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Great Expectations and Kindle Fire: What to Look Forward to with Wednesday’s Kindle Tablet Press Conference

“More and more, over time, people are going to be buying from tablet computers. They’ll lean back on their sofas…. That’s very exciting for us. It gives us a new environment to experiment and invent in. “

–Jeff Bezos

By Steve Windwalker

First, we’re very pleased and excited to announce that we’ve arranged for podcaster extraordinaire Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles to live-blog Amazon’s 10 a.m. Wednesday press conference announcing the new Kindle Tablet, a.k.a. the Kindle Fire, for Kindle Nation readers at http://bit.ly/LEN-LIVE-FROM-NY-ON-KTAB. Len promises to start posting as he travels to New York via Amtrak later today, and the action will really heat up shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, which is when we expect Jeff Bezos to take the stage at Stage 37 in New York.

So we’ll be covering the big announcement from multiple vantage points. You can follow Len’s live blog here, we’ll be gathering all the key information on our Kindle Nation Daily blog, and we’ll send out an email to our thousands of opt-in email subscribers when the Kindle Fire is available for pre-order.

Here are some of the questions we expect to see answered, and you can count on us to pass the answers on to you as soon as we have them. The “best guess” answers below come from a variety of sources and our own brain cells, but they will all be replaced with hard information tomorrow morning.

  • What is the new Kindle tablet called? Best guess: the Kindle Fire.
  • How much does the Kindle Fire cost? Best guess: $299, with a “Special Offers” version for $249.
  • When is the Kindle Fire available for pre-order? Best guess: at or about 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
  • When will the Kindle Fire ship? Best guess: Thursday, November 17.
  • Will it sell out before Christmas? Best guess: We won’t be surprised if it sells out this week, but if that happens it should be available again within a few weeks.
  • How should one balance one’s reservations about buying version 1.0 of the Kindle Fire with the fear that one may be left behind if it goes out of stock. Best guess: Amazon’s no-hassle, no-questions-asked 30-day return policy makes this a no-brainer. Grab it, test-drive it, and make your decision at the 25-day mark. We’ll be very surprised if you don’t want to keep it, but if you don’t want it and Amazon does sell out, you might even end up being able to decide whether to return it to Amazon or to sell it for a profit on eBay.
  • Is the tablet the only product that is being announced with this event? Best guess: No, Amazon may also announce a $189 e-Ink Kindle with a touch screen and a $99 base model e-Ink Kindle with Special Offers, but these might not be available for pre-order until later this fall.
  • How large is the Kindle Fire display? Best guess: 7 inches on the diagonal, and yes, it is color and backlit with capacitative touch.
  • How much does the Kindle Fire weigh? Best guess: 12.8 ounces.
  • What’s the battery life? Best guess: It may be a little hard to get a handle on this given the different effects on battery life of reading, listening to music, watching streaming video, websurfing, and other uses, but if you are going to get full enjoyment from the Kindle Fire you’ll probably find yourself charging the battery at least as often as you charge your cellphone.
  • Does it come with 3G? Best guess: Doubtful; it may be wifi-only this year, but we won’t be surprised to see a 3G or 4G option in 2012.
  • If Amazon is selling a tablet for $250, a touch Kindle for $189, and a base model Kindle for $99, how can it possibly make a profit? Best guess: Covers, content, e-commerce, and special offers sponsorships.
  • What are the most important accessories for the Kindle Fire? Best guess: a power adaptor and USB cable, a cover, and — if it is enabled — a micro SD card.
  • As a content delivery system, what are the Kindle Fire’s areas of strength? Best guess: the Kindle Fire will allow seamless, wireless delivery from the cloud of Kindle books and periodicals, Amazon MP3 music files, Audible.com books, streaming movies and television programs with Amazon Prime Instant Video, and a wide range of Android-compatible Apps available from Amazon’s own AppStore for Android.
  • What about YouTube, email, VOiP, Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter, texting, web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, blog posting, gaming, Groupon, LivingSocial, Woot, Windowshop, Amazon Mobile, Amazon Local, Amazon Fresh, and everything else you’ll ever want to do on the Kindle Fire? Best guess: there’s an app for that.
  • Is the Kindle Fire essentially a closed environment controlled by its manufacturer, like the iPad and the Nook? Best guess: essentially yes, but operationally it may be far more open than those competitors, given selection and pricing in Amazon’s content platforms, the growing scale of Amazon’s AppStore for Android and the easy access that content providers have to platforms such as Kindle Digital Publishing and, ultimately, Amazon’s MP3 and video platforms. 
  • What’s the unlikeliest word that we can expect to hear repeated by Jeff Bezos as he describes the Kindle Fire? Best guess: “Sofa.” As in shopping on the sofa, reading on the sofa, watching movies on the sofa, etc. This is probably not a good thing for the future of laptops, notebooks, netbooks, and even some other tablets.
  • What special “value proposition” features might be bundled with the Kindle Fire to entice buyers. Best guess: free or cheap Amazon Prime, a $79 a year value that would underline importance of the Kindle Fire as the sofa shopper’s favorite gadget.
  • So which is it, a content delivery device or a sofa shopping portal? Best guess: both, but if the Kindle Fire’s primary uses list too much away from ebooks and toward shopping, a nice countervailing value proposition would involve the offering of some form of a Netflix-type bundling of free ebooks to steer folks toward reading.

But here’s the bottom line for the Kindle Fire:

There is an understandable tendency, when new products like the Kindle, the iPad, and the Kindle Fire are launched, for many of us to focus too narrowly at first on hardware specs and feature sets. It is important to remember that it wasn’t only hardware features that set the Kindle Revolution aflame, it was Amazon’s remarkable edge in each of the 4 C’s of customer base, catalog, convenience and connectivity. The Kindle capitalized dramatically on each of those unfair edges, and so will the Kindle Fire. 

No single competitor can touch Amazon in more than one of these areas.

What are some of the other questions you’d like to see covered?

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