During a week of device announcements, Amazon made all kinds of noise Thursday with its announcement of three new tablets, a new eReader and its entrance into the world of LTE data plans.
Amazon is looking to be the disrupter with its new 8.9-inch LTE Kindle Fire tablet. For $50 a year, consumers who purchase the Kindle Fire HD with LTE will receive 250 MB of LTE data a month and 20 GB of cloud storage, as well as a $10 credit for Amazon’s app store.
An AT&T spokesman confirmed that AT&T will be providing the LTE connectivity for the new Kindle tablet. AT&T is also the carrier behind the Kindle eReader’s 3G Whispersync technology. AT&T currently has 60 LTE markets live around the country, with another 40 expected to by the end of the year.
The upgraded original 8 GB Kindle Fire carries a price tag of $159. The 7-inch, 16 GB Kindle Fire HD runs for $199 and will be available Sept. 14. The 8.9-inch, 32 GB model of the Kindle Fire HD costs $299; the same device with LTE connectivity costs $499 and will be available Sept. 20.
Amazon’s Chief Executive Jeff Bezos implied that the lower prices on the new tablets are made possible through the sale of content consumed on the tablets, as well as through the sale of physical goods.
“If someone buys our hardware and never uses it, we don’t deserve to make money,” Bezos said, according to a live blog of the event published on Engadget.
The new Kindle tablets include a variety of improvements, including higher resolution displays, MIMO antennas for faster Wi-Fi connectivity, additional internal storage, stereo speakers with Dolby sound, as well as a number of software tweaks and content additions. Amazon says the new tablets feature a next-generation Kindle OS, integrated email, as well as Facebook and Skype apps customized for the tablets.
It would appear that Amazon is going directly after Google’s Nexus 7, and perhaps just undershooting Apple’s iPad with its 8.9-inch entry.
Thursday’s announcements come as a number of companies look to get their products announced prior to what many expect will be Apple’s spotlight-stealing Sept. 12 iPhone unveiling. It had been rumored for weeks that Amazon was looking to take on Apple’s iPad more directly with a larger tablet. Meanwhile, many believe Cupertino may have an iPad Mini may in the works to steal some of Amazon’s Fire, while also deflecting 7-inch competitors like Google Nexus 7.
Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, says it’s the latter that Amazon was aiming for with the drop in the original Kindle Fire price.
“Amazon is clearly spooked by Google’s Nexus 7 coming in at $200 for a much more capable device, and it’s upped its own hardware specs while reducing the price to $159, which is clearly an attempt to keep it somewhat attractive in the face of that new competition from Google and Asus,” Dawson said in emailed comments.
Meanwhile Amazon aimed to retain its crown as the king of the eReader space, unveiling the new Kindle Paperwhite, with new improved screen technology and lighting for reading in the dark. The Wi-Fi only version of the Kindle Paperweight will sell for $119, while the 3G version will go for $179. Amazon also lowered the price of its ad-supported Kindle from $79 to $69.
Amazon also announced a new publishing platform called Kindle Serials that will allow authors to publish episodic narratives in the tradition of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Each installment will be priced at $1.99.
Investors apparently liked what they saw. Shares of Amazon hit an all-time high immediately following the announcement. Amazon stock was trading up nearly 2 percent at $251 in afternoon trading.