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Amazon Gets into the Tablet Biz with Kindle Fire

Last week, I succumbed to temptation and bought an iPad. Now, I’m wondering if I made a mistake because Amazon’s new Kindle Fire is looking mighty good to me.

Kindle Fire is just one of four new Kindle-based products Amazon is launching today. On the lower end, there’s a new lighter, smaller, Kindle. Finally, there’s a Kindle Touch (for all those people like me who keep trying to scroll through Kindle ebooks by touching the pages) and a Kindle Touch 3G.

The big news is the Kindle Fire, a highly media-focused tablet which comes with a very reasonable price tag — only $199. For that price you get full Kindle ebook functionality with the addition of video, music and full color web browsing.

The unit is only seven inches, which puts it somewhere between the iPhone and the iPad. It beats an iPhone for picture size but is more portable than an iPad and you can hold it with one hand, which is a bigger deal than it sounds.

I’m a big reader, and I expected my new iPad to take the place of my old Kindle but it doesn’t. The background glare makes it hard to look at for long periods of time and I’ve yet to find an easy way to upload and comfortably read my own documents. A process that is simple on a Kindle and the new Kindle Fire.

The product page for the Kindle Fire makes it clear that this gizmo is all about media consumption but the cost of all this consumption is intentionally vague. There are references to 100,000 TV shows and movies and 17 million songs, but they aren’t free for the taking. If you pay a monthly fee to join Amazon Prime, you can get free streaming but there’s still a lot more you’ll have to pay for. This is, of course, the case with any tablet, so I’m not knocking the $1.99 fee for an episode of TV, I’m just saying they need to be clear about it upfront.

The other Kindle Fire mystery is the keyboard. Does it have one? There isn’t one evident in any of the photos but it does have email, so there must be a keyboard. Does that mean I can work on documents through an app? Because that’s one of the big reasons I have an iPad, so I can write wherever I am.

From what I can see, Kindle Fire is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a tablet for entertainment purposes, not for work. It’s light, it’s the perfect size and you can easily load it with hours upon hours of books, movies and music.

The Kindle Fire is another step closer to putting a tablet in every home in America. It’s a name people trust with a low price tag and you can bet they’re going to be one of the hottest items for the holidays. For marketers, that means you can’t ignore the tablet anymore. You have to think about how you take your brand and present it in a compact, vibrant manner via ads, apps or downloads. Tablets are here to stay.