Amazon to shake up mobile tech world with new Kindle devices, content deals

Bloomberg | The Verge | CNN Money

Amazon will make waves in the world of tablets, e-readers and possibly even smartphones today when it announces new devices at a 1:30 ET event. Here is what you can expect.

The Amazon devices

The star of today's show is expected to be the Kindle Fire 2 -- a refresh of the original Fire that debuted in November and lit up holiday sales. Amazon claims the Kindle Fire holds 22 percent of the U.S. tablet market, but sales have slipped recently and Amazon is looking for a fresh spark to consumer interest.

The Kindle Fire features magazines, books and video.

The company is also expected to debut new versions of the traditional Kindle e-reader with the black-and-white e-ink screens. The Verge reports a new model will have "higher [screen] contrast, high resolution, integrated lighting, and eight weeks of battery life."

One key question for today: Will Amazon cut the price of Kindle e-readers with the new versions? Last year's announcement included a price drop to $79 for the cheapest Kindle. If Amazon can go even lower this year, it will be a boon to sales and good news for e-book publishers.

Another surprise may be in store: The Verge reports exclusively that "multiple sources have confirmed ... that Amazon is working on a smartphone that runs a variant of the Kindle Fire's Android-based operating system, and we're now hearing that the device will be shown to the press [Thursday]."

It's launch season for small tablets

Amazon's event comes amid a wave of other new tablet products.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet received good reviews.

It started when Google launched its own 7-inch tablet -- the Nexus 7 -- in June. Google recently took the rare step of advertising it on the sacred search page. Microsoft in June also previewed a forthcoming tablet called Surface, though it has not announced a price or release date.

The wave will crest in October with Apple's expected revelation of an iPad Mini -- a smaller, thinner tablet that splits the difference between an iPad and an iPod Touch. The iPad has owned the 10" tablet market, and so it has a pretty good chance to blow away the competition when it enters the 7" market.

Content is king

These tablets and e-readers are not just new gadgets, they are content-delivery portals.

The real value to the manufacturers is not in selling the device one time, but in the ongoing sales of content to people who own the devices.

The devices from Amazon, Google and Apple each integrate the companies' own marketplaces for selling apps, books, movies and music. The Nexus 7 is even advertised as "made for Google Play."

So in a related move, Amazon just beefed up its Prime streaming video service through a new deal with Hollywood movie studios and is reportedly working on a deal to publish serial fiction books.

Earlier: New wave of 7-inch tablet devices could accelerate news-reading trend (Poynter) || Related: Apple to announce iPhone 5 on Sept. 12 (CNET)

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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