It's a good thing I was sitting down at the press conference today, because with all the shocking news that Amazon handed out you could have knocked me over with a feather.
First and foremost, there have been a couple changes to their current models. Unlike in the past, they' re not going away. All 4 variations of the K3 Wifi and K3 3G will be sticking around as the Kindle Keyboard. Amazon will keep them at their current price and they are there to please the customer who doesn't want to give up the keyboard on the Kindle.
But if you're not planning to hold on to the past, have I got a treat for you.
Earlier today Amazon launched not the 2 ereaders that I found for last night, but in fact launched 3 different devices, all drool-worthy. All have lost the keyboard that the Kindle has had ever since it was copied from the Sony Librie.
The new base model "Kindle" (K4) has no keyboard, touchscreen, speakers, headphone jack, or card slot, but it does have (for those of us who can't part with them) page turn buttons in about the same spot as on the KKb (Kindle Keyboard). It has Wifi, 1GB Flash storage, and just the 4 buttons and d-pad below the screen. There is an onscreen keyboard, so you can type in a note or search for something. I'm not sure you're going to want to; using the d-pad will likely get tedious after a while.
This one I actually got to put my hands on (before they realized it wasn't allowed). It's the D01200 model from the FCC paperwork I found last night. I found it to be surprisingly fast and light. I'm really looking forward to the new Kindle Cloud feature that it ships with; everything that you email to this Kindle will be archived - just like the content you buy from Amazon.
The other 2 new Kindles are largely the same device, with one difference; one has Wifi and the other has 3G. The Kindle Touch is based on the same Pearl E-ink screen and Neonode touchscreen that you can find on the Kobo Touch and Nook Touch.nit comes with 3GB Flash storage, speakers, and an onscreen keyboard,
Like the other Kindle the kTouch was surprisingly fast and light. There was something interesting about how Amazon handled the touchscreen zones. I didn't get a complete explanation about what happened when you touched particular parts of the screen, but I know I want to take a deeper look. It seems delightfully intricate.
The new X-Ray feature also looks interesting. Kindle ebooks now come with an index like feature that tells you where n and how often a word or phrase pops up in a book. They also now come with background summaries (pulled from Wikipedia and Shelfari) that explain the characters and event referenced in each book.
So, did Amazon overturn the apple cart? I think they did, and even if you ignore the red herring of the $80 Kindle they still managed to stick it to the competition.
Amazon now offer 5 Kindle models to their competitors' 3 (1 each). Amazon offer not only a cheaper option than any other premium ereader, but they also matched the hardware features and prices of their competitors. Want a touchscreen? Amazon will sell it to you. Keyboard? Ditto.
Amazon even introduced a basic model which is going to kill off the refurbished market. It even looks like I might have to stop the Daily Deals. With a $110 Kindle on the market now I'm not sure that I will be able to find a whole lot of ereaders that cost less.
Admittedly, Amazon will probably never match the software features of the Sony Reader, but given how poorly Sony have promoted those features (they're awesome, trust me) I don't think many will realize what they're missing.
P.S. Do you know what Amazon's secret weapon is? No, it's not the cheap Kindle. The one thing Amazon can do that their competition cannot is offer a 3G connection. That's now a killer feature (along with the email conversion).