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Amazon lights a fire under the iPad

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Later this month, Apple Inc. is expected to unveil a new version of its iPad tablet computer. It better be good. Three-and-a-half years after the stunning success of the original, the iPad’s share of the tablet market has plunged, as a horde of sleek, smart rivals have crowded in.

The latest is Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire HDX, which goes on sale next week.

Amazon has enhanced an already good product, making it an attractive option for book lovers and avid online shoppers. Amazon uses a proprietary version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system which prevents the Fire HDX from running a bunch of my favorite apps. For the full Android experience, the Google Nexus 7, manufactured by Asustek Computer Inc. of Taiwan, is the way to go. But for casual users, the HDX’s walled garden of carefully chosen apps and services will feel warm and cozy, like Downton Abbey at Christmas.

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