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What Amazon may unveil tomorrow

Consumer Reports News: September 05, 2012 03:08 PM

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Amazon is expected to unveil new devices at its news conference on Thursday, perhaps along with some associated content and services likely to appeal to many consumers. The company has not disclosed its plans, but here's what I predict we will hear about, in order of likelihood.

At least one new Kindle Fire. A revamping of Amazon's tablet is close to a certainty, especially now that the company has discontinued the debut model. Key questions include what the price and screen size might be on the replacement.

Or possibly, the replacements, plural. The first Kindle Fire was a 7-incher, a size that allowed Amazon to sell the device for $200, a then-unprecedented price for a decent-quality tablet. But a larger-screen Kindle Fire would give consumers an appealing alternative to the Apple iPad and provide a superb platform for Amazon's content (another selling point for the Kindle Fire), especially its video offerings.

Whatever the size (or sizes) of the Kindle Fire, consumers can expect pricing that's aggressive—no more than $200 for a smaller version and $400 for a larger (8-to-10-inch) one, and quite possibly less. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal this week reported that Amazon will keep down prices by having the device carry ads. That rumor has some credibility, given that Amazon has already successfully offered discounted "special offers" e-book readers, including the Kindle With Special Offers.

Significant new content announcements. In discontinuing the Kindle Fire last week, company CEO Jeff Bezos added that Amazon's upcoming plans include maintaining "the best content ecosystem." That's unsurprising, given Amazon's track record for entwining hardware with what consumers can read, hear, and view on it—especially unique content from Amazon itself.

Further, the decision to hold Thursday's event in Santa Monica (rather than New York, the location of all other recent Amazon news conferences) suggested the company may have major announcements that involve entertainment content. And just today, Amazon announced a new partnership with Epix, a streaming-movie provider, that will provide stiff competition for Netflix..

New Kindle e-book readers. Although Amazon has made no formal proclamation about discontinuing any current versions of these devices, both Kindle Touch models—one with 3G connectivity, one without—are listed as "currently unavailable." That strongly suggests we'll hear about new models on Thursday.

It's time for new Kindles, not least because Barnes & Noble, Amazon's arch-rival in e-reading, have a hit on their hands with its Nook Simple Touch With Glowlight, with its effective and energy-frugal lighted screen.

The wild-card possibility is that Amazon will launch its debut smart phone at the event, which seems less likely than the above—but not out of the question.

Amazon's timing is part of a rush to get tech announcements out before an Apple event on September 12 dominates tech news. While Apple hasn't announced what it will unveil that day, it's expected to include a new iPhone—which surely spurred Nokia/Microsoft and Motorola to announce phones of their own today. Our phone expert Mike Gikas is attending those announcements in New York, and I will be attending the Amazon event tomorrow in Los Angeles.

Amazon Heats Up Gadget Wars (The Wall Street Journal]
Amazon poised to introduce a Kindle Fire replacement next week
What an Amazon smart phone would mean for consumers
Amazon deal with Epix ups streaming-video competition with Netflix

Paul Reynolds

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