An Overview and History of the Kindle Fire

PreviousTable of ContentsNext
Table of ContentsSetting Up a Kindle Fire Android Development Environment


The Kindle Fire is the latest addition to’s Kindle family of devices. Unlike previous Kindle models, however, the Kindle Fire is the first device from Amazon to move beyond ebook reading and provide a full tablet experience with a multitouch color screen and the ability to watch movies, read books and magazines, play music and install applications from the Amazon App Store. Whilst the rest of this book will cover the development of applications for the Kindle Fire, this chapter will take some time to look at both the history and technical specifications of this device.

The History of the Kindle Fire

Amazon decided to enter the market for e-reader devices in 2004 with the creation of a hardware research and design division named A2Z Development Corp based in Palo Alto, California. The name originates from the logo which incorporates an arrow in the shape of a smile swooping between the “A” and the “Z” in the company name (presumably intended to suggest that sells everything from A to Z). This secretive operation was later renamed “Lab126”, the letter “A”, of course, being the first letter of the alphabet and “Z” the 26th.

The initial Kindle e-reader devices proved to be extremely successful and within a few years Amazon announced that ebooks had begun to outsell printed books in a variety of categories. In 2009, however, a threat appeared in the form of the iPad from Apple. Closely tied to Apple’s iTunes and iBooks stores, the iPad clearly posed a serious threat to Amazon’s dominance in digital goods, entertainment and services.

Recognizing the tablet computer as a key gateway to controlling access to digital content, Lab126 began work on a project codenamed “Otter”. The results of the Otter project were made public on September 28, 2011 when Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos walked onto a stage in New York and announced the device that we now know as the Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire Hardware

The Kindle Fire is 7.5" high, 4.7" wide and 0.45" thick and weighs in at 14.6 ounces. It has a 7” multi-touch display with a 1024 x 600 pixel resolution capable of displaying 16 million colors at 169 pixels per inch (ppi). In both portrait and landscape orientations a 20 pixel high menu bar is displayed thereby reducing available resolution for use by applications to 1004 x 600 in portrait mode and 580 x 1024 in landscape.

The Kindle Fire has 8GB of internal storage. Approximately 2GB of this memory is reserved for the operating system with the remainder available for applications and local digital content storage.

In terms of the processor, the first Kindle Fire model is powered by the Texas Instruments OMAP 4430, a 1GHz dual-core processor which is based on the ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore design. This processor also includes an integrated POWERVR SGX540 2D and 3D graphics accelerator.

Connectivity is provided via Wi-Fi with support 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n standards. The only physical ports on the device are a USB connector for battery charging and a 3.5mm audio jack. Audio is also available via a set of speakers built into the device. Finally, the Kindle Fire also includes an accelerometer and a light sensor.

Kindle Fire Operating System

The operating system running on the Kindle Fire is based on Google’s Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) mobile operating system. Though originally intended for use on smartphone devices, and superseded by more recent Android releases designed specifically for tablets, Amazon has heavily customized this older version of Android to meet the specific needs of the Kindle Fire user. 1.4 Kindle Fire, the Cloud and Pricing

By just about any measure, the technical specifications of the Kindle Fire are unremarkable. When compared to the iPad, for example, the absence of front and rear facing cameras, GPS, gyroscope, Bluetooth, 3G connectivity and greater amounts of memory might appear to make the Kindle Fire appear to be uncompetitive. Whilst it is almost certain that other Kindle Fire models will be introduced that have many of these features, it should be noted that this first Kindle Fire model is priced extremely aggressively ($199 in the United States). In fact, it is estimated by industry analysts that Amazon has priced the device so aggressively that it actually loses money on each sale. The goal, of course, is to reach a mass market of customers and generate revenue far in excess of that lost on the device by selling digital content from

The limited amount of memory on the device is also less of a problem than it might at first appear. The marketing information for the Kindle Fire suggests that the on-board storage is sufficient to store 80 applications in addition to either 10 movies, 800 songs or 6000 books. In addition to the on-board storage, however, all digital content purchased through Amazon can be stored for free on Amazon’s cloud servers. This essentially means that there are is no limit to the amount of content that can be stored and accessed from a Kindle Fire as long as that content is purchased from Amazon and the device is connected to a WiFi network.


Many tablet manufacturers have attempted to gain a competitive edge by relying on screen size, memory configuration, operating system versions and built-in hardware features. Instead of taking this approach, Amazon has instead focused on creating an affordable device that provides the functionality needed by the majority of users, and then integrated it with a vast catalog of digital content and potentially unlimited cloud storage.

Amazon initially planned to build 3.5 million Kindle Fire devices in the first production run. Due to customer demand this was later increased first to 4 million and subsequently 5 million devices. Clearly there is going to be a large market waiting for any applications developed for the Kindle Fire.


PreviousTable of ContentsNext
Table of ContentsSetting Up a Kindle Fire Android Development Environment