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Amazon officials said they released Kindle Fire early in an effort to keep up with heavy demand. "We're thrilled to be able to ship Kindle Fire to our customers earlier than we expected," said Dave Limp, VP for Kindle at Amazon, in a statement.
Amazon began taking orders for Kindle Fire on Sept. 28. Interest has been strong ever since. "Kindle Fire quickly became the bestselling item across all of Amazon.com, and based on customer response we're building millions more than we'd planned," said Limp.
According to some reports, Amazon increased its order to suppliers from 4 million units to 5 million units.
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Kindle Fire boasts some impressive specs for a device that's priced at $199. The 7-inch LCD screen displays 16 million colors in high-resolution, at 169 pixels per inch.
In-plane switching technology provides wide viewing angles. A dual-core processor, reportedly from Texas Instruments, provides quick responsiveness. The device weighs 14.6 ounces, making it possible for most people to hold in one hand.
Kindle Fire also provides out-of-the-box integration with Amazon subscription services for movies, TV shows, games, and music. And it boasts a new browser called Silk that splits rendering tasks between the tablet and Amazon's big iron EC2 servers in the cloud. Amazon said the approach makes browsing faster than traditional approaches.
It all has most reviewers gushing. "The volume of stuff that's available for your brain to munch on is so immense and easy to grab that the Fire feels massive beyond its smallish frame--which, by the way, is sturdy and satisfying to hold," said Gizmodo.
The Chicago Sun-Times simply called it "a marvelous device," though it complained that the 7-inch screen "limits the Fire's reach" for some types of media.
Mashable noted that it provides "easy access to anything you have in Amazon's cloud, and a sense that this device and Amazon know you" and even found that it can double as a Nook.
It wasn't all positive, however. Wired.com said that "the Fire's browser lurches in fits and starts when swiping through already loaded Web pages." And The New York Times concluded that Kindle Fire "does not have anything like the speed and polish of the iPad."
To be fair, Kindle Fire is less than half the price of the least expensive iPad 2, which starts at $499.
The barbs don't appear to be impacting sales. JP Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth said in a note to clients that he predicts Amazon will sell 5 million Kindle Fire units by year's end and 20 million in 2012.