Amazon Kindle Fire Harnesses The Cloud In A Tablet

Amazon launched the Kindle Fire tablet today, the online retail giant's long-rumored answer to the Apple iPad and other tablet titans, taking queues from its Kindle e-readers but adding new Web and content capabilities.

The Kindle Fire is a full-color 7-inch LCD touch-screen tablet that clocks in at 14.6 ounces and will cost $199, a massive discount over the iPad's starting price of roughly $500. The compact tablet features a dual-core processor and will run the latest version of Google Android when it ships November 15. The mobile device also features 8 GB of built-in storage, access to books, movies and music and a host of other media capabilities. Other features include IPS technology for an extra-wide viewing angle, and the devices is chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, making it more durable to stand up to drops, bumps and scrapes.

The Amazon Kindle fire, however, is Wi-Fi only and lacks 3G service, a camera and a microphone.

And while Amazon Kindle Fire is a sign that Amazon capitalizes on the growing tablet craze and beat out some of its key competitors, the Seattle-based company is leveraging the Kindle Fire tablet to move its cloud computing agenda forward, making the Kindle Fire the first tablet in the space that fully leverages cloud services.

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"Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we've been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers," Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, said in a statement. "With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, the convenience of Amazon Whispersync, our revolutionary cloud-accelerated Web browser, the speed and power of a state-of-the-art dual-core processor, a vibrant touch display with 16 million colors in high resolution, and a light 14.6 ounce design that's easy to hold with one hand -- all for only $199. We're offering premium products, and we're doing it at non-premium prices."

The Kindle Fire tablet introduces Amazon's cloud-backed browser, Amazon Silk. Amazon called Amazon Silk a "split browser" architecture that leverages the Amazon Web Services Cloud to do some of the browser's heavy lifting.

"The Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)," Amazon said in a statement. "With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and cached content. The result is a faster Web browsing experience, and it's available exclusively on Kindle Fire."

And while the Amazon Kindle Fire offers a small 8 GB of on-board memory, Amazon is offering free cloud storage to users of its tablet. Amazon will offer free storage for all Amazon digital content in the Amazon Cloud, and all Amazon digital content is backed up for free in the cloud where in Amazon's archive where it's available for re-downloading at any time, Amazon said. According to Amazon, users get access to more than 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, apps, games, books and magazines.

The Amazon Kindle Fire's reliance on cloud services gives Amazon a leg up in both the cloud computing and tablet games.

"In one fell swoop Amazon harnesses its commanding lead in cloud services, the content richness of a leading online retailer and its successful Kindle business strategy to deliver what might become one of most effective antidotes to the mobile bandwidth crunch," wrote Al Hilwa, program director of applications development software for IDC, in an e-mail to CRN.

The Kindle Fire, like other Kindle models, also uses Amazon's Whispersync technology that synchronizes the Kindle library, last page read, bookmarks, notes and highlights across devices and platforms. And the Fire adds Whispersync capabilities to video. For example, if you start streaming a movie on the Amazon Kindle Fire, users can resume on the television.

Amazon is also offering a free month of Amazon Prime service to Kindle Fire users, which offers unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows via Prime Instant Video and free two-day shopping on purchases.

Amazon's unveiling of the Kindle Fire came as part of a full-on Kindle launch, which added new e-readers to Amazon's lineup. The new Kindle models include a non-touch model for $79, a Kindle touch for $99 and a Kindle Touch with 3G for $149.