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3 Tablets That Could Be Burned by the Kindle Fire

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) fundamentally changed the landscape of the tablet market Wednesday with its announcement of the new Kindle Fire. Industry insiders have spent months speculating about the tablet, but even after all that the device still packed a few crucial surprises.

While rumors leading up to the announcement suggested the 7-inch tablet would cost somewhere between $250-$300, Amazon revealed that it will actually sell for just $199, undercutting many of its competitors. The Kindle Fire will also boast a dual-core processor along with a special Amazon browser that uses cloud computing to load webpages faster and offer instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows.

With these and other features, the Kindle Fire may just incinerate much of the competition. MainStreet took a look at three existing tablets that may have the most to lose in the coming months.

iPad

Until now, one could simply have defined the tablet market as the Apple iPad and everyone else, but within minutes of Amazon’s announcement, it became clear that Apple’s tablet finally has a strong challenger.

To be clear, the iPad and the Kindle Fire do have significant differences. The iPad has a bigger screen, more memory and, perhaps most importantly, the benefit of having been around long enough to attract millions of customers. Still, the Kindle Fire brings something special to the marketplace: the right combination of price and content.

Several companies have tried to compete with the iPad on price, but only a few have managed to put out a tablet for less than the $399 that Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) charges for its cheapest first-generation model. Those companies that have put out tablets in that price range like the Dell Streak 7 generally fell far below Apple in the quality of content. While Apple had built up thousands of apps and established the right partnerships to offer e-books, magazines, music and streaming movies (via Netflix), other tablets focused more on hardware and launched with comparatively few content options.

Amazon did things exactly right, by which we mean they worked backwards. Before the company announced the tablet, it launched an Appstore and brokered crucial partnerships with publishers and entertainment providers like Hearst and Twentieth Century Fox, not to mention e-book lending agreements with thousands of libraries around the country. The net effect is that when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stood on stage with the new tablet, it wasn’t just a piece of hardware, it was an entertainment experience and one that looked strikingly similar to the experience of using an iPad but for less than half the price.

If Apple isn’t sweating yet, it should be.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Rumor has it that much of the Kindle Fire’s manufacturing was handled by the same company that Research In Motion (Stock Quote: RIMM) used to design its PlayBook tablet -- and boy does it show.

The design of Amazon’s new tablet is strikingly similar to the design of the PlayBook, both of which have 7-inch screens. The BlackBerry PlayBook does have more RAM (the active memory that allows programs to run faster), a faster processor and more memory, but the average consumer might not notice that when holding the two products side by side. Instead, all that most will likely see is that the Amazon tablet has the same look and feel as the PlayBook, but with more content and for $300 less.

Good luck, BlackBerry.

Nook Color

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color may not be a purebred tablet so much as a hybrid of a tablet and an e-reader, yet this device has found great success appealing to consumers who wanted the low price and functionality of an e-reader and the extra features that come with a tablet. What better way to do that than with a $250 touchscreen device that can handle apps and e-books simultaneously?

Now, just shy of the Nook Color’s first birthday, Amazon’s tablet is clearly gunning to take back some of this market share from Barnes & Noble by charging $50 less and offering more apps, entertainment options and better browsing. Chances are Barnes & Noble (Stock Quote: BKS) will announce the next generation Nook Color in the coming weeks and will likely follow industry tradition and lower the price on the first generation model, but unless the company adds some killer features and more content, the Nook Color’s second year could prove much tougher than its first.

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