SANTA MONICA, Calif., Sept. 6, 2012 -- Amazon has set off a big Fire.
The Kindle Fire HD, Amazon's new souped-up tablet, will be bigger, faster and more expensive, the CEO Jeff Bezos announced today at a press event in Santa Monica, Calif.
"We haven't built the best tablet at a certain price. We have built the best tablet at any price," Bezos said.
Let's get techy: The Kindle Fire HD will come in two versions, a 7-inch and a larger, 8.9-inch 1920x1200 resolution, 254ppi display, an OMAP 4470 processor from Texas Instruments, an HD front-facing camera and dual stereo speakers. It also features MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output), which only a small number of high-end laptops have, to receive data more quickly with multiple antennae.
The Kindle Fire HD starts at 16GB. The 7-inch, 16GB version will sell for $199 and the 8.9-inch, 16GB version will sell for $299. Both ship Nov. 20.
The larger Fire HD is not quite iPad size, which is 9.7 inches, but Bezos said Amazon's new device will get 41 percent faster Wi-Fi signals than Apple's iPad does. For $499, users can get the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD with 32GB, and a 4G LTE wireless network.
Amazon also announced an upgraded version of its original 7-inch Kindle Fire, with a 40 percent faster processor, longer battery life and more RAM. The price drops to $159 and it ships Sept. 14.
The online retail giant unveiled its sleek, new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, featuring a new monochromatic display that appears very white, like paper. Although it looks much like the current Kindle Touch, Paperwhite doesn't have a Home screen button, and hosts a higher resolution screen with a body that is "thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback," Bezos said.
Side note: For those who are still new to these gadgets, the Kindle Fire is a color tablet that features all types of media -- books, magazines, games, movies, music, Web -- whereas the Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Touch and original Kindle are e-readers meant for downloading and reading books or other text.
In Paperwhite, the fonts have been optimized for the new patented light guide to appear crisper. It also has a time measure, called "Time To Read," that can track your reading speed and give you an estimate of how much longer it will take you to finish the book.
The price: $119. It is available for orders today, but won't ship until Oct. 1. The Kindle Paperwhite with 3G connectivity built in will set buyers back $179.
The first edition, non-touch Kindle will now be sold at the reduced price of $69.
Bezos also talked up the latest and greatest features offered in the Kindle store, including 180,000 "exclusive" books and the debut of Kindle Serials, which allow users to buy book series as a whole collection for a flat rate.
The new Kindle Fire HD is "a hardware device that's a service," Bezos said, but for users, it's going to come down to whether they prefer Amazon's services over others', such as Apple and Google.
Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite display takes direct aim at Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. The e-reader, which is lighter and thinner than the previous generation, still has an e-ink touch screen, but the screen resolution has been increased, the touch technology improved, and a screen light has been added. Bezos claimed it will have a whopping eight weeks of battery life, meaning users will be able to leave the adjustable light on all the time.
Like the Nook it has a light, but unlike the Nook, Amazon says the light is actually for when you are reading in bright situations, not dark.
It sounds counterintuitive but the new lighting system makes black text much crisper and blacker when it is turned on. Amazon says the technology, which it home-brewed itself, is meant to make the e-reader more like a book.
Amazon broke precedent when it aired an ad during Wednesday night's NFL kickoff, showing two devices that appeared to be the new Kindle Fire, Amazon's 7-inch tablet, and a new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader ahead of Thursday's official announcement. Normally these announcements are shrouded in secrecy, and today's press event opened with a replay of the ad.
"Last year there were over two dozen Android tablets launched and no one bought them," Bezos said. "People don't want gadgets anymore. They want services."
The market of affordable 7-inch tablets, spawned by Kindle Fire, is getting crowded. Amazon and Barnes & Noble carry the most popular devices, but Google is nipping at their heels. Motorola, Samsung, Kobo and a host of other Android tablet manufacturers have also joined the club.
Apple, which has dominated the tablet market overall with the iPad, is rumored to be releasing a smaller version -- the so-called "iPad Mini" -- in October.
In June, Google announced Nexus 7, a 7-inch color tablet also priced at $199, which seemed aimed at putting out Amazon's Fire. The 16GB version briefly sold out after the device went on sale in July, and it's estimated Google could sell up to 8 million devices by the end of the year, more than double the sales it was expecting, ComputerWorld.com reported.
But according to Amazon, the Kindle Fire has been the No. 1 selling product on its site over the past year, commanding 22 percent of the tablet market. Prior to today's announcement, Amazon said their previous Kindle Fire model sold out last month.