An Overview of the Kindle Fire

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Introduction to Kindle Fire App Development EssentialsSetting up a Kindle Fire Android Development Environment


Amazon decided to enter the market for e-reader devices in 2004 with the formation 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 Operating System

The operating system running on the first generation Kindle Fire was (and still 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 Though originally intended for use on smartphone devices, and superseded by more recent Android releases designed specifically for tablets, Amazon has heavily customized this older version of Android to meet the specific needs of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. The subsequent second generation Kindle Fire and more recent Kindle Fire HD models run an operating system that is currently based on Android 4.0.3.

Kindle Fire, the Cloud and Pricing

By just about any measure, the technical specifications of the first Kindle Fire were 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 appeared to make the Kindle Fire seem uncompetitive. It should be noted, however, that this first Kindle Fire model was priced extremely aggressively ($199 in the United States).

The feature gap between the Kindle Fire and the iPad has subsequently closed with the introduction of the Kindle HD 7” and HD 8.9” models. Pricing, on the other hand, has remained extremely competitive. In fact, it is estimated by industry analysts that Amazon has priced the devices so aggressively that the company 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

In addition to the on-board storage, all digital content purchased through Amazon can be stored free of charge 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 Wi-Fi 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 began by focusing on creating an affordable device that provided the functionality needed by the majority of users, and then integrated it with a vast catalog of digital content and potentially unlimited cloud storage.

With the introduction of the latest Kindle Fire HD models, Amazon has begun to match many competing devices in terms of hardware features. The pricing, however, remains equally aggressive and no other tablet provider yet comes close to matching Amazon in terms of digital content.

The Kindle Fire remains one of Amazon’s top selling products and was estimated at the start of 2012 to account for over 30% of the U.S. tablet market. Clearly, there is a large market waiting for any applications developed for the Kindle Fire.


PreviousTable of ContentsNext
Introduction to Kindle Fire App Development EssentialsSetting up a Kindle Fire Android Development Environment