Amazon.com Inc. unveiled a new line of bigger, faster and sleeker Kindle e-readers and tablets, presenting a fresh challenge to Apple Inc.’ s dominance of the market with the iPad.
The Seattle-based Web retailer introduced devices Thursday ranging in price from a US$69 ad-supported ebook to the US$599 top- of-the-line Kindle Fire HD, backed by 22 million movies, television shows, songs, apps, games, books and magazines.
Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who unveiled the devices in Santa Monica, California, is retooling the tablets as consumers face a widening array of choices, including new entries from Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
At stake is a piece of a market that may reach US$66,4 billion this year, according to research firm DisplaySearch.
“This wasn’t a product announcement as much as it was a declaration of war,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at market research firm Gartner Inc. “It’s clear that Amazon is going to go after Apple customers. Amazon at this point is not a company Apple can ignore as a competitor.”
To woo users from Apple, Amazon relies on the Kindle to help sell digital movies, books and music — an effort that may be bolstered by the revamped device.
Still, the company will soon face increased competition from Apple, which will introduce a smaller, cheaper iPad by year-end, two people with knowledge of the plans said in July.
The newest line, called Kindle Fire HD, includes a model with a 7-inch display for US$199 or US$249, another with an 8,9-inch screen for US$299 or US$369, and a US$499 or US$599 version with 4G long-term evolution wireless technology, one of the fastest mobile networks available. Prices depend on the amount of memory included in each device.
The Fire HDs that begin at US$299 — with screens slightly smaller than the iPad — are thinner, offer similar memory and a more robust sound system for a lower price. The data plan for the 4G tablet — US$50 a year — costs US$180 less a year than a comparable plan for Apple’s iPad, Amazon said.
The Kindle Fire HDs have custom-built apps from Facebook Inc. (FB), operator of the world’s largest social network, and Skype, the Internet-calling service bought last year by Microsoft. Based on Google’s
Android mobile device software, they include front-facing cameras for video-calling, Bluetooth and dual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio. They also boast two antennas to improve wireless connectivity.
“Last year there were more than two dozen Android tablets launched into the marketplace and nobody bought them,” Bezos said. “People don’t want gadgets anymore.
They want services. Kindle Fire is a service. It greets you by name, it comes out of the box with your content preloaded, it makes recommendations for you.”
Amazon’s share of the global tablet market slipped to 4 percent in the first quarter from 17 percent in the December period, according to IDC. Apple widened its lead in the market to 68 percent, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based research firm said.