On Thursday, September 6th, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stood in front of a packed house and fired his latest shot across the bow of Apple’s battleship. It was approximately one year ago that Amazon surprised the industry with the announcement of the Kindle Fire, a low-cost tablet that had the benefit of Amazon’s vaunted collection of content and applications. With its $199 US price tag, the Kindle Fire was an immediate hit, quickly establishing Amazon as a player in consumer electronics space.
Fast forward one year, and Amazon is introducing a new version of the Kindle Fire, plus three other tablets meant to further establish themselves as a viable competitors to Apple’s iPad family and Google’s foray into the tablet space - Nexus 7.
The first announcement came in the form of a new Kindle Fire featuring a beefed up processor, but much of the same in terms of quality and performance. More intriguing was Amazon’s next announcement coming in the form of a new family of tablets called the Kindle Fire HD. With the creation of the Kindle Fire HD, Amazon is taking the Apple iPad head on, not only with the introduction of a 7” model, but also an 8.9” model that would rival the 10.1 inch iPad. The Kindle Fire HD features a 1920 x 1200 high-resolution display, dual speakers, a front-facing HD camera and HDMI out capability. The Kindle Fire HD is also the first tablet to be released featuring MIMO technology. Amazon claims MIMO technology, with its dual-bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) makes their device 41 percent more efficient at WiFi connectivity. Amazon didn’t stop there, however, also offering an LTE version of the Kindle Fire HD. The fact that there is an LTE version isn’t that surprising, since many tablets have already made the move to the faster 4G network. The corresponding data plan gives consumers 32GB of cloud storage and 250MB of data per month from AT&T for $50…PER YEAR. Such an offering is unprecedented by any network carrier and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on other manufacturers and the agreements they make with cellular providers in the USA. The LTE model will be released in November so, for now, we’ll take a closer look inside the Kindle Fire HD 7” tablet.
In terms of tech specifications, the Kindle Fire HD improves upon its predecessor with a faster processor (Texas Instruments’ dual-core OMAP 4460 applications processor selected over the OMAP 4430 featured in the original Kindle Fire). The OMAP 4460 can be clocked up to 1.5 GHz. What is interesting about the discovery of the OMAP 4460 is that Amazon had indicated that the Kindle Fire HD 8.9” would incorporate TI’s OMAP 4470 – a dual-core ARM Cortex A9-based processor that can be clocked up to 1.8 GHz. One has to wonder if the OMAP 4470 making its debut in the 8.9” version and the LTE version and not the 7” variant is a cost-savings measure as the 4470 is pricier than the older, more-in-use, OMAP 4460.
On our version of the Kindle Fire HD, the OMAP 4460 was found in a package-on-package configuration with a Samsung K3PE7E700M 8Gb Low Power DDR2 (LPDDR2) SDRAM device. The system RAM is now doubled as a result – going from 512 GB in the first Kindle Fire, to 1 GB – a move that puts the Kindle Fire HD on par with other tablets in the field. Samsung also provides the memory for content, with the KLMAG2GE4A memory package consisting of 16 GB of NAND Flash memory with an eMMC Flash memory controller.
In terms of the wireless connectivity of the Kindle Fire HD, Broadcom provides one of the two ICs that that provide the tablet with the ability to connect. The Broadcom BCM2076 is a multifunction monolithic IC that incorporates GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and FM receiver/transmitter. Amazon’s industry-first MIMO technology is provided via a device labeled on our board as ‘66023021’. Once de-capped, this package should reveal a singular 802.11n WiFi component. We’ll have an update on this device shortly.
Other key design wins include Texas Instruments winning the power management socket with the TWL6032 fully integrated power management IC and Wolfson Micro’s WM8962E being the audio codec. Invensense’s MPU-6050 was selected as the six-axis (gyroscope/accelerometer) MEMS component. Atmel provides the mutual capacitance touchscreen controller with the MXT768E. An interesting note about this device is that it was specified for automotive applications.
The most interesting aspect of the announcement is the price tag. When the first Kindle Fire was released, its $199 price point was an industry disrupter. No other tablet manufacturer had even thought about creating a product at that price because consumers were willing to pay upwards of $499 US for an Apple tablet. Amazon looks to shake the industry yet again with a price on the new Kindle Fire HD at the same $199 US price point of the original Kindle Fire while slashing the price of the new Kindle Fire to $159 US. Our bill-of-materials (BOM) estimate reveals similar margins on the new Kindle Fire HD that was seen on the original Kindle Fire. However, we suspect that Amazon will take a loss on the new Kindle Fire tablet in order to make a gain in content (such as their e-books) and application sales.
Amazon’s latest Kindle Fire tablets will again try to be the bee in Apple’s bonnet. To date, Apple has not addressed the Kindle Fire line with their own sub-$200 tablet, but rumors abound that a new 7” tablet is on the horizon. With Apple’s tried-and-true ecosystem and built-in fanbase, will this new tablet derail the momentum that Amazon has built? Time will tell.
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