SEATTLE, Wash. (CBS) – The web-retailing giant Amazon has launched a direct assault on Apple’s dominance in the tablet computer market.

Eight of every 10 such devices currently sold are iPads, so Amazon had to make a dramatic statement to turn prospective buyers’ heads.  They hope to do so by pricing their seven-inch, color “Kindle Fire” at $199 — that’s $300 less than Apple’s starting point.

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In comparison, the iPad 2 has a 9.7-inch screen and weighs about 1.3 pounds.  The Kindle Fire tips the scales at just under a pound.  Both devices use an IPS display for wide viewing angles.

Amazon’s offering is WiFi-only, while Apple offers 3G access for an additional cost.  The Kindle Fire has 8GB of storage, though Amazon touts “free cloud storage.”   The iPad 2 comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB flavors.

For your money, Amazon says, you get a full touchscreen with a dual-core processor under the hood, access to the web (with what the e-retailer calls a “cloud-accelerated” browser), and the Android app store.   The Kindle Fire is an Android-based device, but its interface is highly customized (it doesn’t look like current Android slates on the market).

Amazon says the Kindle Fire can access more than 100,000 movies and TV shows for streaming, downloading, buying, and renting.   The Amazon MP3 store delivers music to the device, with songs starting at 69 cents.

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Paying for membership in Amazon Prime will give users “instant, commercial-free streaming” of thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost.  A month of free access is included with the device.

For such content — as well as e-books — the Kindle Fire includes “Whispersync,” which Amazon says allows users to pick right back up where they left off, regardless of whether they’re accessing the text or video from the tablet or a computer or a TV connected to the user’s Amazon account.

Amazon is taking pre-orders now on the Kindle Fire, which ships on November 15th.

The company also unveiled three new Kindle e-readers — ranging from $79 to a $150 full touchscreen model that includes 3G wireless access free for the life of the device.

Reported by Ian Bush, KYW Newsradio 1060

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