news Diversified online retailer and technology services group Amazon overnight announced a tranche of new e-reader and tablet products, including a flagship touchscreen tablet device based on Google’s Android platform. The bad news for Australians? So far most of the new products are available to US residents only.
In an extensive media briefing held in New York by the company’s chief executive Jeff Bezos, Amazon unveiled a clutch of new Kindle devices. The line-up represents the latest iteration of the world’s most popular e-reader.
The cheapest Kindle now starts at US$79, and it’s now 30 percent lighter than the previous model and turns pages 30 percent faster. It doesn’t feature a touchscreen, unlike the rest of the new Kindle line-up, and it’s probably the most comparable to Amazon’s existing Kindle offerings, but at a substantially reduced price.
However, the more revolutionary new Kindles are the US$99 Kindle Touch, which features a touchscreen and integration with reference platforms such as Wikipedia and Amazon’s own Shelfari. The US$99 model only comes with Wi-Fi access for syncing books, but there’s also a US$149 model which comes with 3G access. Amazon is billing the 3G connection as functioning in over 100 countries globally.
Then there’s the device which most avid Amazon followers have been waiting for — the company’s Kindle ‘Fire’, which is a 7″ tablet based on Google’s Android platform (although heavily modified) and looking quite a bit in form like Research in Motion’s PlayBook tablet.
The Fire introduces a number of new features not previously found in Amazon’s previous generations of much more static e-ink-based tablets. It has a vibrant touchscreen designed for multimedia access to the over 100,000 movies and TV shows, over 17 million MP3 songs, over 1 million books, hundreds of magazines and newspapers and some 100 exclusive graphic novels available through Amazon’s online catalogue.
The Fire’s operating system is radically different from most Android tablets available on the market today and features a number of additional features — such as the ability to sync where a user is up to in a movie being watched on the tablet and then automatically have their loungeroom media centre track to the same spot.
In addition, the Fire introduces a new web browser architecture dubbed ‘Silk’ which sees Amazon render HTML pages on its cloud computing platform for output to the Fire — speeding up the process of web browsing. However, the tablet is similar enough to existing Android tablet offerings that it can run existing Android applications — with Amazon listing Angry Birds, Plants versus Zombies and more as being compatible.
However, the caveat for Australians interested in Amazon’s products is a large one — as it is for every other interested customer outside the US.
Right now, although Amazon’s existing e-reader line-up has been available internationally for some time, the only product which Amazon announced today which is available outside the US is the entry-level Kindle — the Touch Kindles and the Fire have small “US-only” labels on their product pages on Amazon, and Amazon’s press release on the subject makes it clear they are not for purchase outside the US yet.
The higher-order Kindles will ship to customers who pre-order them in November — meaning customers outside the US will likely be forced to wait until the new year before stock is available. The entry-level US$79 Kindle is available today, however. For further reading on Amazon’s new products announced today, we recommend This is my next or Engadget, which both have substantially more information on the new Kindles and associated services — including video demos.
Some shots of the new Kindles:
And so the wait begins. It will be some time before Australians have any idea when they can buy a Kindle Fire or a Kindle Touch from Amazon directly, although the devices will likely work fairly well in Australia if you can get a friend in the US to mail you one, or if you can order one through other third-party retail channels etc.
However, there is also a secondary wait: The wait to find out how much of Amazon’s multimedia content (music, movies, TV, newspapers and magazines) will be available in Australia. Previous investigations have shown up a significant difference between Amazon’s US catalogue and the company’s Australian catalogue, and we only expect that difference to exponentially increase with the availability of music, video and digital printed content in Australia.
There’s also the cost. Our UK cousins have already noted substantial price increases on Amazon’s new Kindle range in their fair land … I’m sure we can expect the same in Australia.
Are we being too tough on Amazon? Is it too much to expect for the company to launch its new products simultaneously worldwide? Many would say yes. However, there is a gold standard which Amazon has to live up to. If Apple can launch simultaneously worldwide with its iPad, iPhone and MacBooks … Amazon should be able to do the same, with its much more limited and less complex range.
Sometimes, that wonderful global marketplace just seems so … US-focused.
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Image credits: Amazon