NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As Amazon (AMZN) continues to press more in hardware, expanding its offerings, it's playing to its strengths - Kindles and Fire tablets, with the company announcing several new Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets last night.
BCG Partners analyst Colin Gillis questioned the wisdom of Amazon's 9 p.m. midweek announcement of the new products but not the actual devices. "The Kindle refresh will promote online book sales," he said in a phone interview. Gillis added, "The new, lower-priced Fire tablet will drive more market share. The idea is to get Amazon hardware into people's hands so they can better target ads so that users will buy more goods."
The new ebook readers come in two sizes - affordable and super-high-end. The affordable model is called simply Kindle. It now has a touchscreen interface, a faster processor and twice the storage of the original Kindle Paperwhite. Even better is the new price: $79.
Amazon stock was gaining 0.81% to $326.61 in mid-morning trading in New York.
There's also an interesting new "PagePress" feature which allows you to turn pages by applying a small amount of thumb pressure on the lighter-colored areas of the bezel. A small; amount of vibration feedback lets you know just how much pressure is needed to complete the task.
The Kindle Voyage retails for $199 and includes free 3G data connections for the life of the device allowing you to download content in any of 100 countries around the world. A new, matching origami cover will set you back an additional $44.99.
As for Amazon's popular Fire tablets, there are plenty of new products to stir interest and loosen purse strings. Amazon has introduced a new line of Fire HD tablets which now come in two sizes: with either 6-inch or 7-inch screens. Both sizes feature quad-core processors, high-definition displays, front and rear-facing cameras and a slew of features to keep users occupied - and grounded within Amazon's ecosystem.
These new Android-based designs come in five colors - black, white, magenta, cobalt and citron, with the 6-inch version retailing for $99, and the 7-inch version selling for $139.
The next step up is Amazon's new Fire HDX 8.9 device. This model has an 8.9-inch display, with 339 pixels per inch. It also has a 2.5 GHz quad core processor, fast 802.11ac Wi-fi, is the first tablet to incorporate the new Dolby (DLB) Atmos sound system and is powered by the latest version of Amazon's operating system Fire OS 4 "Sangria." There is also an optional 4G/LTE connected version available.
The new premium tablet is thinner and lighter weight - and also plays twice as loud as Apple's (AAPL) iPad Air. Amazon has priced the Wi-Fi only Fire HDX 8.9 at $379, and the LTE version costs an additional $100. The tablet can be pre-ordered now, with shipments in October.
Amazon also announced a new tablet for children - the new Fire HD Kids Edition. This fortified Fire tablet is built around three principles, as Amazon looks to expand its reach in hardware. The Kids Edition has a quad-core processor, a great-looking screen, Dolby quality audio plus front and rear camera and a huge amount of content.
B. Riley analyst Scott Tilghman said these new and refreshed products are "part of Amazon's plan to offer varied priced products which will appeal to a broad audience." He noted the Kids Edition tablet, coming in time for the holiday season, plays into the idea of spreading an Amazon "ecosystem" for everyone within a family.
In addition, The Kids Edition tablet come with a free, one-year subscription to Amazon's FreeTime Unlimited service which boasts as many as 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, apps and games to choose from.
Lastly, parents shouldn't have to worry about how long the new device will last in their childrens' hands. The Kids Edition comes protected with child-resistant bumpers and with a 2-year warranty. Amazon says it will replace a broken device - for any reason - during the warranty period. No questions asked.
Like the Fire tablet, the Kids Edition also comes in two sizes, a 6-inch model which retails for $149 and a 7-inch model that will sell for $189. The fortified Kids Edition prices are higher due to, among other things, the cost of the extraordinary warranty. Pre-orders are available now for October shipments.
-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.
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