Amazon Quietly Introduces New Tablets and E-ReadersBy
Amazon drummed up as much excitement as it could for its big event this summer where Chief Executive Jeff Bezos introduced the company’s first smartphone. Things haven’t been easy for the device, which was panned by critics, ignored by customers, and reduced in price to $1. When Amazon decided to roll out its fall line of devices this week, just days before Apple’s new iPhones hit retailers, it chose a much quieter setting: a press-only event in New York where small groups of reporters were shuttled around a room full of e-readers and tablets.
The changes to Amazon’s lineup are mostly incremental. The most significant bet by Amazon is a 6-inch version of its Kindle Fire HD tablet priced at $100, less than half the price of its current 7-inch tablet. The tablet looks a lot like what people expected from Amazon’s phone: good enough for many customers and priced far lower than the premier devices on the market. Amazon also released a version of the device aimed specifically at children. For an extra $50, the company throws in a thick case, offers to replace the device if it is broken at any time over the next two years, and includes one year of FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service for children’s content that includes videos and books.
Undercutting the competition on the price of hardware is a core part of Amazon’s business model, which is to sell devices at cost and make money on content. But Amazon’s new devices run software that actually makes it easier to consume content without paying for it. In addition to the free subscriptions to kids’ content, the new tablets include a feature called Family Library, which lets people link Amazon accounts and gain access to any media the other one has bought. The feature goes further than Amazon’s previous lending option, which could only be used for certain titles and gave borrowers access for only 14 days. Once accounts are linked, people using Family Library will be able to share any Kindle book, and for any amount of time, says Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon devices.
Amazon also made minor updates to its Fire HDX tablet and introduced a new version of its Kindle e-reader. The device, called the Voyage, is slightly thinner than older versions. Amazon will keep selling the Paperwhite and added a touchscreen to its cheapest Kindle, which actually got slightly thicker to accommodate it.