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September 07, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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Amazon on Thursday unveiled a new, larger version of its Kindle Fire tablet computer with a high-definition display, in a move by the retail giant to take on the market-leading iPad.

The new Kindle Fire HD will be offered with an 8.9-inch (22.6-centimeter) display, along with an upgraded version of the tablet launched in a smaller format last year, Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos told reporters.

"Kindle Fire HD is not only the most-advanced hardware, it's also a service," Bezos said.

"When combined with our enormous content ecosystem, unmatched cross-platform interoperability and standard-setting customer service, we hope people will agree that Kindle Fire HD is the best high-end tablet anywhere, at any price."

The large-display tablet is only 8.8 millimeters thick, and weighs 560 grams (20 ounces).

The Kindle Fire HD has dual-band Wi-Fi and two antennas, he said, comparing it to the rival iPad from Apple and the Google Nexus 7 tablets.

Bezos said the upgraded Wi-Fi specifications and increased processing clout would make it run 41 percent faster than the latest version of the iPad, launched earlier this year.

Amazon will offer three versions of the tablet.

The Kindle Fire HD 7-inch will cost $199 and ships September 14, while the iPad-challenging larger version, with 16 GB of memory will cost $299 and will go on sale on November 20.

In an even more direct challenge to the iPad, a 4G version of the larger Kindle Fire HD will sell at $499 -- the same price as a basic iPad.

"We're taking on the most popular price point for a tablet, $499, but doubling the storage and incredibly, adding ultra-fast 4G LTE wireless," Bezos said.

Speaking in an airport hangar in Santa Monica, California, he said Amazon kept its prices lower than many competitors because it wants to make money from selling content, rather than from devices themselves.

"We want to make money when they use our devices, not when they buy our devices," he told reporters gathered for a press conference, the subject of which had been a mystery before the event.

Contrary to a rumor which spread on the eve of the Amazon event, there was no announcement of a new Amazon smartphone.

The Kindle Fire HD announcements came after he unveiled a new Kindle e-reader with so-called "paperwhite" display. It will have a battery life of eight weeks with the backlight on, and will ship October 1.

The paperwhite Kindle will retail at $119, while a 3G mobile version will cost $179. A new version of the basic Kindle will be reduced in price from $79 to $69, he said.

Amazon, which launched the Kindle Fire in the US market last year, said last week the first version had captured 22 percent of the market for tablet computers, although it did not reveal detailed sales data.

Apple's iPad has about two-thirds of the global market for tablets, and the company is expected to introduce a smaller version of it later this year.

But the new device drew some positive comments.

"Is Amazon the New Apple? I think Amazon just stole the tablet market," analyst and consultant Rob Enderle tweeted. He added that for "the key uses of a tablet -- reading, games, movies -- Amazon is now better in all three."

Industry analyst Jeff Kagan said Kindle Fire "is bigger, stronger and better than before and will compete more directly with the big guys on the playing field."

The Kindle Fire "is closer to an Apple iPad, but it still is not an Apple iPad," Kagan said.

Ross Rubin, analyst at Reticle Research, said the new device "stays a bit below Apple's 10 (inch) domain (if not price). But 8.9 (inch) is an appealing size for movies."

Rubin noted however that Amazon did not talk up the notion of apps for the devices.

"Amazon stepping up ecosystem efforts but focus is on own features, services. Third-party apps still seem like an afterthought," he wrote on Twitter.


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