Amazon’s 2012 product updates are almost here – September 6 is the date to mark on your calendars. A consensus of insider leaks, industry analysts, bloggers, and even stock prognosticators have been projecting 2012 release dates, but earlier today, according to BGR, Amazon “sent invitations to the media for a press conference on September 6th in Santa Monica, California. While the topic of discussion was not revealed in the company’s invitations, it is widely believed that Amazon will finally unveil its next-generation Kindle Fire tablets.”
As the story goes, Amazon has been hard at work with new 7″ and likely 10″ Fire tablets since spring of this year. And, now, just in time to barely beat out new product announcements anticipated from the likes of Microsoft, Motorola, and perhaps Apple (a rumored iPad Mini), and in time for the coming holiday mass-consumption appetite of otherwise sort of spend-thrift American consumers, it looks like Amazon will appear on the scene with shiny new Kindle Fire tablets — actually Amazon will likely refresh their whole line of Kindle Readers, as well.
If that were the whole story – just a basic refresh – well, Amazon might just as well throw in the towel since the original Fire tablet, which they released in September 2011, is now pretty much a dinosaur, especially when compared to Google’s $199 Nexus 7. Tablets have evolved tremendously since last year. The original Fire was a consumer rage primarily due to its $199 price tag — a steal compared to Apple’s iPad which was going for $100’s of dollars more. And, at the time, Amazon really didn’t face a whole lot of competition in the 7″ tablet space.
The original Fire is simple to operate and comes with: Wi-Fi, Amazon Cloud free 5GB storage space, stereo sound, and access to the very robust Amazon Appstore for books, music, video, apps, and games content. In addition, the original Fire costs about $300 less than the entry-level iPad 3, yet can do most of the things the iPad can do, save for taking pictures.
However, some of the shortcomings of the original Fire are rather glaring as you look at one today:
- 512K memory.
- 8GB hard disk drive (6GB available to a user).
- Dual Core 1GHz processor (which some users report is sluggish).
- 1024×600 screen resolution.
- Silk web browser (which is proprietary, and users report it is slow).
- Customized (or, “forked”) Android Operating System, which is Android modified by Amazon to suit their needs. Many pure Android programs will not run on a Fire tablet. And, Amazon may not be able to get their hands on the very latest version of Android, which is controlled by Google, a rival of theirs.
- No GPS.
- No Camera.
- Plastic tablet casing which feels “cheap.”
Those predicting an imminent announcement from Amazon of new 7″ and perhaps 10″ Fire tablets are hoping Amazon has done their homework over this past year, and that they will be offering a solid, feature-rich device, that is strong enough to stand head-to-head with Google’s $199 Nexus 7 (released just a couple of months ago), and perhaps, the Microsoft Surface RT running Windows 8 rumored to go on sale for a questionably low $199 in October, and even the rumored Apple 7″ iPad Mini which may be available in October.
To offer potential customers a compelling reason to purchase one of their new Fire tablets, Amazon will need to at least include the following features:
- Start with at least meeting, but better surpassing, the Google Nexus 7 specs — the Nexus has been selling very well, and is stiff competition for Amazon.
- Keep the price of the new Fire 7″ at $199 and sell the 2011 version of the Fire for a deep discount. Offer the Fire 10″ at about $299, or less.
- Upgrade the display from the original 1024 pixel x 600 pixel resolution, to the Nexus 7 1280×800 level, or even better to a rumored 1920×1200 screen (which would still be less than Apple’s 2048×1236 Retina Display).
- Include a new mobile Operating System, possibly better than the “forked” Android version which powered the initial Fire.
- Quad Core Processor.
- MicroUSB port.
- HDMI out port.
- Physical Volume Control knobs.
- Front Facing Camera.
- 4G option.
- Make the tablet lighter and thinner.
- Provide a durable metal body rather than the original “cheap” feeling plastic casing.
There have also been some other intriguing rumors floating around the web about what we may possibly see from Amazon. One such rumor is that Amazon has been developing and testing a smartphone – the question is whether the smartphone will be a standalone gadget, or possibly be part of a Fire tablet/smartphone hybrid? Sounds intriguing. Another rumor is something called a Firedock (a trademark recently acquired by Amazon), which is an accessory that you would plug into a Fire tablet, then connect into a TV or sound system, thus giving you the added pleasure of having a Fire tablet that doubles as a video and music hub.
To wrap things up, here’s an apropos quote explaining in a nutshell what we will be seeing unfold before our eyes over the balance of 2012. According to P.J. McNealy, a consultant with Digital World Research (quoted in an article in the E-Commerce Times , July 23 of this year, by Peter Suciu):
“Microsoft, Amazon and Google’s Android devices are all trying to come up with a variety of cheaper tablets with some differentiated features or functions. It will be a great time to be a consumer.”