Battle joined

Oof. Those tablet wars you sometimes read about? They were just transformed.

As you know, Apple's iPad has been around over a year and a half now, and strides across the tablet market like a colossus. In fact, for all intents and purposes, right now, the iPad is the tablet market. Of the many, many rivals so far released - from Android-powered slates like the Samsung Galaxy Tab series to RIM's BlackBerry Playbook - none has really made a dent in the iPad's dominance, and some have been downright flops.

Well, that might all be about to change. The e-retailer Amazon just announced their first tablet, under the popular Kindle e-reader brand. A 7' tablet with a capacitive touchscreen, it looks a lot like lots of other tablets, and it runs Android. But turn it on and the similarities with the competition end. The Kindle Fire, as it's strangely known, runs on a heavily customised version of Android that's basically an Amazon explosion. The e-reader is a Kindle app, the movies app uses Amazon's movie rentals, the music app is Amazon's Cloud Player. The tablet looks like an incredibly easy way to buy and consume media - which, after all, is what most people want a tablet for. You can install apps, too, though only from Amazon's own App Store, which contains most but not all of the apps found in Google's official Android Market.

Most interesting, though, is the price: just $199, or about £130. To put that in perspective, the iPad starts at around £370.

We reckon Amazon is going to sell a bucketload of these, to people for whom the price of an iPad - though low for what you get - is still a little high. It's out next month in the USA, but there's no word yet on a UK release.

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