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Amazon to Offer Three New Kindle Fires in 2012?

Just last week we reported that Amazon was caught placing an order with Taiwan-based chassis maker Catcher Technology to supply the Kindle Fire 2 chassis from its plants in Taizhou, China. This is likely for the larger 8.9-inch version slated to arrive sometime later this year, as Quanta may still be handling the 7-inch version of Amazon's popular Android tablet.

Now there's talk that Amazon may actually release three new Kindle Fire tablets this year, aimed at the low-end, mid-range and high-end tablet market. The first will be the previously-reported revamped version of the existing 7-inch tablet, sporting a 1024 x 600 resolution and numerous improvements based on consumer feedback. Hopefully this means adding an SD card slot or volume buttons at the least, but that may be asking too much given the price.

The second tablet in the latest rumor is a newcomer: a 7-inch mid-range model featuring a 1280 x 800 resolution. It's assumed that it will have all the features found in the cheaper model, but sporting a higher pricetag thanks to the higher resolution. Rounding out the trio will reportedly be the high-end 8.9-inch model with a 1920 x 1200 display. We expect to see this model with HDMI output so that consumers can stream their Amazon Instant Video rentals and purchases to a connected HDTV.

To keep the production costs low, Amazon has reportedly signed agreements with Taiwan-based assemblers Quanta and Hon Hai. Quanta will be responsible for the assembly of the mid-range (1280 x 800) 7-inch model, and Hon Hai will assemble the lower-end (1024 x 600) 7-inch model. Prime View and Chimei Innolux will provide the flat-panel displays while the latter company will also provide the 7-inch touch sensors.

The original Kindle Fire hit the retail channel on November 15, 2011. It was assembled by Quanta and based on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet's core design. Amazon reportedly went with the "stock" design in order to raid the market with its own tablet before the 2011 holiday season. The gamble worked, with over 4.7 million units sold by the end of 4Q11 and a 16.8-percent tablet marketshare.

Amazon certainly caused a few ripples in the tablet pool with its $199 Android-based gadget. In response, Google is reportedly working on its own answer to the Kindle Fire, dubbed the Google Nexus tablet sporting a 7-inch screen and a possible $199 pricetag. Apple is also reportedly cranking out its own Kindle Fire competitor although it may find Amazon's 8.9-inch version more of a challenge later this year.

Amazon's Kindle Fire is popular not only because of its price, but due to the supporting services Amazon provides. Amazon's Appstore offers a free Android app each day, and generally runs specials on apps each week. Consumers can purchase music, books, movies, TV shows and more, and store the content in Amazon's cloud which can be streamed directly to the device at any time. This is why Google is working on its own 7-inch tablet: the prevent Amazon from dominating the Android tablet market and steal revenue from the Google Play network.

But with three Kindle Fire tablets on the market, Google may have a tough challenge in 2012. Throw in Apple's rumored iPad mini, consumers may have a hard time choosing the right tablet when they all storm the market later this year.

Touchscreen Ultrabook, anyone?