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A Forrester report published in August predicted that Amazon would be Apple’s main rival in tablet computing. It predicted that Amazon could sell 3 million to 5 million tablets in the fourth quarter alone. Apple has, so far, sold around 29 million iPads. Speaking after Wednesday’s announcement, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, lead author of the report, said, “Amazon is delivering what we expected, but at an even better price.”

The Kindle Fire’s impressive new Web browser also taps into Amazon’s cloud platform. Silk uses this cloud infrastructure to cache Web data, significantly speeding up the time it takes to load pages on mobile devices.

Bezos said he asked himself if there was a way Amazon could use the computational horsepower of Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute to accelerate mobile Web browsing. “The answer is yes,” he said.

“The browser was a surprise,” Rotman Epps added. “It’s pretty techy, but the benefit for the user is a really fast experience.”

Amazon’s sophisticated cloud strategy is, however, also a powerful example of “vendor lock-in.” Both Amazon’s cloud backup and Whispersync service only work for content that users buy from Amazon—a compelling incentive for customer loyalty.

The Kindle Fire does lack some of the iPad’s features. It has no camera, which means no videoconferencing. It also lacks support for 3G.

The Android Market also lacks the cache of Apple’s App Store. But Bezos didn’t seem worried about these missing pieces. By the end of the launch event, he had some smug digs at those who might have doubted him: “We’re making many millions of these, but I still suggest you preorder today if you want to be sure.”

The first units will ship November 15.

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Credit: Getty Images

Tagged: Computing, iPad, tablets, cloud, Amazon EC2

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