NEW YORK – Amazon is taking on the untouchable iPad with a touch-screen tablet of its own.
The company on Wednesday introduced its entry in the rapidly expanding market for handheld computers – a device called Kindle Fire that connects to the Web, streams movies and TV, displays e-books and supports thousands of apps.
It’s half the size of an iPad and will be less than half the price when it goes on sale Nov. 15. Amazon is offering the Kindle Fire for $199. The bare-bones iPad sells for $499, the most expensive for $829.
Of course, competing with the iPad won’t be as easy as swiping a finger.
Analysts at one research firm, Gartner Inc., say three of every four tablets sold this year will be iPads. Apple sold almost 29 million of them from April 2010 through June of this year.
Amazon hopes it will succeed where other companies have failed, because the tablet is designed to tap into Amazon’s massive storehouse of media content.
CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the Kindle Fire at a New York media event that was stage-managed much the same way Apple choreographs its product launches.
The CEO also introduced three versions of its popular Kindle e-reader, all with black-and-white screens – a basic model for $79, a touch-screen version for $99 and a touch-screen with 3G wireless service for $149.
The Kindle Fire’s size, with a screen that measures 7 inches diagonal, makes it a close match to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color tablet, which came out last year. But while Barnes & Noble sees the Nook Color as a jazzed-up e-reader, Amazon has broader goals for the Fire as a platform for games, movies, music and other applications.
All that content makes the Fire the only credible competitor to the iPad this year, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Analysts had expected the Fire to sell for about $250. Epps called the $199 price “jaw-droppingly low,” and said it would be tough competition not just for Apple, but for contending tablet makers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC.
Epps said she believes Amazon could sell as many as 5 million Fires by the end of the year but will probably sell closer to 3 million because it’s coming out so late.