How Will Amazon's Fire Impact Apple?

On Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the release of a tablet device called Fire. Michele Norris will talk with NPR's Laura Sydell about what this means for Amazon, Apple and consumers.

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MICHELE NORRIS, HOST:

The market Amazon is stepping into has been truly dominated by Apple's iPad. Apple has sold some 29 million of them and no other tablet computer has anyone that excited.

Joining me now is NPR's Laura Sydell, who covers digital culture. Hey, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hey, there.

NORRIS: Now, we just heard about what Kindle Fire is. Tell us how it's different from all the other tablets out there. Or really, is it any different?

SYDELL: You know, I think it actually is. First off, really key here, is that Amazon has its own content store. So all the other companies that have tried to enter this market - Samsung, HP - they were just devices. The Kindle Fire has a direct link to the Amazon store, which has movies, books, TV, music. And interestingly enough, I think they're almost like a mirror image of Apple.

Apple has all this content so they can sell devices. Amazon is essentially giving you a device so that they can sell their content, because that's where they're making their real money, which gets us to the price. It's $200. You know, if you're going to buy an iPad, it's going to cost you 500 bucks. This is $200. So it's a lot cheaper. And, as Margot Adler reported, the iPad, you know, it can be used for work - you could add a keyboard onto it, the screen is a little bigger. This is a 7-inch screen. The iPad has a 10-inch screen.

So it's all a bit different. It's actually - I don't think it's a direct challenge to the iPad. I think it's a whole new market.

NORRIS: One of the surprising things about the Kindle Fire is that it has, it has its own browser. Tell us a little more about how that browser is going to work.

SYDELL: The key here is that it's going to be a lot faster than, say, a lot of other browsers. And the reason is because Amazon has this whole Cloud service, so it will kind of know what your next move might be. And it does that because it has some sense of people's habits. So, people go to The New York Times, they're most likely to say go to a certain spot next. And so it'll be already in the Cloud, ready to send you that.

It will also, if you want - you can turn this feature off - track your individual habits. So, say you go to The New York Times and you always go to the business page next. Well, it will immediately know that and it will have the business page ready to go.

NORRIS: In this territory, at least for now, the iPad is the king of the hill. And one of the big attractions for the iPad has been the app store; you can do all kinds of things if you're willing to purchase or download these apps. How does Amazon's Android apps store measure up to the iPad app store?

SYDELL: The truth is it doesn't. It does not have the depth that you're going to get from the Apple apps store at all. But it will have some things that you really want. It will have "Angry Birds." In fact, they showed it off today.

It will have Pandora. Surprisingly, it will have Netflix because Netflix is a bit of a competitor to Amazon - but the word is they're going to have that. There'll be magazines and probably a calendar, things of that sort.

So while it was measure up - remember, it's a $200 device- so, you know, you'll get a lot for your money.

NORRIS: For people use the iPad one of the downsides is that you can use Flash. What about the Fire?

SYDELL: You can. And I have to say, I've used the iPad and it can drive you crazy because a lot of websites use Flash. You get there and they iPad can't read it. And that just - it drives me crazy. It drives a lot of people crazy. But you will be able to read those Flash sites with the Fire.

NORRIS: They also introduced some new Kindle e-Readers. Is there anything significant about these new models?

SYDELL: You know, there is in this sense - again, it's going back to this price point. And this is where I think Amazon has been very, very smart. They now have a $79 e-Reader. So, say if you're a parent, you might get your kid that $79 e-Reader and immediately you're tapped into Amazon's bookstore, right? You can buy a lot of them.

So it's really going to be a push, I think, to sort of a future where you have a lot of screens that do a lot of different things. And I think they've really moved us in that direction by introducing these products.

NORRIS: Laura Sydell, thank you so much.

SYDELL: You're quite welcome.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Laura Sydell.

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