Posting from Santa Monica, Calif.: I’m here this morning for Amazon’s big press event at an airplane hangar, where the company is expected to unveil a new lineup of Kindle readers, plus the next version of the Kindle Fire tablet, and possibly a surprise or two.

Amazon provided a sneak peek at the new products in a television ad last night, including a look at the “Paperwhite” display on the Kindle reader, but one of the big questions is whether the company will come out with a true rival to Apple’s iPad in the form of a larger Kindle Fire tablet, and if so, at what price?

The event is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. Check back here for details as they unfold.

10:28 a.m.: OK, we’re in. Event should start shortly.

10:42: Event starts with the commercial Amazon showed last night.

Jeff Bezos comes on stage, says the company has a lot to share today. “We love to invent. We love to pioneer.”

People don’t want gadgets anymore, he says, they want services that improve over time. Kindle Fire is a service. It greets you by name. Comes out of box with content preloaded, makes recommendations.

He’s running through the Amazon media catalog, Amazon Prime features.

“Hardware is a critical part of the service, absolutely essential.”

Now showing a video of Kindle customers praising the device, and getting a sneak peak at the new Kindles, with higher resolution and a front-lit display.

Bezos confirms the Kindle ‘Paperwhite’ display. Better contrast, whiter whites and blacker blacks. Front-lit display directs light downward, “exactly like ambient light,” he says. The company worked to improve battery life because it realized that users would want to leave the light on even when they don’t necessarily need it.

Bezos giving a demonstration on stage.

New feature, “Time to Read,” estimates how much more time people will take to finish the rest of the chapter or the book, based on their reading speed.

Kindle Paperwhite … $119, ships Oct. 1. With 3G, it’s $179, also ships Oct. 1.

Amazon is keeping ad-supported Kindle, upgrading and dropping price to $69. Ships in September.

Bezos talking about Kindle Direct Publishing, and the avenues it has opened up for indie authors.

Kindle Serials, episodic books, starting with reissues of Oliver Twist and Pickwick Club by Dickens.

Next up: Kindle Fire. Bezos cites 22 percent market share in United States, says no one. Upgrading Kindle Fire, changed processor and doubled RAM, made battery life longer. Dropping price to $159, ships. Sept. 14.

Announces Kindle Fire HD, and he says, “We decided to go big.” Large-screen Kindle Fire HD has 8.9 inch display.

Now Bezos is taking about connectivity. “Other tablet makers are not paying enough attention to WiFi. They are not giving it the attention it deserves.” Bezos giving a science lesson in radio waves and connectivity, notes that two WiFi antennas are better than one. Talking about MIMO technology now.

Kindle Fire HD with MIMO and dual-antennas has 41% faster connectivity than the latest iPad, he says.

“For a high-def device, 8GB is dead on arrival,” he says. Kindle Fire HD starting at 16GB.

Audio books: Bezos announces Whispersync for voice, to synch books among devices, let people pick up where they left off on another device.

“X-Ray for movies,” movie info, tapping into Amazon’s IMDb unit.

Whispersync for games, lets people pick up where they left off in a similar way.

“We have built the best Exchange integration of any tablet,” using a dedicated team.

Time limits, parental controls. “Kindle Free Time.” Can set separate time limits for different types of content. Screen turns blue when time limits are up, so parent can tell from across the room.

Demo time, Bezos showing the new Kindle Fire HD.

Kindle Fire HD 7 inch with 16GB will be $199, same as the current Kindle Fire. Ships Sept. 14.

Large-screen Kindle Fire 16 GB, $299, ships Nov. 20.

“We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.”

Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch with 4G LTE will be $499. 32GB. Here’s the pricing breakdown for data.

Concluding remarks. “We want to have the best hardware, the best prices, the best content, the best interoperability and the best customer service.”

That’s it! Hands-on time, check back for updates on GeekWire in just a bit.

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  • John Bailo

    I’ve heard that lit screens are worse for your eyes over time…like shining a flashlight in your face is how they put it.

    I am completely happy with my $79 e.Ink Kindle…and I like that I can read perfectly…better even…in direct summer sunlight. No other screen does that.

    • Timothy Ellis

      I don’t have a Kindle nor do I expect to buy one, but the “flashlight” comment is usually directed at back-lit screens. This is front-lit, which is a big difference. Also, it sounds like the light is something you can turn on and off, which is not the case with back-lit screens, where the light is necessary to see the screen at all.

  • Christopher Budd

    I find this comment VERY interesting:

    “People don’t want gadgets anymore, he says, they want services that improve over time.”

    Initially, it looks like a throwing down of the gauntlet to Apple. But when you read further, he says:

    “Hardware is a critical part of the service, absolutely essential.”

    Which looks to me like a throwing down of the gauntlet to Google as well.

    Essentially, I think Bezos is saying the future is a full, seamless integration of services and hardware.

    Apple might be the number 1 hardware maker. Google might be the number 1 online services provider. But Amazon looks to be aiming to at least be number 2 in both.

    Which, if you’re old like me, you’ll remember that identifying a need for integrated components and aiming for #2 in the constituent components is how Microsoft made Office #1. They had the #2 word processor (WordPerfect was the best) and the #2 spreadsheet (Lotus 1-2-3 was the best). But each of those couldn’t make a suite that, on the whole, was of as good as Office. (If you wanted WP, you had to use Quattro Pro; if you wanted Lotus 1-2-3 you have to use Ami Pro).

    Add to this that Apple and Google are actively at war with each other: there’s no chance those two will unite against their common foe (Amazon, not the Judean People’s Front :)).

    Interesting times.

    • guest

      Not really a new revelation. Microsoft leveraged the power of ecosystems to vanquish all sorts of [point] hardware and software competitors back in the 90’s. And Jobs admitted that was one of the lessons he took away from losing to MS back then. Hence the reason Apple focused so much effort on ecosystems and not just products since, eventually beating MS at its own game and blasting past them in revenue, profit, market cap, brand, and just about every other way.

  • guest

    Strong offering and very attractively priced. The challenge for Amazon is how long can they keep subsidizing the hardware? Their stock has remained at astronomical price/earnings levels so far, which has bought them time, but at some point shareholders are going to question the lack of profit that results from these types of decisions. MS is probably hurt the worst though. They’re three years late to the party again, just like in mobile, and now the economics have changed. You have the low to no margin Android derivatives on one end, and the high margin Apple ones on the other. Apple has sewn up virtually all the premier content and apps. And Android has all of its mobile app to leverage. That leaves MS and its OEMs very little room to play.
    It’s too bad that MS wasn’t able to get Amazon to embrace W8. It might have made both stronger relative to their shared competitors: Apple and Google.

    • Christopher Budd

      I was saying back a year ago that it’s a real question if the Kindle could succeed as the alternative to the iPad. Given that RIM, HP and others tried and failed to snag that slot.

      I also said when Kindle came out that I thought the Nook would be its first casualty. That hasn’t happened at least yet, though I think without the buoying they got from Microsoft this spring it would have.

      I think it’s still a question whether Kindle Fire will suck the oxygen that Windows tablets need to survive. But it seems like this is a strong second act in trying to do that and may well succeed yet.

      Clearly, though, Amazon is more focused on Apple and Google here. Right now, Microsoft is only a side notice with mention of “best Exchange integration of any tablet”. Really no competitive mention of WIndows 8 tablets. I think that alone speaks volumes about the current state of things as Amazon sees them.

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