Amazon stoked the hype around its new Kindle Fire tablet by shipping it a day ahead of schedule, the company announced today. That’s a smart move: In addition to the extra PR and customer goodwill it generates, the decision gives the online retailer one more day to sell videos, music, and books that will “offset the weaker margins (or even losses)” it may see this quarter by selling the tablet below cost, Caris & Co analyst Scott Tilghman says. Research firm iSuppli estimates that Amazon spends about $210 to make each Kindle Fire that it sells for $199. No wonder the promotion machine is in high gear: Hulu Plus — which is available on the iPad and Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Tablet — today joined the parade of content companies crowing about their Kindle Fire apps. A Hulu Plus subscription costs $7.99 a month, and can be used on any device that accommodates it. Hulu’s “never-ending mission is to bring you the world’s premium content when, where and how you want,” senior product manager Lonn Lee says in a blog post.

Critics generally like the Kindle Fire, although most note that it’s not as powerful or versatile as the iPad: Engadget says it “isn’t a perfect experience, but if nothing else it’s a promising look into the future of retail commerce.” CNET says that although it “lacks the tech specs found on more-expensive Apple and Android tablets,” it’s still “an  outstanding entertainment value that prizes simplicity over  techno-wizardry.” And Gizmodo calls it “a terrific, compact little friend, and — is this even saying anything? — the best Android tablet to date.”

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