We'd been expecting new Kindles to be unveiled almost any day, and now that day has been set -- Amazon has sent out invites for a press conference in Santa Monica, Calif., on the morning of September 6.
New Kindles: What to expect
Back in late June, a source told CNET that the next Kindle Fire would have a camera and physical volume-control buttons (many users complained that the Kindle Fire only has onscreen volume controls). No word on whether Bluetooth will be included, what processor will power the device, but rumors strongly suggest the device will have a higher-resolution display (1,280x800 pixels) and we think that Amazon will offer different memory options (8GB and 16GB) as Google has with its Nexus 7 tablet.
Another thing to look out for is whether Amazon, as rumored, will attempt to subsidize the cost of the new Kindle Fire with an ad-supported Special Offers version. It could also leave the existing Fire on the market and lower its price to $149 and offer two different step-up models, one for $199 and one for $249.
Whether Amazon will introduce a larger 10-inch tablet that would compete directly with the iPad remains a possibility. Also, a smartphone has been rumored to be in the works, but the chances of such a device making its debut on September 6 seem small.
As for its e-ink e-readers, it seems likely that Amazon will follow a similar product upgrade map to Apple's, adding features along with design and performance improvements but maintaining the similar price points. For instance, we don't expect that Amazon will put out an e-ink e-reader for less than $79 (the current entry-level Kindle sells for $79). Rather, it will simply improve upon the existing model -- perhaps bringing the touch-screen feature, now in the $99 Kindle Touch, down to the lower price range. (Of course, you can get refurbished Kindles for less than $79, but we're talking list price here).
Currently, Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, which has been on the market for a couple of months, sells for $139. Amazon is expected to introduce a new Kindle Touch that offers an integrated light at a lower price point. It may also add lighting to the entry-level Kindle.
Amazon set-top box?
We're not sure yet about the significance of Amazon doing its presser in Santa Monica, but it would be easy to speculate that Hollywood studios and Amazon Instant Video will be front and center at the event. We've run into a few folks who say Amazon may have its own alternative to the Apple TV or Roku mini set-top streaming-video box under development. (Then again, Microsoft launched its Surface tablet in LA, and the location didn't seem to hold any special significance in the end).
It's worth noting that many had thought Amazon would do its Kindle press event earlier (in late July or August) rather than September in order to catch back-to-school sales and to get a jump on Apple, which is expected to have its own major event in September (the rumored date is September 12). In the next few weeks, Apple is expected to announce the next iPhone and quite possibly a smaller iPad. If indeed it does unveil an iPad mini, the Kindle Fire 2 -- or whatever it's called -- will certainly face daunting competition, which already includes the well-received Google Nexus 7. This fall Barnes & Noble is also expected to unveil a new version of its Nook Tablet that has, according to a reliable source, an impressive new screen.
Editors' note: This story has been significantly expanded since its original publication to include additional details about our expectations of the announcement.