As expected, Amazon today launched the Kindle Fire, its own Android-powered 7-inch tablet (available to pre-order ahead of a November 15th release). At just $199 the device is even more aggressively priced than the $250 mooted by TechCrunch a few weeks ago. It’s clear that Amazon’s strategy is not to make lots of money selling the hardware but to use it to sell more e-books, MP3s, apps, films and other digital content. It’s this that makes it significant for Android developers – if things play out how Amazon intends, we should see a big increase in sales on the Amazon Appstore.
It’s striking how Amazon has completely down-played the Android underpinnings of its new machine. The word “Android” appears only once on the product page and only then as part of the name “Amazon Appstore for Android”. The Kindle Fire doesn’t look much like an Android device either. This is not a Google-endorsed, Honeycomb-powered tablet. In fact, according to TechCrunch, it runs a fork of Froyo (Android 2.2). Inevitably this adds to Android fragmentation concerns. It remains to be seen whether Amazon will release an emulator image to enable developers to test for this environment.
For now the Kindle Fire is disappointingly but unsurprisingly a US-only proposition. A wider launch of the Amazon Appstore could be imminent and it seems reasonable to expect that the Kindle Fire might follow sometime in 2012.