This could allay some doubts as to whether Amazon has the stomach to keep competing in the tablet wars vs Apple’s iPad and a growing fleet of products powered by Google’s Android operating system. The e-retailer says today that it bought IVONA Software, the Poland-based firm that powers the “Text-to-Speech,” “Voice Guide” and “Explore by Touch” features on Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets as well as other companies’ products and services. IVONA’s voice and language portfolios include 44 voices in 17 languages. “The IVONA team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world.” Amazon Kindle VP Dave Limp says. The companies didn’t disclose financial terms. Amazon shares are up about 2.5% in early trading.
UPDATE, 11:10 AM: It’s official — there’s a new Kindle. It’s called Kindle Paper White, costs $119 and will ship October 1. At 9.1 millimeters and 7.5 ounces, it is very slender. “Thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said as he announced the product in Santa Monica this morning. A higher-priced $179 Kindle Paper White has free 3G wireless. Both also have a bright light so you can read in the dark and it has eight weeks of battery life. It also has a timer that tracks individuals’ reading speed and can then tell them how long it will take them to finish a chapter or a book. A total of 180,000 books available on the Paper White are exclusive to Amazon, Bezos said.
The CEO today also unveiled the new Kindle Fire HD. The new 8.9-inch tablet is designed to be almost glare free, comes with dual speakers and advanced WiFi. With a few implied digs at the cost and limitations of Apple’s iPad, Bezos said the 32 GB and 4G wireless tablet will retail for $499 and ships November 20. “Is it a little bit more expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely,” he told the crowd.
Amazon shares touched an all-time high today of $252.27. With an hour to go before the market close, the shares are up around 1.8% — in line with the overall market. (The S&P 500 is higher than it’s been since May 2008.)
The e-retailer says it has agreements with just about every major music provider — including Sony, EMI, Universal, and Warner — giving it the right to offer streamed versions of songs found on a customer’s hard drive. Amazon will include this scan-and-match feature in its Cloud Player service, making it more competitive with Apple‘s iTunes Match. A free version of Cloud Player entitles a user to stream 250 songs along with others bought from Amazon, while a premium version costing $24.99 a year handles 250,000 songs plus Amazon purchases. The Cloud Player works with Amazon’s Kindle Fire as well as apps for iOS and Android devices. The company says it will soon also provide it through Roku and Sonos players. The deal with the record labels plus 150 independent distributors, aggregators and music publishers will enable Amazon to stream about 20M songs at 256 kilobits per second. Along with the change, Amazon is turning Cloud Drive into a separate service for file storage starting at $10 a year for 20 GB.
This is one of the most interesting stories circulating before the opening today in San Francisco of the Google I/O conference for developers. It seems the search giant will pose a more direct challenge to Amazon’s Kindle Fire than to Apple’s iPad: Google and computer maker Asus will announce a 7-inch tablet that will sell for about $200, Bloomberg reports. The device will run the latest version of the Android operating system, code-named Jellybean. Microsoft beat Google to the punch last week, announcing its own Windows-based tablets — Surface and Surface Pro — each with a more iPad-like 10.6-inch screen. Meanwhile, Amazon is gearing up to launch a revamped Kindle Fire at the end of July, CNET says. Among the changes: it likely will have a camera and a physical volume-control button.
A milestone announcement today for HBO’s streaming platform. The new HBO GO app, available at the Amazon Appstore for Android, should significantly expand the number of HBO subscribers who’ll be able to use a mobile device to watch the premium channel’s 1,400 titles including original series such as The Sopranos, Sex And The City, and True Blood. It also suggests that it won’t be long before HBO GO will be ready for other Android tablets. Most cable systems make the service available on the iPad, iPhone, Android phones, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, and the XBox 360. “Kindle Fire owners already download and use apps and games frequently on their devices, and we expect that only to increase with the addition of HBO GO and all of its popular content.” says Aaron Rubenson, Director of the Amazon Appstore. Amazon boasts that the Kindle Fire is its most successful product launch. But the company has disclosed little hard sales data. Meanwhile Amazon’s recovering from a slap this week by ABI Research. The firm says that the Kindle Fire slipped to third place in Q1 tablet shipments. Apple’s iPad accounted for 65% of the 18.2M shipments, while Samsung moved into second place with 1.1M.
Tablet computer devices like Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook have replaced laptop and desktop computers as the preferred second-screen alternate to television for watching full-length TV, according to the results of a study commissioned by Viacom. Titled “Tapping Into Tabletomics” and surveying 2,500 avid tablet users in Los Angeles and New York between the ages of 8-54, the study aimed to determine what the arrival of tablets would mean for users’ behavior and feelings about the dual-screen TV experience. In just the few years that tablets have been in wide use, they have had a profound impact on television viewing, with use of desktop computers and smartphones showing the most pronounced decline. Digging deeper into the data, the survey found that comedy and music programming was especially popular on computers, including tablets, while reality, dramas, sci-fi and sports remain most popular on traditional TVs. But the survey also showed that tablets aren’t about to dislodge TVs as the preferred way to watch programming. TV won every time when when participants were asked about everything from sound/picture quality to watching current episodes to ease-of-use.
Amazon says that its Kindle Fire tablet is ”the most successful product we’ve ever launched” based on sales. But early adopters have had a mixed reaction to the sometimes jerky graphics, and an off button on the bottom that some users say they frequently hit by accident. The Fire gets a so-so 3.8 stars out of 5 from 3,477 reviewers at consumer electronics site Retrevo — and 4 stars out of 5 from nearly 5,000 reviews on Amazon itself. The online retailer now says it’s on the case: “In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire that will improve performance, touch navigation, and give customers the option to choose what items display on the carousel.” (Nothing they can do about that off button, though.) Consumers shouldn’t be surprised. Our colleagues at BGR.com warned in their review last month that ”prospective buyers should expect the occasional hiccup from first-generation software running on $200 hardware. Every computer, smartphone and tablet on the planet stutters from time to time.”
LOS GATOS, Calif., Nov. 15, 2011 – Coinciding with the first shipments of the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet™, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) today unveiled a new interface for Android-powered tablets that makes browsing and instantly watching unlimited TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix better than ever.
The redesigned Netflix experience is much more immersive and provides more focus on the growing Netflix catalog by displaying twice as many titles than the previous interface. In addition, through optimization for touch-enabled tablets, Netflix members can swipe through multiple rows of titles with larger artwork. As a result, it is now much easier to discover and instantly watch movies and TV shows on Android tablets.
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.
The tablet wars are intensifying as the holiday shopping season approaches: Amazon kicked things up today by announcing that Kindle Fire customers will only have to fill out one form to register for multiple media services including Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora, Facebook, and The Weather Channel — and games from companies such as Zynga, EA, Gameloft, PopCap, and Rovio. What’s more, people who go through Amazon to buy the apps for their tablet will also be able to access them on other Android devices including mobile phones. The company will start to ship Kindle Fire tablets on November 15. The announcement follows Barnes & Noble’s announcement on Monday that it’s new Nook Tablet will include apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Pandora.
Amazon startled investors last night with its report of a huge 3Q profit miss. The stock is off about 11.5% this morning from yesterday’s close of $227.15 before the announcement. But analysts are taking the disclosure in stride, saying that Amazon’s just going through some growing pains while CEO Jeff Bezos awaits a huge inflow of cash from sales of the company’s new Kindle Fire tablet. RBC Capital Markets analyst Ross Sandler maintained his “outperform” recommendation on the stock, although he trimmed the target price to $240 from $265. “We view these quarterly pullbacks as good opportunities to add to (investment) positions, and see the upcoming Kindle Fire product launch as the next catalyst that should allow for revenue upside in 2012,” he says. Credit Suisse’s Spencer Wang also trimmed his target, to $200 from $210, yet maintained his “neutral” position on Amazon. He considers it a “core holding in the sector” but urges investors to wait for ”a more attractive entry point.”
The online retailer ended up with net profits of 14 cents a share — a far cry from the 24 cents that the Street expected. The company reported net income of $63M, down 72.7% vs last year’s 3Q, on revenues of $10.9B, up 43.9%. And Amazon says that in 4Q it could deliver anything from a $200M operating loss to a $250M operating profit. Confused? So are a lot of analysts, judging by the questions they asked in Amazon’s earnings call. The company didn’t even try to explain the lousy 3Q results in its press release. But the big surprise seems to be how much Amazon had to spend, in large part for new fulfillment centers and to prepare for the recent release of its Kindle Fire tablet. CEO Jeff Bezos says that orders for the device are so strong that the company plans to make “millions more” than it planned.
SEATTLE — Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced an expansion of a licensing agreement with PBS Distribution that will allow Amazon Prime members to instantly stream, at no additional cost, current and archived PBS programming. This will bring the total number of Prime instant videos to 12,000 by the end of this year, more than doubling the Prime instant video title count since its launch. Amazon Prime members can enjoy this selection on over 300 different devices, including the recently announced Kindle Fire—the Kindle for movies, TV shows, music, magazines, apps, books, games, and more. Kindle Fire customers enjoy a free month of Amazon Prime right out of the box.
A few surprises this morning in Amazon’s release of its Kindle Fire tablet. The bad news: It’s Wi-Fi only, which means you can’t download content when you’re away from a hot spot. Other tablets, including Apple’s iPad, can handle wireless 3G connections. But Amazon says it will offer free cloud storage for content bought from Amazon. The company also will deploy its Whispersync technology for movies and TV shows: If you’re watching a video on your Kindle and are interrupted in the middle, you can pick up where you left off later on another device including the TV set. The Kindle Fire will have a 7-inch screen and cost $199 beginning Nov. 15 when it goes on sale. The company also announced new, low-priced versions of the Kindle e-reader. Here’s the release:
SEATTLE, Sep 28, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — (NASDAQ: AMZN)–Millions of people are already reading on Kindles and Kindle is the bestselling e-reader in the world for four years running. Today, Amazon is excited to introduce an all-new Kindle family: three all-new Kindle e-readers that are smaller, lighter, and more affordable than ever before, and Kindle Fire – a new class of Kindle that brings the same ease-of-use and deep integration of content that helped Kindle re-invent reading – to movies, TV shows, music, magazines, apps, books, games, and more.
“We’ve now reached the magical two-digit price point for Kindle – twice: the new Kindle and Kindle Touch are only $79 and $99. Kindle Touch 3G is the new top of the line e-reader with free 3G – no monthly fees or annual contracts – and is only $149,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we’ve been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers. With Kindle Fire, you have instant access to all the content, free storage in the Amazon Cloud, the convenience of Amazon Whispersync, our revolutionary cloud-accelerated web browser, the speed and power of a state-of-the-art dual-core processor, a vibrant touch display with 16 million colors in high resolution, and a light 14.6 ounce design that’s easy to hold with one hand – all for only $199. We’re offering premium products, and we’re doing it at non-premium prices.”