Kindle Fire Ships Early, But UK Arrival Uncertain

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Amazon has begun shipping its answer to the iPad 2 in the US, but there is no word on any UK launch

Amazon has begun shipping its Kindle Fire in the United States, one day ahead of schedule. But details of a UK launch remain unclear.

The $199 (£125) Kindle Fire faces not only the Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble, but also Apple’s iPad, in the quest for shoppers’ holiday cash. Amazon is betting big that users (and developers) will gravitate toward the 7-inch Fire’s full-colour screen, dual-core processor and easy access to its online storefront of digital content.

Integrated Media

“What we really built is a fully integrated media service,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told Wired 13 November. “Hardware is a crucial ingredient in the service, but it’s only a piece of it.”

Indeed, much of Amazon’s recent activity has built to this moment. Over the past several quarters, the company has released an online music player, a branded Android app store and streaming video via its Amazon Prime service. That array of offerings could give Amazon the footing needed to push back against the iPad, which offers music, video, ebooks and apps via Apple’s iTunes and App Store.

In any case, the Fire could prove a significant bestseller. Shopping and reviews website Retrevo.com recently sampled some 1,000 online individuals about their opinion of the Fire. Of those surveyed, some 44 percent said they’d consider purchasing “a 7-inch tablet made by Amazon” over Apple’s iPad 2. Another 44 percent said they “didn’t know enough about the Amazon tablet” to make that decision, and 12 percent said “they’d still buy an iPad.”

Amazon may need to work, however, to establish the Fire as separate from its popular line of Kindle e-reader devices.

“The Amazon Kindle is a strong brand and a popular e-reader,” Andrew Eisner, the website’s director of community and content, wrote in a 9 November research note. “However, it looks like Amazon may have to spend some marketing dollars if it wants consumers to perceive Kindle as a tablet, too. In this study, which was conducted after Amazon announced the Fire, the majority of respondents (35 percent) thought the Kindle Fire was an e-reader.”

Nook Rival

Sometime around 19 November, Amazon rival Barnes & Noble plans to release the Nook Tablet, a 7-inch device with a dual-core processor, 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. Unlike Amazon, the bookseller won’t offer any streaming services of its own, instead relying on applications from Netflix, Pandora and other partners to port content onto the device.

During a 7 November event in New York City, Barnes & Noble executives claimed that the Nook Tablet’s storage capacity and IPS-laminated screen made it superior to Amazon’s offering.

As with all such commercial endeavours, though, sales numbers will prove the ultimate arbiter of which device triumphs in the long run. And Amazon, by releasing the Kindle Fire a day early, decided to give itself a slight head start.

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