Amazon.com will use its streaming-video service as one tool to try to cut into the iPad's dominant share of the tablet market, with the online retailer throwing in one month of free access to more than 11,000 TV shows and movies to buyers of its new $199 Kindle Fire tablet.
The touch-screen multimedia tablet carries a price point less than half of Apple's iPad 2, which starts at $499, though the Wi-Fi-only Kindle Fire lacks 3G or 4G wireless Internet access.
Amazon is offering one free month of its Prime free-shipping membership program ($79 per year), which includes access to the 11,000-plus videos.
Earlier this week, Amazon.com announced a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to provide movies and TV shows, including Fox TV series 24, The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Arrested Development, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The company has doubled the content lineup since launching Prime instant videos in February 2011 through licensing deals with CBS, NBCUniversal, Sony, Warner Bros. and others.
On the electronic sell-through front, Amazon is stealing a page from Steve Jobs' playbook, by welding the Kindle Fire to its Internet storefront.
Amazon touts the Android-based Kindle Fire as the ultimate digital media device, with access more than 17 million songs and more than 1 million movies, TV shows, songs, apps, books, magazine and games. That includes more than 100,000 movies and TV shows for rent or purchase.
In addition to challenging Apple, the Kindle Fire and the integrated Prime Instant Videos service could cause more grief for Netflix, which is reeling from a customer backlash from its decision to break apart DVD and streaming-video services.
The Kindle Fire is scheduled to ship Nov. 15. The 14.6-ounce device has a 7-inch full-color touch screen with the ability to display 16 million colors and a dual-core processor. It supports Adobe Systems' Flash media player.
"Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we've been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers," Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in announcing the device. "We're offering premium products, and we're doing it at non-premium prices."
In addition to video for the Kindle Fire, Amazon offers more than 17 million songs from Amazon MP3; more than 1 million Kindle books; and games including Angry Birds.
The Kindle Fire features an Amazon-developed Web browser, dubbed Silk, which is designed to speed up browsing by offloading some processing tasks to the network-based Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) service.
In addition, the device -- as with Amazon's other Kindle e-readers -- provides Whispersync, a feature that automatically synchronizes a user's Kindle library and preferences across a range of devices and platforms. With the introduction of Kindle Fire, Amazon is expanding this technology to include downloaded video, so that if you start streaming a movie on the tablet you can resume streaming on TV.
Also Wednesday, Amazon announced a $79 Kindle e-reader; the $99 Kindle Touch, which adds a touch screen; and the $149 Kindle Touch 3G unit with 3G access available for no additional charge.