Amazon unveils Kindle Fire tablet with unique Silk browser

Amazon has jumped into the tablet market with the release of the Kindle Fire, an expanded version of its popular e-reader that leans heavily on cloud computing.

The first noticeable difference with the Fire, unveiled Sept. 28, is that it goes full-color on its 7-inch, 1,024-by-600 pixel resolution screen. And inside, it has more in common with other tablets than it does with a straight e-reader, although it also has some significant differences.

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The device, which looks a lot like the BlackBerry PlayBook, has a dual-core processor, runs the Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system and is extensively integrated with Amazon’s cloud services. It is WiFi-enabled, but does not have 3G access. It might not be as functional as the iPad or some other tablets, but it does have some unique features.

Amazon describes its new browser, Silk, as a cloud-accelerated “split browser” that resides on both the Fire and in the company’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). When it receives requests, Silk divides the work between the tablet and EC2, taking into account factors such as “network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content,” the company says. The result, according to the company, is faster load times.

Amazon says Silk also applies computer learning techniques and algorithms to learn users’ browsing patterns and anticipate the next click.

Fire users also have access to free storage in the company’s cloud, along with 8G of storage on the tablet itself.

The Fire doesn’t come with an e-mail client, but does have an e-mail app that lets users put their Web-based e-mail accounts, such as Gmail and Hotmail, into one place. Other e-mail applications are available from Amazon’s Appstore for Android.

Since the appearance of the Apple iPad, new tablets have been appearing in waves, thought not all of them have been successful. Hewlett-Packard quickly gave up on its HP TouchPad, and the PlayBook hasn’t quite caught on, to name two.

Amazon does have a base of Kindle users, however, and at $199, the Fire is priced significantly lower than other tablets and could be just what some users are looking for.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 30, 2011 earth

Talk about your privacy nightmare… Not only is Amazon marketing it ‘s browsers ability to track what you read and suggest “other web pages” as a plus it is blowing over the fact that it is tracking your location to determine “dynamically” which parts to process in the cloud and which parts to process locally (think communication latency). So basically all those things Apple and Google are being questioned about by congress are built into the code and not only can’t be turned off but are tied directly to personally identifying information. Imagine how much fun someone with a packet sniffer could have tracking troops using these? How much personally identified preference data will be automatically collected about you? But this privacy invasion is marketed quite well don’t you think? I would have expected houwls from the security consious folks.

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