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Amazon unwraps larger Kindle Fire, takes on AppleUS-AMAZON-FIRE:Amazon unwraps larger Kindle Fire, takes on Apple
By Lisa Richwine and Alistair Barr
SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc unveiled a larger, high-speed Kindle Fire tablet on Thursday for $499, challenging Apple Inc's dominant iPad and intensifying a battle with Google Inc and Microsoft in the booming tablet arena.
The world's largest Internet retailer, which got into the market last year with a tablet roughly half the price of the iPad, will begin selling on Nov 20 an 8.9-inch version with a high-definition screen, that works off fourth-generation or 4G wireless broadband.
Called the Kindle Fire HD, its price tag matches the current-generation WiFi-only iPad but its 1920 by 1200 resolution screen lags Apple's so-called "retina" display. At 8.9 inches, it is also smaller.
"Their first Kindle Fire tablet was a device that said 'See, we can tie all this together," but it wasn't a strong enough device," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.
"Now they've really come ready to show that their device line-up is going to be as good as their service line-up. They're tying those two things together, and at a price that is very very hard to compete with. It's going to push everybody's else's price buttons -- including Apple's."
Amazon's volley of products on Thursday comes as technology giants prepare to take the wraps off a slew of new mobile devices. Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 5 next week, and Microsoft and Nokia launched their power powerful Windows phone on Wednesday.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, taking the stage in Santa Monica, California, unveiled two 8.9-inch versions, both called the Kindle Fire HD. A Wi-Fi version will go for $299.
Two 7-inch tablets will cost less. The updated Kindle Fire will go for $159 and a Kindle Fire HD version is priced at $199.
Bezos on Thursday stressed that Amazon saw the Kindle family of e-readers and tablets as a service, with hardware a critical element of its digital content business.
Amazon is competing with Apple, Google Inc and other technology companies for a foothold in the booming mobile-device market, because these devices are fast becoming the preferred tool to access consumer media over the Internet. As the world's largest Internet retailer, it is essential for Amazon to have a major presence in this new sector.
Amazon is willing to make little or no money selling cheap tablets and e-readers because it wants to get the devices into as many hands as possible, then sell higher-margin digital content, such as e-books, video, games, apps and music, to a more connected and engaged customer base.
On Thursday, the company also showed off a "paperwhite" e-reader with a much sharper screen and longer battery life.
The 3G wireless version that made digital readers mainstream will sell for $179 starting in October, in time for the crucial holiday season. A Wi-Fi-only version will go for $119, and the cheapest will carry a $69 price tag -- undercutting the cheapest Barnes and Noble Nook.
Shares in Amazon, which hit a high earlier on Thursday, were up 1.1 percent at $249.
(Reporting By Lisa Richwine and Ron Grover in Santa Monica and Alistair Barr in San Francisco; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, M.D. Golan and David Gregorio)
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