I just finished listening to the reports from the floor at Amazon’s press conference. Here’s the upshot. Amazon is coming out with a range of new Kindle devices, and is enhancing their services for those devices. There’s the Kindle Paperwhite, the closest to the “traditional” Kindle with LED backlighting and, with the light on, an impressive battery life of 8 weeks. The wi-fi model will sell for $119, with a 3G model (with no extra charge for the 3G) selling for $179. The bulk of the presentation, though, was devoted to the tablets – the Kindle Fire. Amazon is coming out with the Kindle Fire HD, which will sell at $199 for the 7 inch version, and at $299 for the 8.9 inch screen version. The slightly underachieving top of the line model is the $499 Kindle Fire with…$4G LTE. The 4G LTE only costs $50 a year, which is fabulous, but for that the consumer only gets 250 MB worth of data a month. Not that useful if you really want to use the tablet intensively on the go – and it makes the speed somewhat moot, since that would be most useful when, say, streaming video. No word on what the cost would be for overages.
The improvements to the ecosystem were also an important part of this presentation – users will now be able to access games from different devices without losing levels or information, and X-Ray will let you get info on actors while you’re watching their movies. Amazon is also adding parental controls with FreeTime, which lets parents set limits for how long their kids can play games or read books.
You’re probably wondering when I am going to get to the part where I talk about accessibility. Amazon was true to its history – not a word, not the quietest whisper on anything of the sort. I haven’t seen the new devices, but the utter silence does not bode well, especially given Amazon’s record. The new Kindle Fires will run Android’s latest, Jelly Bean, so we know some accessibility is certainly possible (see Anne’s review of the Nexus for more on that) but I have a feeling that if there were anything of the kind in the new devices, Bezos would have mentioned it triumphantly. This leaves us with the usual Amazon outcome – so close, and yet not there at all. How terribly disappointing. The hardware is there, the OS is there, and…nothing.