Amazon has released details of its refreshed Kindle Fire range and in doing so demonstrated that it understands how the tablet market has changed since the original Fire was launched. Whether its new direction is sufficient to win it back some relevance in the tablet market remains to be seen.
The biggest news is a 7" tablet which will sell for just $50. That's going to make it an attractive purchase when compared to the no-name and rebranded imports that currently populate that price band.
Also announced were $150 and $230 8" and 10" versions. These look to be pretty good value for the price and for the first time pack external storage which can be used for downloaded media storage. Amazon is advertising them as more durable than the iPad, but given the significant price difference between the two ranges I can't see anybody making a buying decision between the two.
New services are what will be the bigger machine's unique selling points. The new Underground service gives owners $10,000 of free applications - including in-game items, Word Runner, a new word at a time book reader, said to improve both reading speed and comprehension. The tablets will also maintain a library of content offline without any need for user interaction, meaning that you'll never be stuck in waiting room with nothing to watch. The service - called On Deck - can be disabled if you don't feel it adds value.
The Fire tablets all benefit from a new UI, which looks a lot like standard Android. This should make it easier for customers to transition in from other tablets. It also means that first time tablet buyers will see an interface much closer to one they're used to running on their phones.
Focusing on providing a better customer experience is definitely the right thing for Amazon to do. It won't sell many tablets if it thinks it can compete with Apple, or even premium Android tablet OEMs.
In the mid-range, though, it can differentiate itself by providing intelligent services and better customer service and as a result regain some of the ground it has lost as the market has slipped away from it.