NEW YORK (AP) -- Amazon's much-anticipated challenge to the iPad began Monday as the Kindle Fire tablet computer became available in the U.S.
The Fire is about half the size of the iPad and is less than half the price. Amazon is offering the Kindle Fire for $199. The bare-bones iPad sells for $499, the most expensive for $829.
With the Fire, the Kindle becomes much more than an e-book reader. The Fire connects to the Web, streams movies and TV, displays comic books and supports thousands of apps, including ones for Hulu and Netflix. It does email, and you can play games on it.
The Fire doesn't have the ability to use cellular networks, as some monochrome Kindle models do. The Fire accesses the Internet through Wi-Fi.
Amazon began shipping the device Monday, a day ahead of schedule.
Apple Inc.'s iPad won't be the Fire's only competition this holiday season. Barnes & Noble Inc.'s $249 Nook Tablet goes on sale Friday.
In challenging the iPad, Amazon.com Inc. is hoping that it will succeed where other companies have failed because the Fire is designed to tap into the company's massive storehouse of media content. Amazon, which is based in Seattle, sells more than 1 million e-books, 100,000 movies and TV shows, and 17 million songs.
Amazon does not disclose the number of Kindles it sold, but CEO Jeff Bezos has said that advance orders for the Fire are so high that Amazon is making "millions more" than it had intended.
Amazon has other Kindle models coming.
The Kindle Touch, which has a monochrome, touch-sensitive screen and is designed just for reading, is available starting Tuesday, six days earlier than previously announced. The basic model costs $99, and a version that connects to cellular networks sells for $149.
Amazon's stock increased $3.20, or 1.5 percent, to $220.59 in morning trading Monday. Apple's stock fell 39 cents to $384.23, and Barnes & Noble's fell 24 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $15.53.