Amazon undercuts iPad 2 with $79-$199 Kindles

Directly targeting Apple’s growing iPad ecosystem with even lower-priced alternatives, Amazon today launched a series of three completely new Kindle devices with prices ranging from $79 to $199. The most basic Kindle e-reader will now sell for $79, a drop from the company’s prior $114 price tag for its lowest-end unit, relying on modest screen saver-style ad support and a streamlined design to reduce the price tag. Amazon also announced a new $99 Kindle touch e-reader that employs an IR touch system in place of a physical keyboard, as well as a redesigned user interface that involves taps in place of buttons. The new unit is also reportedly slimmer, smaller and lighter than the current Kindle models. A 3G-enabled model will also be available for $149 with free global roaming.

Amazon also revealed the anticipated Kindle Fire Android-based tablet today at a price of $199. Designed to provide capabilities beyond those of traditional Kindle devices, Kindle Fire uses a custom version of the Android OS on a 7-inch IPS panel, featuring a dual-core CPU, Wi-Fi and a 14.6 ounce chassis. Although it lacks an embedded camera and microphone, or 3G connectivity, Kindle Fire is designed to be a simple touch-based video, music, book, and app-ready device leveraging all of Amazon’s digital stores and services. The device includes a 30-day trial of Amazon Prime, and provides access to the Amazon Appstore, Kindle Books, Amazon Cloud Storage, and introduces WhiperSync bookmarking for movies and TV shows. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos used the introduction of Kindle Fire to jab at the iPad’s need for backups—wired or wireless—by noting that all of Kindle Fire’s media content will be stored in the cloud and re-obtainable as needed. The new Kindles will continue Amazon’s tradition of ultra-simple setup, arriving pre-customized to the recipient’s Amazon account so that previously-purchased content is ready to go right away.

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