Amazon just launched three new Kindles, and clearly the color tablet model, the Fire, is a shot straight at the heart of Apple and the iPad. (And, by the way, it's maybe the first really good Android tablet.)
But for all the great things about the Fire, including the low price, it's important to remember that Amazon is not a hardware company. A question from our editor got me to realize this. He said, "How is it that Amazon has gone from an e-commerce site to a hardware maker ready to take on Apple?"
Because, Jim, Amazon doesn't try to make a 40 percent profit on each tablet sold. From the digital perspective, Amazon is a media company. From a broader perspective it's a marketplace (it takes in more money reselling electronics and other hard goods than it does selling content products). The Kindle line supports these businesses.
That's not saying that the Kindle products are not beautifully designed or even technologically advanced. The combination of e-ink plus the built-in 3G network put the initial Kindle in an important new class of hardware; the Fire looks like a really smart private-label Android machine.… Read more