Amazon Unveils The $199 Kindle Fire Tablet… And The iPad Finally Has Real Competition

Amazon just announced its long anticipated tablet, the Kindle Fire. And while the hardware doesn’t compete with iPad, the price certainly is: it’s a fully-featured tablet with access to millions of apps, games, songs, movies, TV shows and books, all for just $199.

Running a custom version of Android 2.1, the tablet exists as a way of consolidating all of Amazon’s incredible libraries of content: shopping, streaming, music, video on demand, apps and more.

That’s millions of songs, apps and books at your finger tips, alongside thousands of movies and TV shows. There’s also a huge magazine offering.

Powered by an unknown dual-core processor, the Kindle Fire weighs just 14.6 ounces. Despite this, early impressions of the Kindle Fire switching between tasks make it appear that the Kindle Fire is actually extremely fast, likely thanks to Amazon’s own tinkerings and paring down of the Android OS.

It comes with free Amazon Cloud Storage, an obvious show across the bow at Cloud. There’s no cable syncing required, and you can delete or redownload content whenever you want. Out of the box, it knows all your content already.

Even better, Amazon’s WhisperSync technology will allow you to sync your content across multiple devices. For example, start a movie on your Kindle Fire, then start it up on your TV at the same place.

The display is a 7-inch IPS touch panel with a Gorilla Glass screen. It’s got a fairly high, but not Retina Display, pixel density of 169 pixels per inch. Not bad. Demos suggest the screen is actually very responsive.

Part of the Kindle Fire’s speed is managed by smart use of Amazon’s own cloud infrastructure. For example, browsing speed is sped up dramatically by caching pages on Amazon’s EC2 architecture and compressing them for a tablet.

That’s where Amazon’s new Silk browser comes in. It has a split architecture: part in cloud, part local, that removes most of the limitations of local browsers. It does part of the work in rendering a site itself, and farms the rest out to Amazon’s cloud computing centers.

The result? A very speedy web experience. This is similar to how Opera Mini already does things, but smarter: Silk will actually cache the next page you’re likely to use based on typical usage patterns. Wow.

The price? $199, which is incredible. It’s available for preorder from Amazon now, and will ship on November 15th.

Get to it: if you don’t have a tablet, this is the best you’re going to find for the price. If you do have an iPad already, this’ll make an excellent second tablet.