No, we still don’t have any word from Amazon on where it stands with a smartphone, but it’s definitely making its mobile ambitions clear anyway. Today, the e-commerce giant took two more steps in its strategy to scale up its Kindle Fire tablet business. It announced that it will now sell the two higher-end versions of the device, the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, in 170 countries. And it also said that its Amazon Appstore will now be available in 200 countries.
Pre-orders in 170 countries begins today with the first models shipping out June 13, priced at the local equivalents of $284 for the 8.9″ model and $214 for the 7″ model.
Up to now, the Android-based Appstore, which works both on Amazon’s Fire tablet range but also other Android devices, has only been live in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, China and Japan, with Brazil next in line. It makes sense that Amazon will have opened it up at the same time as it’s ramping up its Fire tablet distribution.
“We are thrilled to be expanding the reach of our global app distribution to nearly 200 countries,” said Mike George, VP of Apps and Games at Amazon, in a statement. “By further expanding the distribution of apps to millions of customers around the world, we are continuing to make it easy for customers to enjoy their Amazon apps on Kindle Fire and any Android device.”
Amazon will be kicking off with a couple of free games — a tradition of Amazon’s when it opens up a new store front to focus on some bestsellers. In this case, it will be “Fruit Ninja” and “Cut the Rope: Experiments,” which will be free respectively on May 23 and May 24.
On a more long-tail note, it’s important for Amazon to make its Appstore as globally available as possible as a way of enticing more developers to the platform. In addition to giving them the promise of wide audiences, Amazon has also turned on features like in-app payments, subscriptions and even its own virtual currency, Amazon Coins, to give developers more flexibility in how they make money on its plaform (and, taking a page from Apple’s book, tie them and users further into the Amazon ecosystem in the process). It comes also on the heels of the company previewing the global Appstore availability in April, when it began to invite developers to start submitting their apps.
The company, as usual with Amazon, has remained tight-lipped on how many tablets it has sold since launching the Kindle Fire range in 2011. Today, however, Dave Limp, VP, Amazon Kindle, noted that the Kindle Fire HD (the 7″ model) has been the company’s “#1 best-selling item in the world” since being launched.
Although the HD is available with an optional LTE component in the U.S. it looks like this rollout is WiFi-only: to improve range and service, it comes with dual-band Wi-Fi capability for both 2.4 GHz network and 5 GHz network services. As with other Kindle Fire products, the two models going on sale today will work with Amazon’s existing and wide range of content, including apps, films, TV, games and 300+ books “exclusive to the Kindle Store.”
The move comes two months after Amazon dropped the price on the bigger two tablets, with an 8.9″ screen, to $269. At that time, it started selling it in Europe and Japan.
To date, Amazon has been selling the two HD tablets in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Japan. For a company like Amazon, which operates on a basis of competition-beating prices and low margins, it’s important for it to add as much scale as it can to its operation, so expanding Fire HD sales globally is an essential part of that strategy.