Tech Report: Good News From Amazon

By September 7, 2012

Hello GeekNation, Friday’s here and so am I.

It’s been a busy day here at Bitboy Command. There’s been quite a lot of news this week and even this day, and we have a lot to talk about.

The news today from Amazon was good. Jeff Bezos has come out swinging, make no mistake. These are really competitive products, taking their place in a comprehensive ecosystem, at a price point that’s got to be making Tim Cook think a little. Amazon is leveraging its presence as a media powerhouse to tell a compelling value story. Here’s what they laid out:

In the e-reader segment:

1. A $69 Kindle. The basic e-reader, with a d-pad. At this price, it’s a no-brainer. The most books, a daylight-visible screen, it’s an easy sell, almost an impulse buy.

2. A $119 Kindle. The next step up – a new, high-contrast e-reader with touch and a front-lit screen. I talked myself out of ordering one today, because it’s my birthday Sunday, and a kid’s gotta have hope. Add $60 for a 3G modem and the ability to download out and about – I don’t think it’s worth it, but frequent travelers might disagree.

If you read books at all, there’s really no reason not to own a Kindle e-reader. I have one of the third-gen units, and it’s revitalized me as a reader, someone who used to inhale books, and got out of the habit. I’m really fond of mine, and think that of all the e-reading experiences out there, it comes the closest to disappearing and leaving you and the text to become one. The new units only make that better.

In the tablet segment:

1. Amazon has slightly improved the Fire, called it Fire 2 and dropped the price $40 to $159. This is not a compelling option.

2. Here’s where life gets interesting. At $199, Amazon has introduced the Kindle Fire HD. This is more like it. In this space we now have the Fire HD, the Nexus 7, and lurking off-stage, the oft-rumored “iPad Mini.” The Fire HD has great speakers, a hi-res screen, well-thought-out parental controls, and larger capacity at the same price point than the Nexus 7. Day of release, the Fire HD steps up to the plate as the best 7″ choice currently available for media consumption. The Nexus 7 offers a pure Google Android experience and the ability to load custom ROMs. I might have to get one of each – which I can afford, at $199 a pop! We’ll see where Apple falls in soon – there’s a lot of consensus that they will announce the Mini at the iPhone 5 release on the 12th, but I doubt it – I think we’ll see it in a month or so at the usual autumn iPod event.

3. More reasons for Tim Cook’s Tums habit to grow: a $299/$499 pair of 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDs. An even higher-res screen (not quite iPad Retina, but close), the same parental controls and media consumption advantages, and a killer closer of a feature on the $499 unit – $50 for a year of ATT 4G LTE wireless data! It’s 250MB/month, enough for light e-mail and browsing away from WiFi, and bigger plans are available if needed.

Amazon has stepped up to the tablet wars loaded for bear here. Bezos has pivoted the company to not just supply content, but be the conduit for that content to you. The tablets make a compelling case for Amazon Prime, and if you are already a Prime customer, the tablets become even more attractive. It’s a very interesting time to be a nerd!

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Andrew Solmssen

About me: I am a nerd. I nerd it up currently as an independent computer consultant and stand-up comic, but my nerd history is long. I started by typing in BASIC programs on a TRS-80, progressed to Apple IIs and then PCs and Macs. My first internet transaction was downloading the "Canonical Collection of Light-Bulb Jokes" from an FTP site on a line-printing terminal at the University of Maryland in 1984. My CompuServe ID was 73300,13, and my Slashdot user id is 9448. I still have some Apple DOS 3.3 disks somewhere, and the first USR Courier 2400bps modem I ever owned. I have been to three different Fry's in one day. I can build a new PC in an hour from stuff I have around the house. I started by administrating a Novell 2.15c network and now do Windows, Mac, and Unix. I'm not a comic book geek, or a Star Wars guy, or even a D&D guy, although I can speak those languages. Nerd, that's me. Visit me at,, and