Boom: Amazon’s US$199 tablet is sticker shock done right

As was widely expected Amazon launched its Android-based Kindle Fire tablet overnight in the US alongside three new conventionally positioned e-ink/e-reader models that start from as low as US$79 for the entry-level Kindle and top out with the US$149 Kindle Touch 3G.  

The heavy hitter among today’s announcements however is the new US$199 7-inch Kindle Fire which comes in at a whopping (and Apple-baiting) US$300 less than the cheapest iPad 2 (which is a larger 9.7-inch tablet). The Fire is available for pre-order in the US only — for now at least — with shipping stateside commencing November 15.

Amazon’s new US$199 Kindle Fire.

The device features a 7-inch 1024 x 600 capacitive multi-touch touchscreen display 8GB onboard storage up to 8-hour (reading) battery life (7.5 hours for video playback) and Wi-Fi connectivity running on a highly customised version of Google’s Android 2.3 OS (which it should be noted is a version of Android tailored for smartphones whereas 3.0 and above are more suited for tablets). It’s possible Amazon’s skinning of the device will diminish the impact of this however. Another notable inclusion is Amazon’s new “cloud-accelerated” Silk browser which channels the user’s browsing through Amazon’s datacentres to streamline performance (whilst potentially giving Amazon a lot of valuable user info).

There’s no camera no microphone and no 3G access leading many to conclude that the Fire is no “iPad killer”. Of course at $300 less than the market-leading iPad 2 (and with Amazon’s firmly established content shopfronts set in place) it’s sure to be a rock-solid “iPad distractor” and at such plum pricing that’s all Amazon really needs. The other prominent 7-inch tablet on the market is RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook but even with heavy discounting you won’t find one at the Fire’s aggressive RRP.

Of course the real factor to bear in mind for Australian users is the potential waiting game the Kindle Fire poses. It took years for the e-reader Kindle to become available on these shores so until further notice this jaw-dropping pricetag should be interpreted as an enticement purely directed at US buyers.