Amazon bumped up the specs on the existing Kindle Fire today, but the big news is the undoubtedly the Kindle Fire HD 7-inch and Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablets. Amazon, smartly, announced them not as "gadgets" but as "services" and positioned them as the best way to consumer Amazon content while also providing additional functionality like mail, web, and apps to round out the experience. Our own Kevin Michaluk, Stephane Koenig, and Ashley Esqueda were live at the event, and had a chance to check them out first-hand. (See the video above.)
We've already shown you how the new Kindle Fires match up to the iPad, Google Nexus 7, Microsoft Surface RT, and BlackBerry Playbook, but Amazon also had a lot of really interesting features to go along with their "Kindle as service" pitch.
Some problems still remain, however. The Kindle Fire line is based on Android and runs Android apps, and Android has had almost not luck building any momentum for tablet apps. That means you'll mostly get smartphone-class apps, which essentially makes the Kindle Fire a big iPod touch. The iPad (and the rumored iPad mini run tablet-class apps, and that makes a huge difference.
Apple also sells the iPad in over 90 countries. Amazon has thus far only managed the U.S. and the U.K. for the Kindle Fire. That makes it a non-starter for most of the world, and that's a very big problem. iTunes was a huge international advantage for Apple, and if even Amazon and Google are having trouble getting content deals on a global level, it doesn't bode well for short term competitiveness.
Also, Amazon is even more closed and more draconian than Apple. So for those for whom Android is a welcome alternative to Apple's control, the Kindle Fire won't be any alternative at all. The trains will run on time, you just won't want to be on them. (Funny, though, how Apple gets marketed against, and called out as, being "closed" but Amazon hasn't faced any of that... yet.)
Lastly, while Amazon impressed with their products today, the presentation made me really appreciate just how good Apple is at providing clear, consistent information during their keynotes. Amazon told a story about what interested them (MIMO!), not what made things clear for viewers. They jumped around and never put up slides that showed product grids -- which devices had which specs at which price points. Apple almost always concludes with those. They tell you what they're going to show you, they show it to you, then they tell you what they showed you. Amazon would do well to nail that part of an event too.
Overall, however, Amazon's willingness to subsidize hardware with ads and content expectations create a pricing challenge for Apple. As North American cell phone contracts show, customers care most about low, up-front pricing. Is a Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch at $299 going to put a serious dent in US sales of an iPad 9.7-inch at $499? Is a Kindle Fire HD 7-inch at $199 going to make Apple stay aggressive with the rumored iPad mini price of ~$199 - $250?
Apple is rumored to be having an iPad event in October, so we won't have that much longer to wait and see.
Meanwhile, for more Kindle Fire coverage, keep it locked to Android Central, and if you want to grab any of Amazon's new Kindles, you can do so via the link below, and help support the Mobile Nations network at the same time.