The word on Amazon's event this morning at the Santa Monica Airport (held an eerie blue-lit hanger) was that the company wouldn't introduce a bigger Kindle Fire, the highly successful tablet that represents the only real challenge to the Apple iPad in the tablet market. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos flouted that expectation, unveiling a new Kindle Fire HD, a high-definition version of the device, with an 8.9-inch display.
It will cost $299, in a 16GB configuration with 3G wireless. And it will benefit from integration with all of Amazon's cloud-based data services. Really, that's the main difference between what Amazon is selling with the Kindle Fire and what Apple has in the market with the iPad — and Bezos relentlessly if not overtly kept the focus there, an unusual yet predictable tactic at en event intended to create excitement about new hardware.
There will also be a 4G Kindle Fire HD, in a 32GB setup. It will be the top-of-the-line model and sell for $499. You'll be able to buy it next week.
The original Kindle will drop in price from $79 to $69.
And the company is introducing a new e-reader technology called Paperwhite that improves on the Kindle's display technology. This Kindle will go for $119.
So here's the bottom line:
•We get a bigger Kindle Fire
•We get Paperwhite
•We get a really cheap basic Kindle
•We get a 4G Kindle Fire HD priced to make trouble for Apple
Amazon is also making various tweaks to its content ecosystem, as Bezos repeatedly called it, and is bringing new features to the Kindle Fire that connect it more seamlessly with the Amazon shopping experience.
Amazon has definitely moved forward the argument that a tablet is only as good as the content you can access with it. Now it will be up to consumers to decide if it's time to switch from an iPad. Amazon has made that easier with its pricing.
This event wasn't quite as earth-shattering as Microsoft's announcement in June that it was bringing its own tablet, Surface, to market. But it keeps Amazon right in the middle of the tablet game.