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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiling the first Kindle Fire

Here’s an important story to note, in the category of news you may have missed over the holiday. The Wall Street Journal, quoting anonymous sources, reported over the weekend that Amazon is preparing to launch an ad-supported tablet — presumably as part of the next wave of Kindle Fire devices — aiming to appeal even more to budget-minded consumers.

In a lot of ways, that would make perfect sense. Amazon has already followed the ad-supported model with its Kindle e-readers, offering versions of the devices at lower prices than those without ads. Extending that approach to the Kindle Fire would be a next logical step.

The big question, not addressed by the WSJ piece, is exactly what type of tablet we’re talking about here.  The current 7-inch Kindle Fire tablet sells for $199, at or below the cost of the device, and Amazon would certainly make a splash if it were able to drop the price even further with an ad-supported successor to that device.

But it might be even more interesting if Amazon were to use the ad-supported model on a larger Kindle Fire, offering a true alternative to the iPad at a considerably lower price, at least for people willing to put up with a few advertisements.

I have one of the ad-supported Kindles, and in my view, at least, the advertisements don’t do anything to diminish the experience of using the device. At the risk of warming Jeff Bezos’ heart, at times the ads have actually alerted me to deals or products that I was happy to learn about.

Tablets are a different matter, though, and they’re also an area where Apple, not Amazon, has been leading the way and setting the precedent. So it could be a tougher sell. The WSJ quotes an anonymous person saying the new Amazon tablet “would display an ad after the user ‘wakes’ the gadget.” If the description is accurate, that sounds slightly different than the approach on the Kindle, where the ads are displayed initially as a screensaver.

Amazon holds its press event Thursday morning in Santa Monica, Calif. GeekWire will be there, and we’ll have the officials details as they emerge.

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