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Just as Amazon did last year when it introduced the new third-generation Kindle, it is renaming its existing models and putting them on sale. The “Kindle Keyboard” and ”Kindle Keyboard 3G” have been marked down $15 to $99/$139 for the wifi-only version and $139/$189 for the 3G version (prices are with/without “special offers”).

The wifi keyboard version is priced exactly the same as the new Touch wifi version, and the 3G keyboard version is only $10 less than the 3G Touch (or the same without ads). Given that you can order a $79 ad-supported Kindle right now, it’s hard to imagine this offer appealing to anyone save for die-hard physical keyboard admirers. On the other hand, it does give Amazon room to discount even further as the holiday season approaches.

Meanwhile, Amazon is playing coy about the 10” Fire device rumored to be in the offing for next year. Writes Tim Stevens for Engadget:

We just asked Amazon Kindle vice president (and thinking man) Russ Grandinetti when we might expect a larger successor. With a smile, Russ said "Stay tuned," and left it at that. If you’ll recall, RIM’s Ryan Biden told us at a past Engadget Show that there was "no reason" the 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook couldn’t be shipped in a different size, and given recent rumors that both outfits were working with Quanta, it’s not too tough to read betwixt the lines.

Stevens also reports Amazon gave the same response about the Fire’s international release since its November launch is US-only.

Launching the 7” version now and the 10” version later is a pretty clever move on Amazon’s part. It manages to avoid a direct comparison to the larger, costlier iPad, and instead casts the Fire perhaps as more of an upgraded e-reader. They’re not trying to compete on the full-sized tablet market…yet.

And even when the 10” one comes out, they’ll probably call it the “Fire DX” and cast it as an improvement over the Kindle DX rather than an iPad competitor. It’s a truism of the market that “you can’t beat Apple at tablets,” so they’re trying to come in under the radar as a “color e-reader” instead. (It reminds me of the approach taken in the novel Cyberbooks by Ben Bova, in which the protagonist marketed his e-reader as an electronic toy after the publishing industry showed no interest in marketing it as an electronic book.)

Indeed, if it does compete directly against any Apple product, it is most likely the iPod Touch. When you consider that for $30 less than the price of the lowest-end iPod Touch you can get a wifi-capable color multimedia device with the same 8GB memory but four times the screen real estate…heck, it’s starting to tempt me. (Though the Fire does only have half the pixel density of the current “retina display” iPod Touch, so about the same overall screen resolution despite the bigger size.)

It may not really be fair to consider the Fire an “Android Tablet”, however. Its ecosystem is going to be as closed in its own way as Apple’s is: no access to any app store except Amazon’s own and a complete reskinning to remove most traces of the Android underpinnings mean that it can’t really be directly compared to most other Android devices.

 
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