Amazon will directly take on Apple's market-dominating iPad with its new Kindle Fire HD tablet, offering several models that are substantially cheaper than Apple's flagship tablet.
The higher-end Kindle Fire HD boasts a display that's bigger (8.9 inches versus 7 inches) and has a higher resolution (1920x1200, 254 ppi versus 600x1024 169 ppi). There is also a 7-inch Kindle Fire HD.
Two of the three Kindle Fire HD models cost much less than the iPad -- the 7-inch model will go for $199, and the first 8.9-inch model will cost $299. Both of these devices will come with 16GB of storage.
Offering 32GB of storage and 4G LTE wireless, the most expensive Kindle Fire HD model will have an 8.9-inch screen, and will cost $499, just like the iPad's cheapest model. Amazon made a point to note that its cheapest data plan is only $50 a year, comparing it against the 9.7-inch iPad's $230 annual costs for 4G.
In addition, the HD tablets feature dual stereo speakers (the iPad has a single mono speaker), a front-facing camera, and a gyroscope and accelerometer for motion controls. With the exception of the 7-inch model, all of them also have an OMAP 4470 processor from Texas Instruments.
Amazon updated its non-HD Kindle Fire -- which the retailer claims has made up around 22 percent of tablet sales in the U.S. since launching almost ten months ago -- by adding a faster processor, doubling the RAM, increasing the battery life, and cutting the price from $199 to $159.
Along with its hardware announcements, the company revealed a Whispersync for Games feature that allows players to save their progress cross multiple devices, as well as new social features (e.g. achievements, leaderboards).
Amazon says its working with developers to bring new Android games exclusively to Kindle Fire HD, such as variations of Crytek's Fibble
and Activision's Skylanders Cloud Patrol
franchise -- the company demonstrated how players can purchase not just virtual items, but physical toys that will be shipped to them, from within Skylanders
The online retailer will ship the updated Kindle and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD on September 14, while the 8.9-inch models will release on November 20. Apple is expected to unveil updates to its own smartphone and tablet lines at a September 12 event.