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Much of the TechCrunch Rumor About the $99 Kindle Fire is Probably Wrong

question-markTechcrunch has sparked a new spate of rumors today about Amazon’s hardware plans. According to their unnamed and not even mentioned source:

We’re now hearing that a $99 Kindle Fire 7″ tablet is in production, and will be shipping this year. At a price that low, the Kindle Fire would be able to more easily compete at the tail end of the Android-based tablet market – an area which is today dominated by low-cost tablets out of China, often sold at the sub-$100 price point.

According to what we’ve heard, the $99 Kindle Fire HD will also still sport a TI processor like the rest of the lineup, and will have a 1280×800 resolution, like today’s Kindle Fire HD 7″ does.

While there’s a good chance that Lab126 is working on a $99 tablet design, I would be willing to bet serious money that some of the details that were leaked to Techcrunch are probably wrong.

My first problem with the rumor is that it neglects to take into account the current Kindle Fire, which is priced at $159 (this detail was missed by most of the blogs repeating this rumor). A $99 KFHD would kill that more expensive tablet, so at a minimum the current Kindle Fire would have to go away.

But why should it go away?

I find it much more plausible that Amazon would decide to cut the price on the Kindle Fire rather than launch a new tablet. The KF is still a decent value, and at the new lower price point it would be a great value.

If I’m correct then the name and screen resolution are both wrong in the rumor. While I don’t have any info to prove this one way or another, my gut tells me that I’m right.

But assuming there is a completely new tablet at that price point I’m not sure that it will use a TI chip (like Amazon’s current tablets). I don’t think TI has the staff. TI laid off 1,700 from the OMAPS division in November 2012 and reportedly exited the tablet and smartphone CPU market.

Unless someone who knows more than me shows up to dispute what that report means, I’m going to say that TI can’t be providing a new chip for a new $99 Amazon tablet.

And that means that the hypothetical new $99 Amazon tablet is far more likely to use a CPU from another manufacturer and could even use one that was custom designed by Lab 126. Remember, that Amazon sub does have a system and chip architect on hand (along with a screen tech developer), so it is possible that Amazon is planning to use a custom chip in the new tablet (assuming it exists).

In any case, we don’t know whether this rumor is true or not and we won’t know until Amazon decides to leak more details.

Does anyone want to add your own guesses? The comments are open.

Update: This rumor has been denied by Amazon:

"It’s not happening–we are already at the lowest price points possible for that hardware."

They are probably correct; if Amazon could have lowered the price of the Kindle Fire below $159 they would have.

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Will Entrekin March 20, 2013 um 12:35 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t merely an update of the current $159 Kindle Fire, with some updated specs but knocked down to price. I’d think it likely that Amazon will revise (not significantly) its entire line this year. Though the HD is advanced enough there isn’t much further to go with it in terms of hardware. As with most tablets. There’s only so much you can do with screen-centric design.

I’d bet the e-ink Kindle will fall sub-$50 this year, too. Not sure how much they can upgrade that line, either, in spec terms. I don’t expect color e-ink anytime soon (though as I mentioned not long ago I’d kill for an 8″ Paperwhite. But then I’d just have my iPad mini with a different screen, and I’m not yet sure how much difference that different screen makes. I notice the difference now, but I didn’t notice the reading difference as much with a Retina iPad).

fjtorres March 20, 2013 um 12:59 pm

The current FireHD has several premium features (the tuned audio system and speakers, for example) that could be deleted to produce a cheaper tablet.

Then they could upscale the current design with a full HD screen (maybe at 7.7-8.0 in) for a step-up tablet and keep the 8.9-incher in place as is. (It’s no disaster but sales are apparently slow so it likey won’t get much of a refresh–probably just updated software.)

I could see them hitting $119 and $179 with ads. $99? I doubt it. Not in HD, this calendar year. For that they’d have to stick with the WSVGA screen of the original Fire.

For the eink line I expect the next PW will get audio back as well as an improved front light with less streaking issues. They might do a front-lit low-end model. $49? Doubtful.

People tend to forget Amazon prices Kindles competitivey bt they don’t rely on low-ball pricing. (That is Nook’s game. 😉 ) They simply don’t need to hit generic product prices.

CJJ March 20, 2013 um 2:07 pm

From a consumers point of view (my wife’s- the Kindle Fire addict), as nice as the HD upgrade is, she’s still more than content with her original Fire. I wonder how many original Fire users upgraded. I would think that Amazon has to start looking hard at the price point to keep their cloistered users in the fold.

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