Amazon has arranged for a September 6th press conference that leaves a lot to the imagination. The text of the invitation apparently reads, in its entirety, “Please join us for an Amazon Press Conference.” It will take place at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica. That’s really not much to go on. Still, it is all but a given that the event will show off the latest generation of Kindle products.
About a year ago Amazon released an entirely new set of Kindles. The Kindle Fire was the centerpiece, of course, but the then-renamed Kindle Keyboard was joined by a new basic Kindle and the Kindle Touch. The Kindle Fire shook up the entire Android tablet world and changed the game entirely there. It’s thanks to Amazon that we’re seeing truly useful tablets in the $200 range.
The newer Kindle eReaders did not enjoy as much success. The basic Kindle is indeed the cheapest and most widely purchased eReader on the market today, being the first to get under the previously impressive $100 mark. That is about all that has managed to impress people about it, however. The Kindle Touch is an interesting device and brought a touch interface to the line, but that’s not been enough to really demand attention for a while now.
The speculation about what September 6th will bring for the Kindle is still rather varied despite the event being close at hand. Based on the information available, however, we can make some fairly safe predictions.
Using a front company, Amazon seems to have managed approval for new versions of both the Kindle Fire and the Kindle eReader. This is not unprecedented and the last update to the product line involved three devices registered through three separate front companies in an effort to keep details under wraps.
On August 15th The Digital Reader reported a tip that led them to the new Kindle Fire. It is less than informative, and certainly not as detailed as many would prefer, but some useful info can be gathered. Judging from the dimensions, for example, we’re looking at a 4:3 device as opposed to the 16:9 aspect ratio used by most tablet builders. It’s an interesting choice that may point to this being a larger tablet meant to compete directly with the iPad, since that is the same aspect ratio Apple uses in their own design.
The new Kindle eReader cleared in much the same way on August 21st. A different front company run through the same corporate services provider registered an “electronic display device”. While the testing doesn’t indicate a front-lit screen, which would be in keeping with certain delay rumors that have been floating around, it does point to something with both WiFi and 3G access as well as audio capabilities.
This does not mean that there will be no front-lit Kindle. The three filings mentioned above from last year were all made the day before their official public announcements. All that this indicates is that there will definitely be a version of the next generation that doesn’t have front-lighting. Not really a surprise given that the inclusion of such a feature is sure to bump the price compared to unlit alternatives at least slightly.
State Dept Contract Cancellation Reinforces Front-Lighting Rumors?
There will definitely be a front-lit Kindle at some point, regardless of delays and pricing differences. We know that Amazon is working on producing them thanks to leaks, property acquisitions, and basic reasoning (the light on the Nook Simple Touch is really useful and Amazon would be silly not to make one).
The fact that they have failed to land a proposed $16.5 million no-bid contract with the US State Dept might point to delayed releases. The initial proposal required 2,500 Kindles with preloaded content and front-lit displays. Since the document included the indication that the “Amazon Kindle [is] the only e-Reader on the market that meets the Government’s needs”, something came up in the meantime. Production delays that would result in an inability to meet deadlines are not at all out of the question.
In what will probably turn out to be another preparation for this event, Amazon has managed to grab the trademark for the word Firedock. That was originally the name for a fairly impressive Kindle Fire accessory concept from Grade Digital Audio that is now going by the name Matchstick.
The Kindle Fire, despite its emphasis on media, is badly in need of affordable accessories. An official charging station/speaker dock would sell amazingly well and clearly Amazon is aware of that. The big question is “why didn’t they put something out sooner”, but with luck the wait will have been worth it. Combined with a potentially larger display, this could completely change the level of utility for the next generation of Kindle Fire.
Nexus 7 and Nook Competition
With all the talk of a Kindle Fire meant to compete with the iPad, it’s easy to forget that the existing model is already enjoying some fairly stiff competition. Google’s Nexus 7 is quite possibly the best tablet available for $200 right now; no matter what metric you are using.
Despite some supply issues, Google’s 7” tablet is enjoying a deserved surge in popularity. Between allowing access to the wider world of Android content (including that offered by Amazon) and the more up to date hardware/software combination it ships with, there is little to recommend the existing Kindle Fire by comparison unless Amazon’s home-grown interface is a deeply desired feature.
On the eReader side of things, the Nook is still going fairly strong as well. While device sales are down according to their most recent quarterly reports, content sales are up and the Nook Simple Touch is still setting the hardware standard. Given that Barnes & Noble is about to begin extending sales of the Nook to Britain, opening the door to new and as-yet untapped customers, we can’t discount the potential for a sales boom in the Nook’s future.
Sources seem to indicate that there will also be a refresh of the Nook Tablet in the next month or two. Given how forgettable the Nook Tablet has been in the current generation, despite its superior hardware specs compared to the Kindle Fire, this would initially seem to be a minor issue. At the same time, though, there was nothing to really complain about with the existing device. It just didn’t impress by comparison. Barnes & Noble has invested the time and money necessary to improve things in the meantime and will almost certainly surprise to some degree. Right now about all we know is that the intention is to have the new model improve the reading experience and show off a revolutionary new display technology of unknown capabilities.
iPad Mini Competition
The long-rumored iPad Mini seems to finally be on the horizon. While I’m personally still quite skeptical about the existence of such a device, increasingly reliable sources seem to agree that Apple has finally caved in and decided to join the 7” tablet market. The Kindle Fire, despite being updated, might have trouble competing in that segment should Apple really put serious effort into things.
At the same time, however, the objections that many have cited in the past remain applicable. Apple is not known for their ability to sell things cheaply. The least expensive iPad they have sold to date has made the company around a 50% profit at launch. They will have to accept much smaller margins or furnish far less modern hardware if they are to get device prices down to the $250-300 range that they would need to achieve. This doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen, but take the rumors with a grain of salt.
Right now, Kindles are getting hard to come by. The Kindle Touch is completely out of stock. You can’t get one in any form, with or without Special Offers and/or 3G access. The Kindle Keyboard is similarly hard to come by, though the Kindle Keyboard 3G is still around.
Basically anybody buying one of the current generation devices can choose between the $79 Kindle with no real navigation and annotation capabilities and the Kindle Fire. Unless you think that Amazon is getting people together on the 6th to talk about how they’re cutting back to just two models, it’s fairly obvious where this is going.
We’ll keep you up to date here when solid information as it becomes available. This is the time when Amazon really has to come up with something big to stay in the tablet market and they aren’t known for disappointing customer expectations. It’s going to be an interesting announcement.
At long last, it seems we might get to see what Amazon has really accomplished in their efforts to update the Kindle Fire to be competitive with other big name tablets like the Nexus 7. Signs point to a hardware upgrade coming in the next few days, which would be good news given that the previously speculated initial release date was two weeks ago now. This week may just give us a good idea of exactly how much of a chance the Kindle Fire has of retaining its now-dominant position in the Android tablet market.
It seems safe to say that Amazon intends to at least announce their new products in a batch. This would include a new Kindle Fire, possibly a larger scale variation on the Kindle Fire, and at least one new Kindle eReader. This is based on a combination of intersecting timetables and the previous Kindle eReader release that brought us the Kindle Touch. Since Amazon is basically required to put out a front-lit Kindle at this point if they want to stay competitive in terms of hardware, it would make little sense to miss an opportunity to join that side of the business with the more versatile tablet side.
To make room for the expected new release, Amazon has quietly discontinued a large part of their eReader selection. The Kindle Keyboard WiFi is simply gone. The Kindle Touch 3G appears to be gone as well. Even the WiFi version of the Kindle Touch is currently listed as having delays from 3-5 days for the Special Offers option and no stock at all for the ad-free model. We also noticed that earlier this week Amazon used the Kindle DX as one of their Daily Deals selections, discounting it by $110 for a day. The basic $79 Kindle is still available, but it would be surprising if anything else is shipping out right now at all, regardless of rough delivery estimates made by the Amazon.com site.
The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is still listed as in stock and shipping immediately. Whether this is true or not is open to speculation, but it would fit with some of the rumors we have reported here previously. Amazon may be planning to continue offering the existing Kindle Fire at a discounted rate for a while in order to increase the rate at which users attach themselves to the Amazon digital services ecosystem.
A lot has been done lately to prepare for this release. Amazon has updated their music, video, and Android gaming capabilities significantly since a year ago when the first Kindle Fire was announced. While nobody really expects that the Kindle Fire 2, or whatever Amazon decides it will be called in the end, will be able to claim superiority over the Nexus 7 on paper, that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily have trouble competing. A decent facelift, improved software, and more integrated services than ever before are a guarantee. Somehow it doesn’t seem like they’re likely to stop at that, though.
A recent report based on information coming from a Staples executive has had the internet abuzz with rumors about there being as many as six Kindle Fire tablets on the way any time now. Demos Parneros, president of US Retail for Staples Inc, indicated that they have six SKUs ready for the upcoming release. Naturally Amazon has declined to comment on any of these rumors, but the chances of there actually being six new tablets on the way are incredibly low.
This is not to say there will be nothing new. Chances are very good that both a 7” Kindle Fire and a larger 10” Kindle Fire will be released at the same time. We also have information from previous such stories that tells us the existing Kindle Fire will be re-released at a lower price with a slightly improved screen to help Amazon once again corner the Android tablet market. It’s reasonable to expect that will be as far as the expansion of the line goes, however.
New SKUs do not mean entirely distinct new products. If we assume that at least one of the tablets will have 4G connectivity available as an option, that option would be its own distinct SKU. The same would be true for each variation in storage space. An 8GB Kindle Fire and a 16GB Kindle Fire would be separated even if they were otherwise identical.
Six SKUs could be as simple as Amazon offering either extra storage space or optional 4G connectivity for each of the three models we are expecting. Alternatively, we may still see only 7” releases at this time and find a “Kindle Fire Original” along with Kindle Fire 2 models featuring varying combinations of storage space and such. It isn’t hard to come up with minor variations that account for the Staples information.
All of the speculation about there being completely unexpected products, such as a Kindle Phone, is jumping the gun. That sort of thing may happen, and some people consider it to be almost inevitable, but it will not be coming in the next could weeks. After all, what sense would it make for Amazon to release so many options that no particular Kindle Fire successor was able to capture public interest? This is clearly a company that knows better than to do something that reckless, however sure they may be of their position in the market right this minute.
There is a major rumor going around that six different Kindle Fire models will be released next week. The six models may include different screen sizes, resolutions, and who knows what else. These rumors are coming from reputable sources, but no one will truly know what is going to happen until the tablet is actually released.
If that does happen, it will most likely be a 7″ updated Kindle Fire, and a 10″ tablet to compete with the iPad. These two will possibly have 3G and wi-fi options. The current model only has wi-fi. Then a refurbished first generation Kindle Fire will be available at a discounted price until supplies run out.
So the focus will more likely be just two different kinds of tablets that have different connectivity offerings. That is similar to the set up Amazon currently has with their e-ink Kindle models.
Both 7″ and 10″ models have some heavy competition from the Nexus 7, and of course, the iPad. Amazon’s advantage will be the books and apps because there are so many of them. I’m sure they’ll also come out ahead with the price. In addition to these features, the Kindle Fire will need to include a camera and an updated display to remain competitive. It makes my head spin to think about the cutthroat competition going on out in the tablet market.
One thing I’d like to see for the 10″ Kindle Fire, if released, is a keyboard. The biggest frustration I’ve had with my iPad is the inability to do more heavy duty computing. A lot of this comes from the lack of a fully integrated keyboard. An example of one is the soon to be released Microsoft Surface tablet. It comes with a smart cover that houses the keyboard. If Amazon can pull this off plus debut at a price to beat, they can pull some potential iPad consumers towards the Kindle Fire.
So, we’ll see what happens. This holiday season’s going to be jam packed with tablet options. That’s for sure.
Interest in a potential Kindle Phone has been rising ever since Bloomberg reported that Amazon was in the middle of testing said phone. The logic behind the move is arguably sound for Amazon, which leaves people fairly certain that it will happen. After all, if there are customers to be gained and the sort of 24/7 connection that many people have with their smartphones can be tied into Amazon services then the hardware line is worth it even if it doesn’t generate a dollar in sales on its own. What is especially interesting about all of this speculation, however, is the idea that Amazon is on the verge of upsetting the smartphone market in a major way.
To really understand the potential impact of a Kindle Phone, we have to look at what they have already done with the Kindle Fire. Users get access to an affordable, functional consumption device that is tied into Amazon.com. There are no major optional features, none of Google’s default Android services, and no efforts are being made to pretend that it is anything more than what it is able to be. All the designers cared about was how to get people the best access to Amazon’s media at the lowest price.
Let’s carry that through to a phone. Obviously we would be talking about something highly affordable. That is how the company defines their products. It would have to be exclusively connected to Amazon’s own services, which means no Google interaction. In a market increasingly pushing for universal access to turn-by-turn directions, calendar alarm notifications, and constant digital communications access, this could be slightly problematic. Even the Email app that shipped with the Kindle Fire didn’t quite work right at first, so it is hard to imagine them solving every possible problem with a new, more complex Android implementation so soon.
This doesn’t rule out an Amazon phone, but it does place it in a certain bracket. Just as the Kindle Fire doesn’t try to directly compete with the iPad, perhaps a Kindle Phone would avoid trying to compete with the iPhone.
There is a great deal of exposure to be gained if they choose to go with a “pay as you go” device. A Kindle Phone with the ability to connect to WiFi networks could be sold cheaply to millions of budget-conscious consumers. Even if they didn’t need it as a phone, the iPod Touch has demonstrated in the past that there is a level of consumer demand for such hardware. The ability to add prepaid minutes to a calling plan would just add a level of functionality to make it marketable while avoiding many of the hassles inherent in dealing with a normal carrier.
There is too little information to go on so far, and it is still definitely possible that Amazon will come out with a whole array of new services to make up for the lack of Google integration by the time a Kindle Phone sees the light of day. It might even turn out to be a high end device that puts every Android smartphone on the market to shame. The Kindle Fire set the tone for Amazon’s Android hardware, however, and the theme there has been one of simplicity and affordability. I think it is unlikely to see that change just yet.
Supposed upstream supply sources have released information that may pertain to the upcoming announcement of the Kindle Fire 2. This info, coming through NPD DisplaySearch Analyst Richard Shim, indicates slightly different production emphases than the recent BGR article talked about, but is otherwise mostly consistent. While this must be taken with a great deal of caution, upstream supply chain sources being notoriously unreliable and often interpreted poorly, the implications are worth exploring.
The report in question talks about four upcoming Kindle Fire models:
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1024 x 600 Display
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display and Camera
- 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1280 x 800 Display, Camera, and 4G Internet Access
- 8.9” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 1920 x 1200 Display
Of these, according to Shim, the two basic 7” models are scheduled to begin production in August while the 7” Kindle Fire 2 w/ 4G Internet Access will have to wait until September. The larger model will not be available until it’s time for holiday sales.
Along with this information, we get notice of an upgrade to the pixel density of the Kindle Fire 2’s screen. Like the Nexus 7 from Google, it will now be a 216 PPI display. For context, the existing Kindle Fire has a 1024 x 600 display with 170 pixels per inch.
There are two vital pieces of information to take from this, as well as one fairly interesting point that may be useful later this year.
First, while there will still be a lower resolution Kindle Fire model made available for under $199, this information would indicate that there have been hardware changes. The most inexpensive Kindle Fire model available after the new hardware is announced will not simply be backstocked units of Amazon’s current tablet.
Second, the Kindle Fire 2 will likely be able to beat Google’s Nexus 7 to 4G connectivity. If Amazon can pull that off, it will be a huge boost to their reputation in the tablet market and would lead to increased sales. We are certainly not looking at the potential for unlimited free cellular transfer as in the Kindle eReader line, due to the volume of data involved in media streaming and app downloads, but just having the option available will open doors.
This report also points to the larger Kindle Fire 2 being an 8.9” device rather than the 10.1” device that many have been hoping for. Since we are looking at slightly more distant production there will be more room for variation and this is in direct conflict with other equally “reliable” sources. Nonetheless, going with a slightly smaller size might be a productive choice if Amazon is looking to both keep the costs down on their own device and avoid too many direct comparisons with the industry-leading 9.7” iPad. Clearer size differences mean fewer side by side comparisons.
Either way, keep an eye out for highly discounted Kindle Fire offers. If we’re moving into a new generation of devices, Amazon’s likely to have “refurbished” units on sale.
According to people with knowledge of the situation, Amazon is planning to bring out their own smartphone to compete with Apple’s iPhone line. A Bloomberg revelation provided that information recently. The idea of a Kindle phone is something that has been touched on here before, particularly during the days leading up to the formal announcement of the Kindle Fire when anything seemed possible. It is increasingly likely that this is going to be the next stage of Kindle growth now that a tablet presence has been established.
The Kindle Fire gives the retail giant a foothold in portable electronics in a way that even the Kindle eReader couldn’t accomplish. The Kindle built its own market and basically kicked off the previously minimal eBook industry. The Kindle Fire proved that Amazon was both willing and able to enter into an existing device market and hold their own. In addition to building up consumer trust, it helps get things ready to enter into an even more competitive market.
Selling a smartphone is not likely to be a simple task, even for Amazon. This is not a company known for passing any large amount of control to their partners. While it is standard practice for carriers to demand custom devices, it is hard to imagine a Kindle phone going that way. The whole point of Amazon’s hardware development is to lock people into a fairly closed loop of media services provided by Amazon and nobody else. Allowing carrier customization would seem likely to dilute their own branding somewhat.
This move would also open the company up to any number of patent disputes. It doesn’t matter whether they manage to acquire a large patent portfolio to defend against infringements, though sources indicate that this is exactly what is happening already, lawsuits over mobile devices are the norm rather than the exception right now.
On the plus side, the fact that Amazon already has a well-received fork of the popular Android OS will help them get off the ground. Despite running on Google’s software, the experience provided by the Kindle Fire is sufficiently unique to make it stand out. A similar effort released in a smartphone would provide an attractive alternative to the competition.
It would also greatly expand the potential user base for Amazon’s Appstore for Android, which many users find preferable to Google Play’s less carefully policed app store already. More users would naturally add additional pressure for app developers who might be on the fence about signing up with Amazon so far.
Since we have no more solid information aside from comments by “people who should know”, this can’t be taken too seriously. It would definitely be a smart move in some ways, but the added expenses from carriers, legal defenses, and assorted other problems particular to the mobile communications industry would make it difficult for Amazon to continue maintaining their policy of providing ridiculously low prices on all their hardware.
Would a Kindle phone sell well? Probably. Would it sell well enough for it to be worth the investment? It’s too early to tell, though Amazon seems to be considering the possibility.
Some of the likely details regarding Amazon’s upcoming Kindle Fire successor have been available for a bit now. As we get closer to what most sources consider a highly probably launch event in July, these are naturally becoming more detailed. Most recently, tech news site BGR has expanded on a few of the more interesting details that make the upcoming Kindle Fire an improvement on the original.
The biggest news here is that, assuming BGR has once again found a reliable source, the highly sought 10 inch Kindle Fire will be released in July at the same time as the improved 7 inch model. While the plan when Amazon’s first tablet was still in its earlier stages there were plans for the release of both 10 inch and 7 inch options. In the interest of releasing in time to take advantage of holiday sales, they chose to concentrate on the less expensive of the two devices. Now that some time has passed and interest has remained relatively high we will finally get to see the line filled out a bit.
The new 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will be running a quad-core processor to offer a bit more power. Obviously the larger screen is an improvement, but it will also be higher resolution. Whether this means 1280 x 800 as with the 7 inch model is unknown, but it is likely that the emphasis here will be on true HD content delivery and that will influence things.
The overall build quality of the new Kindle Fire models has also apparently been improved. While they will be thinner than the existing Kindle Fire, and slightly thinner than the original iPad, they will feature a metal case rather than the soft plastic that the older model makes use of. A new chrome finish will be used to add highlights against the black matte we are used to, and a ribbed texture on the back will make it more comfortable to hold. Having a more distinct appearance will definitely help with sales regardless of any other reasons for switching to a metal case.
The positioning of the speakers has been altered to some degree in order to improve the sound quality. The 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 will also finally offer users a front-facing camera. While not exactly the most useful of features for most people, it is one that has frequently been requested. Both models will include a microUSB port and what is suspected to be an HDMI port.
Amazon has been aware of impending competition from Google and Microsoft on the tablet front throughout their development. While the Kindle Fire took off immediately and conquered the Android tablet market, everybody else is catching up quickly. That includes some like Google who can actually offer comparable media integration. The new Kindle Fire 2 will have to be impressive to compete with not just the new competition but also the thoroughly entrenched iPad. They can’t avoid the comparison to any degree once a larger model is available for sale and it should be interesting to find out exactly how much of an improvement has been made in order to meet these challenges.
The current expected release date is July 31st. There is no word yet on 10 inch Kindle Fire 2 pricing. The 7 inch Kindle Fire 2 is expected to sell for $199.
When I got my iPad, I also got an external keyboard. It worked okay, but since it wasn’t directly integrated with the tablet, it did have some lag time. My biggest hope is for the tablet to merge with the laptop.
I was unsure of how long it would take for this to happen until the release of the Microsoft Surface tablet. It has a keyboard built into its cover. This is the catalyst that will nudge tablets towards a hybrid laptop/tablet deal. I’m really excited about this new development because it eliminates the need for both a computer and tablet, adds portability, and increases accessibility.
Now, to my point. Rumors are indicating that Amazon is set to release a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire. How much of this is just wishful thinking, it is hard to tell. I have no doubt that the online retail giant can create a competitive larger tablet, but will they lose their original focus?
The competition gap and functionality of large and small tablets is widening. Larger tablets more computer like in terms of power, whereas smaller tablets such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are more for gaming, reading, and internet browsing.
I would love to see Amazon create a Kindle Fire that would provide both an optimal reading experience and serve as a multi purpose device. There really aren’t that many major adjustments for e-ink Kindles left, at least not any that we know of at this point. We’ll get a glowlight version this year, and maybe color next year.
Maybe a few years from now, the technology will be there to do a hybrid e-reader and tablet. But, considering how quickly technology changes, there may be something completely different hitting the big market by then.
So, basically, I think Amazon definitely has the resources to build a larger tablet that will sell well. But, I would like to see them hang on to their core mission: a better reading experience. Better to excel at one or a couple of products than to make a slew of mediocre ones.
I have watched so many people who otherwise wouldn’t consider a tablet purchase a Kindle Fire this year because of the great price and good company brand. In addition to the $199 regular price, you can find deals for refurbished Fires for $139. The Kindle has certainly come a long way in 5 years.
The Kindle Fire took the tablet out of the niche market and into the hands of your average consumers.
The 7″ Kindle Fire is a good compromise for those who want the advantages of a smartphone and tablet in one device. You don’t have to worry about a data plan, and the app store boasts a robust collection of Android based apps for the tablet. It is portable and less than half the price of the low end model iPad.
With all of that said, I question the need for a larger Kindle Fire at least for the time being. I don’t doubt that Amazon has the means to produce a good quality, competitively priced one. There is a rumor going around that a 10.1 inch Kindle Fire will be released later this year, and plans for a smaller, second generation one will be put on hold. That is the part I’m skeptical about. If Amazon wants to reach out to a full audience, it needs to appeal to both markets.
Larger tablets lose portability. The iPad is not easy to hold for long periods of time. The computing power would need to be stronger.
So, to sum it up, I think that the first generation Kindle Fire fared quite well with room for improvement. Those improvements such as a built in camera, faster browsing, screen quality, etc, can all be addressed in the next generation. Working from that, a larger version is a good goal to work towards.
But, that’s just my opinion on it. The tablet market as a whole is exploding. The competition is fierce and we are most likely headed for tablet centered computing.
Rumors will fly and lots of times you can take them with a grain of salt, but it will be interesting to see what really happens in the next few months.