon’s customer support is second to none.

2. Amazon isn’t new to this game. In fact, just the opposite is true as their R&D for handheld wireless has been around for years. Incorporating the touch screen and adding some functionality in the form of powerful hardware to their existing device doesn’t sound like much of a stretch.

3. Amazon already has its own digital content stores for video, MP3 music, App Store for Android, Cloud Player for Android, and (obviously) ebooks. The infrastructure is in place for unparalleled advertising and promotion. If any tablet maker would have a head start coming out into a crowded field, it would be Amazon.

4. Price. Because Amazon’s main business is online sales for just about anything, they can afford to sell the Kindle (and a tablet), incredibly cheap. This is something that sets Amazon apart from the other Apple competitors. It’s conceivable to reduce tablet price by including them with a monthly subscription to other Amazon products and services. When thinking of the possibilities, pricing could get interesting here.

Just recently a Motorola Xoom was my latest gadget expense. Should I have waited another fiscal quarter on Jeff Bezos to explain if he was just kidding around or not? I do love my Xoom, but I certainly would have taken a hard look at an Amazon tablet before doing anything.

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