Amazon lifts tablet game with new Fires

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
30 Sep 2013

Microsoft and Amazon both launched new tablets, looking to steal some market share - especially in the enterprise, while there is no new iPad. Amazon is broadening the reach of its Kindle Fire range, with a higher specified top end with increased business functionality; combined with a new low entry price point and features which could appeal to first-time tablet buyers, such as Mayday, an instant video connection to customer support.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's ambitions still revolve around the survival of Windows, which to some extent means the survival of devices that are something like PCs – though even in that segment it is no longer safe, given the rise of Linux/browser-based options like Google Chrome OS.

It needs a radical design to keep Windows current (or better still, a new operating system), but the new Surface models add little to their predecessors. Despite the poor performance of the ARM-based Surface RT so far, however, Microsoft insists it will stick with the platform, though once the Nokia deal is complete, we can expect RT to converge quickly with Windows Phone.

Amazon's new Kindle Fires:

On Amazon's side, with Google boasting of the highest resolution 7-inch tablet on the market, and new small-screen models looming from Apple and even Microsoft, Amazon has to step up its game to stand out in a sub-segment it helped to create. It has unveiled the third generation of its Kindle Fire family, but rather than driving price points down even further, as was widely expected, it has raised the tags for the top models.

The new flagship, Kindle Fire HDX, costs from $299 to $479 and comes in two sizes – 7-inches and 8.9-inches. The prices are still below the $329 starting point of Apple's iPad Mini, but a far cry from the $199 norm that Amazon set with its earlier Fires. This saw the giant retailer challenging traditional device makers with a model that relied on low cost gadgets to drive mass up-take, and then on increased consumption of content and services to deliver the profits.

However, the original Fires had fairly low specifications, while the new HDX has a higher resolution screen (339 pixels per inch on the larger version, more than the iPad); faster processor (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2GHz, which trebles the speed of the previous generation Fires); and LTE support as well as Wi-Fi. It also added a new graphics engine to enhance the gaming experience, with games a key aspect of the Kindle digital sales model. All that in a device that weights 13.2 ounces, 10 ounces less than the larger iPad.

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