You Probably Won't Want Amazon's Kindle Fire for Christmas

Amazon is expected to launch its tablet tomorrow, here's what we know about it so far

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Tomorrow Amazon will unveil its answer to the iPad, reports TechCrunch's MG Seigler. "On Wednesday morning in New York City, Amazon will unveil the Kindle Fire. Yes, this is the name Amazon has settled on, to help differentiate the product from the e-ink Kindles, which will still be very much alive and for sale." With Amazon's online retail foothold, its tablet could present a threat to Apple's dominance--at least we think so. Beyond its lame name, how is the Kindle Fire looking next to its cool older brother?

  • Smaller. Unlike the iPad, which measures 9.5 inches high and 7.3 inches wide, it looks like Amazon will release a babier version, continues Siegler. " It will be a 7-inch backlit display tablet that looks similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook." Yet, this might just be the first iteration of the Kindle Fire. Expect a bigger version later, reports AllThingsD's Peter Kafka. "The company will roll out a bigger version that is closer in size to the iPad next year."
  • Runs Android. Apple isn't about to share its iOS with Amazon, but Amazon didn't exactly copycat other Android tablets, reports Siegler. "Amazon has built their own custom version of Android (that looks nothing like Android) and it utilizes their own Android Appstore. While that store doesn’t offer all the apps found in Google’s Android Market, Amazon has been rounding up the big app makers to get them on board for the Fire launch, I’m told. " 
  • It has some pretty good content, but not everything. Specifically, Amazon has gotten most of the big magazine publishers on board, adds Kafka. "Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith all have deals to sell digital versions of their titles on the new device, according to industry sources." But it hasn't convinced all to embrace its subscription terms, yet. "The notable standout, for now, is Time Warner’s giant Time Inc," Kafka continues.
  • No E-mail client. The Kindle Fire won't offer mail on the Kindle by default. It will take a few steps to access messages, adds Siegler.  "Turns out there won’t be one included by default. Instead, you’ll be able to get one through the Appstore, or you can use the browser."
  • Like a BlackBerry Playbook--and not in a good way. Amazon's own team wouldn't take the project, so the company outsourced the hardware design to Quanta, which also made RIM's tablet, reports Gdgt's Ryan Block. "Without the help and experience of Lab 126, so they turned to Quanta, which helped them "shortcut" the development process by using the PlayBook as their hardware template. Of course, it's never quite that simple, and as I'm told Amazon ran into trouble, and eventually sacrifices were made (like using a slower processor). Yet, Siegler believes the tablet will likely run on a 1.2GHZ TI dual-core OMAP chip, reports Gdgt's Ryan Block. 
  • Supports only two, not ten fingers. While the iPad has 10 finger touch capacities, the Kindle Fire only has two, according to Siegler. Two fingers work for most applications, but as Cult of Mac's Ed Sutherland points out, some of the more sophisticated functions require 10. 

Although two fingers are great for basic tasks, such as shrinking windows and tapping buttons, for anything much beyond flinging colorful birds at obnoxious linkers, more fingers are required. A decent tablet painting program, or Apple’s own iPad version of GarageBand, both require more than two fingers.

  • Cheaper. Amazon hasn't release price specifics, but Siegler pegs it around $300--about half the price of Apple's tablet. 

With Amazon's Kindle and Prime power combined, the Kindle Fire--name withstanding--might hold up to Apple's iPad. While not all of the specs are ideal, the tablets will start shipping the second week of November. That's just in time for a holiday showdown, which might be the reason the Kindle Fire doesn't look so hot, believes Block. "I'm told that this first tablet of theirs is "supposed to be pretty poor" and is a "stopgap" in order to get a tablet out the door for the 2011 holiday season -- which doesn't exactly leave the best taste in my mouth."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.