Well, that’s not exactly fair…the new Amazon Fire looks like it might be a great entry-level tablet for media consumption; the iPad’s essentially (in my opinion) the future of laptops (if they could only unlock the file system so people can use their stuff between programs/apps/whatever.) The Amazon boys have been itching to pick a fight with Apple over the latter’s insistence on trying to horn in on everyone’s business for 30%, and this is just the latest attempt to wrestle ebook and other sales from the Cupertino mob.

So what does the damn-good price of $199 buy you?

It’s about the size and weight of the Nook — with a 7″ screen with 1024/600 resolution, and it’s about twice the weight of the iPad2. It’s running a proprietary version of Android 2.3 with a proprietary browser (Amazon Silk) and looks to be fairly locked down — a complain about the Apple, but probably a good idea for stability and security. It’s got wifi but no 3G or GPS, but it does have access to one of the biggest e-media outlets and there’s apps, a-plenty. The processor is, on paper, comparable to the iPad — a 1GHz dual core with 512mb RAM (the CPU and GPU on the iPad is far superior, however), and battery life is supposed to be about 8 hours…not too shabby!

Against the other competition — Amazon’s own Kindles, and B&N’s Nook, the Fire is the clear winner. Against the iPad2? If you’re looking for a device to read, surf, and do the basics of a tablet, this is a good and cheap alternative. If you’re looking for a device that can replace your laptop — once iOS5 hits in a few weeks, the iPad is still the choice to go with.