The CEO of Amazon.com, in regulation blue oxford shirt and jeans, is sitting in a conference room at his company’s spiffy new headquarters just north of downtown Seattle. It is mid-September, exactly one week before he will introduce a new line of Kindles to the world. He has already shown me two of them—one with a touchscreen, the other costing just $79—but that’s not what’s truly exciting him. It is a third gadget, the long-awaited Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire, that represents his company’s most ambitious leap into the hearts, minds, and wallets of millions of consumers.
Bezos runs through the features that will soon set the tech world ablaze—the $199 price tag, the easy-to-hold size, the seamless access to Amazon’s rich and growing collection of digital media. When the Fire is introduced, analysts will declare it the strongest competitor yet to the iPad. Yet the Fire is not just a rival gadget, but something essentially different. The iPad is the flagship of the post-PC era—in which the desktop is replaced by lean, portable, gesture-driven tablets. As people will learn when Amazon ships it today, November 14, the Fire is an emblem of a post-web world, in which our devices are simply a means for us to directly connect with the goodies in someone’s data center.