Amazon Throws Down Tablet Gauntlet with New Kindle Fire SHARE: Tweet Apple has laid waste to the tablet market with its iPad because every offering from competitors like Google, HP or Blackberry have simply been too iPad-like. None of these companies has given consumers a concrete reason to buy their product instead of the iPad. At a press event on Wednesday, Amazon may have just done that with its $199 7-inch color tablet, dubbed the Kindle Fire. As some were hoping, the Kindle Fire plays to Amazon’s strengths — mainly the consumption of books, movies, magazines, music and TV shows while sitting by the pool or on the couch, plus the ability to buy Amazon products with ease. It has now positioned itself as the anti-iPad. Stripped away from the Kindle Fire are unnecessary computer components like a camera, GPS or even 3G (this may happen eventually; itis a feature in some Kindle models). And it only has 8 gigabytes of storage. Instead, Amazon is touting this as a lean, mean portable media center device that users can hold with one hand, and take advantage of cloud storage capabilities. The device comes with the ability to surf the web on Amazon’s new Silk Browser (video here for those curious about the tech aspect of the browser) and even offers the ability to read PDFs and other documents, though the company is downplaying those features. The software interface is built on a modified version of Google’s Android operating system, so that also means consumers have the ability to download apps for Facebook, Twitter, media outlets (like us!), time-wasters and even, yes, Angry Birds. But they’ve slapped a lot of lipstick onto Android’s pig so that Amazon’s tablet doesn’t resemble a Google tablet. Amazon isn’t interested in selling hardware, as evidenced by the low price. The Fire seems to be a device that pulls all of Amazon’s digital services together and makes them easy to buy. This is about selling things on that hardware (and why companies like Netflix might be in more trouble than Apple here). “The cost of the device can turn an electronic media gadget into a prestige device, like Apple’s iPod or iPad. But it’s nevertheless a hurdle for customers. $500 for an iPad or $400 for the first-generation Kindle is a lot of cash to drop for folks who want to read. It’s also a levee bottling up a torrent of content that can be sold and delivered over those devices,” Tim Carmody writes for Wired. With the Kindle Fire, “Amazon dynamites that levee.” No, the devices aren’t free, but $200 for a portable media center that can browse the web, check email, play little games, watch movies and TV shows, and read books is certainly an enticing Christmas device. It’s expected to ship on November 15th, 2011. We won’t even mention the changes they made to the rest of the Kindle lineup ($79 Kindle, $99 Kindle Touch, $149 Kindle Touch 3G), where you can now buy them for as little as $80. Amazon just stepped up to Apple by offering a similar product at a more affordable price, but also by significantly differentiating their product. The Kindle Fire isn’t trying to be a portable computer like the iPad and its competitors, it’s trying to be a digital media hub. Make no mistake, this isn’t an iPad killer. But it’s not intended to be one. This is Amazon recognizing in a niche in the market and supplying a need for those that don’t want or need an iPad, but would still like a digital e-reader that does more than just read books. Nothing more, nothing less.