Is the New Kindle Fire HD Wow-Worthy After the Big Show?

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) launched a fresh challenge against the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad in the table market on Thursday, unveiling a larger, higher-end Kindle Fire priced at $299. The 8.9-inch tablet, called Kindle Fire HD, was presented by company chief executive Jeff Bezos in Santa Monica, California. An updated 7-inch Kindle Fire will sell for $159, a 7-inch version of the Fire HD will be priced at $199, and a 4G LTE model of the HD version will be marked $499.

Both sizes of the HD version feature a 1,920-by-1,200 display with 254 pixels per inch, a high-definition front-facing camera, HDMI, and Bluetooth. The 4G LTE version will pay $49.99 per year for 250MB of monthly data, 20GB of cloud storage, and a $10 Amazon Appstore credit. The tablets include X-Ray for movies, Whispersync for Games, custom apps from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Skype, and a FreeTime mode that lets parents keep a tab on activity.

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While the 7-inch HD tablet will start shipping on September 14, the two 8.9-inch versions will ship starting November 20.

Amazon, which makes hardly any money from its hardware, stressed that it saw the Kindle family as a service, with hardware simply a critical element of the digital content business. Amazon competes directly with Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in the tablet hardware as well as digital content market. “People don’t want gadgets anymore,” Bezos said. “They want services that improve over time. We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices.”

Also on Thursday, Amazon presented the Kindle Paperwhite, a new e-reader that has a better-resolution screen, longer battery life, a backlight for easy reading, and starts at $119.

Shares in Amazon, which hit a high of $252.27 earlier on Thursday, immediately reacted in a positive fashion to the news to be up 2.10 percent at $251.38 at 4 p.m. ET. The optimism was in stark contrast to the reaction to Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) launch a day before. Shares in Nokia, which unveiled new Lumia smartphones built on Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) new Windows 8 platform, fell 13 percent after the announcement.

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