There are plenty of other differences between the two, of course, and a load of similarities as well. But both are going to be top-of-mind options for anyone in the market for a tablet computer this fall and winter (including people who didn't think they were in the market but are lured in).
The iPad has been just flat crushing it in the tablet market since it first launched last year. Other competitors have come and gone. But with Amazon's reach and that screaming low $199 price point, the Fire is likely to draw a lot of customers and their dollars.
Molly Wood writes in CNET that the Fire has about half the features that an iPad does: "There's no camera, front or rear; the 8GB of onboard storage is half the amount of the base-model iPad; the Fire has no cellular options, no built-in GPS, and no Bluetooth, as the iPad does. The software options compared to the iPad are minimal, and the app library for Android still isn't nearly as robust as the iOS app library." Still, there's that price.
We asked Wood what she would buy if she was in the market and we gave her $500. "My first instinct is to get a Kindle Fire tablet. Also get a $79 Kindle (also announced yesterday and already on sale) for e-ink reading, get my Amazon Prime subscription for $80 for the first year and have a little money left over."
Wood says there's a lot to recommend in the Fire: "The 7-inch form factor for me is a great size. A 10-inch is pretty big to read books on, little bit too big to travel with if you're also taking along a laptop. And then $199 is too good to pass up."
Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, had a dissenting opinion. He chose the iPad. He says the Fire is based on the design of the poor-selling PlayBook tablet computer. "We know what the iPad can do," he says, "and what the iPad can do is awesome. I think a lot of the best features touted in the Amazon Fire, we don't actually know how well they're going to work. Particularly the Amazon Silk browser. It supposed to speed up your mobile browsing experience by offloading a lot of the work onto Amazon's cloud computing infrastructure. Until we see how that works, kind of have to go with the devil we know."
The cost difference is real, says Madrigal, and is even greater than the sticker price once you add in all that you'll buy with and for the iPad. "But its capabilities are fantastic. The screen is bigger -- that means you can do much more with it -- and I think it's one of the best tools I've found to actually look at the Internet with somebody else."
Also in this program, video gamers discover two new planets. No, not in Gears of War 3, in an online game called Planet Hunters. Real planets, you guys!