NEW YORK(AFP): US online retail giant Amazon unveiled a tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, on Wednesday that costs $199, less than half the price of the cheapest iPad from market-leader Apple.
The Kindle Fire, which has a seven-inch (17.78-centimeter) screen, smaller than the iPad's 9.7 inches (24.6 cm), will be available in the United States on November 15, the Seattle-based Amazon announced at a launch event in Manhattan.
"Kindle Fire brings together all of the things we've been working on at Amazon for over 15 years into a single, fully-integrated service for customers," Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said.
Presenting the new tablet to the press, Bezos said Amazon is hoping to sell "many millions" and touted the features of a new Web browser in the Kindle Fire called Amazon Silk.
Bezos also unveiled three new Kindle electronic book readers: a new basic Kindle for $79, a Kindle Touch for $99 and a Kindle Touch 3G for $149.
The Kindle Fire has Wi-Fi connectivity only and is powered by Google's Android software. It does not have a camera like many other leading tablets, including the latest iPad.
According to technology analysts, a low-priced Amazon tablet could pose the most serious challenge yet to the iPad, which has dominated the fast-growing market for tablet computers since it went on sale in April 2010.
"Amazon will sell millions of tablets, and the rapid fire adoption of the Kindle Fire will give app developers a reason -- finally -- to develop Android tablet apps," said Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
"Apple's place as market leader is secure, but Amazon will be a strong number two, and we expect no other serious tablet competitors until Windows 8 tablets launch," Rotman Epps said.
According to technology research firm Gartner, the iPad will account for 68.7 per cent of the 69.7 million tablets sold this year and will remain the top-selling device over the next few years.
"Amazon is competing on price, content, and commerce," Rotman Epps said.
It also has a pre-installed Amazon shopping application as Amazon seeks to drive Kindle Fire buyers to its online store, which features books, music, movies, TV shows and games.
"(Amazon's) goal is to drive as much business as possible to and through its online retail presence," he said. "Amazon doesn't need to maximize its profits on every tablet sold.
Technology research firm Forrester has forecast that Amazon could sell 3-5 million tablets in the fourth quarter alone.
Amazon shares were up 4.16 per cent at $233.54 in midday trading on Wall Street.