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September 28, 2011 at 10:24 PM

Q&A: Amazon Kindle exec on Fire, iPad and more

NEW YORK — Amid a mob of camera-wielding reporters and bloggers crowding around his Kindle Fire, Amazon.com Kindle Vice President Dave Limp answered a few questions about the new device at the company’s launch event Wednesday.

Limp was among a handful of senior Amazon executives, who demonstrated the device and other new Kindles at the event, which featured an onstage presentation by Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. Other than a few stolen taps and touches, reporters could look but not handle the Kindle Fires.

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Here are edited excerpts of the discussion with Limp in the huddle:

Q: With the comparatively low price, will you lose money on the device and make it up on services?

A: That’s not how we look at our business. … We need to try to make money off both devices and services and do that in a way that’s sustainable. That’s what we owe to our shareholders and we continue to do it.

Q: Will you have a lower-priced version of the Fire with offers [ads]?

A: Nothing to announce today.

Q: Are there any ports on the device beside the USB for charging?

A: Just the USB. There’s also a headphone jack.

Q: Can you load your own files through the USB?

A: Yes, you can connect it to a PC. We don’t think people are going to do it very often; we haven’t optimized for that use.

But if you plug it into a PC or Mac, folders will show up and you can drag files onto it.

Q: Can you play media purchased elsewhere on the Fire?

A: Sure, I uploaded my entire iTunes library. It’s got to be DRM [digital rights management] free. … I moved it to the cloud and then it’s all visible on the device.

Q: Does it support EPub or other book formats besides Amazon’s?

A: We don’t support that. We think our book selection and magazine selection are broad. It does support a great new PDF engine. The PDF reader is great — [a] desktop-class PDF reader.

Q: Can you view photos on the device?

A: There is a gallery app that comes with it but it’s not something set up to show [yet].

Q: Is it a multitouch display, and how many fingers does it track?

A: It’s a two-finger multitouch.

Q: How will the Fire do head to head against the iPad this holiday season?

A: I’m not sure it’s a head-to-head device. [At] $500-plus, where other tablets have been, I think people make different decisions than for products that are $199. We’ll have to see.

At the end of the day, customers will tell us if they love it, and we hope they do.

Q: Will you release other models with bigger screens next year?

A: I’m not going to speculate about what’s going to come out next.

Q: Does the browser support plug-ins?

A: Nope, no plug-ins.

Q: Why no camera?

A: We think most people tend to carry around a smartphone of some type with them today. Most of those have great cameras. To get to these price points, that was one of those trade-offs we were willing to make to get to $199.

Q: So communication isn’t a primary use — it’s more consumption?

A: It comes with mail … but certainly the primary function — the one we’ve optimized it for — is media consumption.

Q: Will the browser be available on other platforms?

A: Not right now.

Q: What is battery life like on the Fire?

A: I like to start with the worst-case scenario: if you got on a plane, no Wi-Fi, and you wanted to watch movies straight through. You’re going to get up to seven hours [of battery life]. If you do more mixed use — reading, movies, those types of things — you’ll get up to eight hours.

Q: Will the Fire be used for productivity purposes? Will there be productivity apps? Or just media and entertainment?

A: We have a mail app and the mail app will treat enclosures as first-class citizens so you can open up Word documents and Excel documents.

But front and center, the primary thing is to make sure you organize around your media properties.

Q: Will people eventually decide to use one of these and a desktop computer? Will the Fire fill the role of portable computing?

A: I think a lot of people are going to buy one of each of these devices.

They fill very different needs in my life. I watch my movies and read magazines on this [Fire] because it’s such an amazing experience.

But then, when I sit down and want to read a novel, I take out my Kindle 3G. At $199 and $79 you can buy two of these and it’s still lower cost than other people’s first device.

Q: Is there a Hulu app for the device?

A: I haven’t talked to Hulu. We have talked to Netflix, Pandora, Facebook and Twitter, and they all seem very enthusiastic to put an app on the device.

Q: Will developers have to revise apps to get them on the Fire?

A: In general, we think the compatibility will be great. That’s one of the core reasons we picked Android under the covers.

Q: What are revenue-sharing and in-app purchasing terms for developers?

A: For Fire, over the next few days we will be revising those.

Q: Which version of Android is it, and is it upgradeable?

A: It’s a Gingerbread-based Honeycomb variant of 2.3. People will get periodic updates of the software.

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