Amazon today announced that its new $199 Kindle Fire, which will go on sale next week, will feature apps from Facebook, Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora and Zynga. Several thousand more apps will follow next week. Until now, there really wasn’t much of a market for tablets, there was really only a market for the iPad. Clearly, that’s changing very quickly, though. With Amazon and Barnes & Noble getting into the market, their cheaper (and smaller) tablets could hurt Apple’s position as the dominant tablet player.

While Samsung, Acer, Blackberry, Toshiba and all the other manufacturers weren’t able to sell any appreciable numbers of their tablets, things are finally looking up for Android tablets – though none of the current manufacturers are likely to play a major role during this year’s holiday season.

Just two years ago, it didn’t seem as if consumers would ever warm up to tablets, but Apple clearly showed that there is a lot of interest in these devices. With the backing of major brands like Amazon and B&N, the $199 Fire and $249 Nook Android tablets now stand a chance to challenge Apple’s early lead. The new tablets are, after all, significantly cheaper than Apple’s iPad 2. More importantly, though, the fact that there is already an existing software ecosystem for these new tablets out there will give shoppers the confidence that they aren’t losing much by choosing Amazon or B&N over Apple.

iPadVsAndroidTablet69% of Holiday Shoppers are Interested in Buying a Tablet this Year – And They are Considering the Small Android Tablets

According to a new study by consumer electronics review site Retrevo.com, 69% of U.S. consumers are interested in buying a tablet this holiday season (or are at least interested in learning more about them). Out of these, 44% would consider a 7” Android tablet and another 44% say they don’t know enough about Amazon’s tablet to make a decision yet. The Nook tablet was announced after this study ended, but chances are there will be similar interested in it as well.

In Retrevo’s study, slightly more respondents said they are planning to buy a Kindle Fire over the iPad (12% vs. 10%). That’s all very much within the margin of error and when it comes to making an actual purchase, these intentions often count for very little.

One interesting sidenote: a third of respondents in the Retrevo study thought the Kindle Fire was just another eReader from Amazon.

Given these numbers, I think Apple will have another great season for the iPad, but the cheaper, smaller Android tablets now stand a chance to take a major bite out of Apple’s market. Consumers who wouldn’t have considered a Samsung tablet will likely take a close look at the Fire or Nook tablets now and may just opt for these instead of paying more for an iPad.