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What to expect from Amazon Thursday

Amazon is expected to unveil something big Thursday, with the anticipated announcement of the company’s follow-up to its popular Kindle Fire tablet.

The company is holding an event in Santa Clara, Calif. slated to start at 1:30 p.m., Eastern, and whatever it introduces will be entering a very different market than the first Kindle Fire. With Google’s much-fuller Nexus 7 tablet out at Amazon’s 199 price point, and the Microsoft Surface looking to take market share in the tablet space, the online retailer will have to step up its game to keep the Kindle Fire competitive.

The rumor mill is splitting in a few ways on how they’ll do it, though.

One pervasive rumor is that the new Kindle Fire will be bigger, to take Apple’s iPad and larger Android tablets head on. Even without a bigger screen, the first-generation of the Kindle Fire managed to take a decisive second-place in the tablet market. If the company can offer the experience of a 10-inch tablet with a price that undercuts Apple, it would put Amazon in a very good position indeed.

CNET has poured some cold water on this rumor, with its late August report that the company is not going to release a bigger tablet, but will instead release a higher-end version of its 7-inch tablet and go after the Nexus 7 instead.

Another rumor is that Amazon will be revealing its own streaming TV set-top box. All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka reported that Amazon made a bid for the set-top box company Roku last year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it would have considered making one of its own.

Or if Amazon doesn’t go all the way with a stand-alone device, he said, it could be unveiling a way to connect the Kindle Fire to the television. Users with game consoles and, yes, Roku boxes, can already get the ever-expanding Amazon Instant catalog on their televisions, but Amazon may want to offer a more direct link.

Finally, others are reporting that Amazon will release a smartphone alongside a new Kindle Fire. The Verge reported that Amazon is working on a smartphone and that it could be announced at its Thursday event. The phone, the report said, will work off the same proprietary Android system as the Kindle Fire.

The blog also reported that Amazon will be releasing a new e-ink reader called the Paperwhite at the event. Last year, the company introduced new e-readers at the Kindle Fire event ahead of the big reveal. The Paperwhite, the report said, could have a backlit display similar to the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.

Related stories:

Amazon’s deal with EPIX adds heat to tablet wars

Apple’s iPhone, plus reveals from Nokia, Motorola, Amazon, HTC coming this month

Fire’s gone out: Amazon says Kindle Fire is sold out

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