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Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is pinning a lot of hopes on its new high-end tablet, but without FCC approval, it’s not yet known whether any of the new Kindle lineup will ever make it to market.
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The approval of the Federal Communications Commission is required for all wireless communications products, to ensure that they operate safely and do not interfere with other signals. A pre-order confirmation sent by Amazon to early purchasers Thursday included the following note: “We will send you an email asking you to confirm your pre-order of Kindle Fire when it is approved for sale by the Federal Communications Commission.”
Amazon is now only accepting pre-orders, planning to ship the new devices on November 20. A company spokesman said that Amazon expects to be granted FCC approval before that date. And while attorneys generally agree that Amazon should have no trouble getting the necessary approval on time, they do say it’s unusual for a company to announce major new products without first getting the agency’s go-ahead.
Amazon’s new $499 Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch 4G tablet is a crucial part of its attempt to challenge Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad at the premium end of the tablet market. It’s a likely reaction to long-running rumors that Apple plans to challenge companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) in the lower-end market with a 7-inch iPad Mini.
Still, Amazon’s decision to announce a product it cannot yet legally ship or sell is a bit confusing to industry watchers, especially because it forces the company into the uncomfortable position of having to include disclaimers in all of its promotions. Furthermore, should the devices not be granted approval in time, or at all, it’s a huge public embarrassment for the company that could have been avoided had it held off the announcement.
Amazon may be hoping that, by giving customers a couple months to put in their pre-orders, it will be better able to meet demand during the busiest shopping season of the year. It may also have been hoping to get the new 4G Kindle Fire on everyone’s radar, helping also to assure investors, before Apple steals the spotlight later this month with some expected new product announcements.
Whatever it’s reason, Amazon has a lot riding on a speedy FCC approval and some early success for the new tablet as it faces further challenges on its home turf.
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