On Wednesday, Amazon Will Unveil The “Kindle Fire”

Last Friday, Amazon sent out invites to a press conference being held this coming Wednesday. They didn’t give away any details in the invite, but given our scoop earlier this month, everyone assumed it was to unveil the new Kindle tablet. We can now confirm this is correct. And we know a bit more.

On Wednesday morning in New York City, Amazon will unveil the Kindle Fire. Yes, this is the name Amazon has settled on, to help differentiate the product from the e-ink Kindles, which will still be very much alive and for sale. And while Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will show off the Fire on stage, it won’t be ready to ship until the second week of November, we’ve learned.

Everything we’ve previously reported on the hardware remains the same. It will be a 7-inch backlit display tablet that looks similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook. Gdgt’s Ryan Block was able to dig up a bit more about the connection. Apparently, the Kindle Fire looks like a PlayBook because it was designed and built by the same original design manufacturer (ODM), Quanta. Even though Amazon has their own team dedicated to Kindle design and development, Lab 126, they wanted to get the Fire out there in time for this holiday season so they outsourced most of it as a shortcut.

Block’s sources seem very wary of this shortcut move. But having played with a DVT model myself, I can assure you that it’s better than the PlayBook because the software is better and, more importantly, the content available is much better. Amazon has built their own custom version of Android (that looks nothing like Android) and it utilizes their own Android Appstore. While that store doesn’t offer all the apps found in Google’s Android Market, Amazon has been rounding up the big app makers to get them on board for the Fire launch, I’m told.

Amazon has also been inking last-minute deals with the likes of Fox for movies and TV shows through their streaming video service which will be a key part of the Fire. And they have several publishers on board for magazine offerings, as Peter Kafka reports today. The Fire will rely heavily on Amazon’s MP3 service and, of course, the Kindle bookstore.

One thing I wasn’t sure about when I saw the device was if there would be an email client. I didn’t see one, but I thought maybe I missed it. Turns out there won’t be one included by default. Instead, you’ll be able to get one through the Appstore, or you can use the browser.

Another thing I wasn’t sure about was the chip inside of the device. I’ve now learned it’s a TI dual-core OMAP chip. This is the same chip used inside many newer Android devices. The PlayBook also uses it. I’m not sure what the clock-speed of the CPU will be, but I’d guess 1.2 GHz. This will make it significantly faster than the rival Nook Color, which uses a single core 800 MHz OMAP.


Sources also suggest that Barnes & Noble is on the verge of launching the Nook Color 2 next month. In fact, that may play into Amazon’s timing here. They’re announcing the device well over a month before it will be available. Sources suggest that the Nook Color 2 will feature a 1.2 GHz OMAP chip, with a focus on displaying multimedia content better. There will also be a focus on streaming content and a big increase in the number of apps available, we’re told.

The Nook Color 2 will also be built on top of Gingerbread, Android 2.3, we hear. That would put it ahead of the Kindle Fire, which is believed to be based on Android 2.1. Again, neither of them look anything like Android, but the APIs available are key when it comes to the Android version.

And then there’s the issue of the price. While the Nook Color 2 is expected to retail for the same $250 that the current Nook Color does (and the original one may drop to $200), the pricing of the Kindle Fire is a bit of a mystery right now. Originally, we were told it would be the same $250. But there have also been whispers floating around that it could be $300.

We also originally heard that Amazon Prime would be included, as a big enticement for would-be buyers. That may be off the table for now as well — but it’s not yet clear. It’s possible Amazon will release one version with Prime included for $300 and a version without it for $250. Getting Amazon Prime for $50 would still be a deal, since it’s normally $79 for the year.

That’s all for now. All will be revealed on Wednesday. Below, the excellent mockup my colleague Greg made based on what I saw.