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Amazon Updates Kindle with Videoconferencing

September 7, 2012 | Telepresence Options
Mr. Bezos also discussed other members of the seven-model Kindle lineup on Thursday.


SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Amazon announced a barrage of new tablets and e-readers on Thursday that makes its challenge to Apple's iPad a little more serious.

Amazon announced updates to its line of Kindle e-readers, including the Kindle Fire HD, a tablet computer that comes in two sizes, one that is nearly as large as the iPad and that undercuts its price by $200.

The company also announced the Kindle Paperwhite, a new version of the black-and-white Kindle that is thinner and turns pages 15 percent quicker than its predecessor. It also has a new high-contrast screen that Amazon says will be easier to read, especially in the dark because it is lighted from the bottom.

The company now has seven models ranging from a basic $70 black-and-white-screen e-reader to a $600 color tablet. (It also still sells an aging model with a keyboard.)

"We are not building the best tablet at a certain price," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, who showed off the new devices at an airport hangar in Santa Monica. "We're building the best tablet at any price."

The Kindle Fire HD challenges the iPad on several fronts. The larger version of the device has an 8.9-inch display, compared with the iPad's 9.7 inches. The new Amazon device also has a front-facing camera that works with the built-in Skype video conferencing software, competing directly with the front-facing camera on the iPad and Apple's FaceTime video conferencing features. Like the iPad, the new Kindle Fire offers 16 gigabytes of storage.

The larger version of the Kindle Fire HD costs $300; the baseline iPad costs $500. (Apple sells an older model for $400.) Amazon is also offering a $500 version of the Kindle Fire HD with cellular data connectivity, which is cheaper than Apple's least expensive iPad with cellular connectivity, which costs $630.

During the presentation, Mr. Bezos continually compared the Kindle Fire HD with Apple's iPad, talking about both the features of his tablet and its price. In an interview after the event, Mr. Bezos said, "You can't ignore Apple being a company that is a major player in this arena."

But he said there was room for both companies to do well. "My view: these are huge, huge markets, with room for lots of winners."

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