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Amazon to ship Kindle Fire today

Amazon just announced that it plans to ship pre-ordered units of its Android-based Kindle Fire e-reader tablet starting today, a day earlier than expected. Kindle Touch  and Kindle Touch 3G customers can expect their devices to go out tomorrow.

News of the early shipment date comes just as the first hands-on reviews of the Kindle Fire hit the Web. And so far, the device is receiving fairly solid scores among tech aficionados, but there are some downsides to the $200 super e-reader.

Software-wise, Amazon has fully concealed Android 2.3 Gingerbread with its own tweaks to the software, making it unlike any other Android tablet out there — “and that’s a very, very good thing,” says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. “From the minute you turn it on, the device is puzzlingly simple.”

This sentiment is not shared by all the reviewers, however. As The New York Times‘ David Pogue writes: “The Fire is not nearly as versatile as a real tablet. It is designed almost exclusively for consuming stuff, particularly material you buy from Amazon, like books, newspapers and video. It has no camera, microphone, GPS function, Bluetooth or memory-card slot. There is a serviceable e-mail program, but no built-in calendar or note pad. Most problematic, though, the Fire does not have anything like the polish or speed of an iPad. You feel that $200 price tag with every swipe of your finger.”

This touches on the two most important things to remember about the Kindle Fire. First, Amazon’s device sells for such a low price — so low that Amazon loses money on every Fire it sells — because, for Amazon, it’s not about the device at all; it’s about getting people to buy more stuff from Amazon. Kindle Fire is, in other words, a digital store, plain and simple. Yes, it also allows you to read magazines and books, listen to music and watch videos. But it’s made to buy these products from Amazon itself.

Second is the fact that the Kindle Fire is cheap, and that cheapness is one of the few points on which most reviewers can agree. So if you plan to buy one (or bought one already), expect to get what you paid for, and not much more.

Despite the possible downfalls, the Kindle Fire has already proven that people are clamoring for an inexpensive tablet.

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