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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