(Armed with cloud) Amazon’s Silk joins the browser wars

At its highly anticipated Kindle Fire launch, Amazon also took the wraps off its own browser, Amazon Silk, which relies both on the Kindle Fire end point and Amazon’s (s AMZN) EC2 cloud to promise a much faster user experience.

What Amazon can bring to the party is its huge Amazon Web Services infrastructure to do the heavy lifting.

“The biggest differentiator for our browser is the fact that it’s split between what runs on your device and what runs in our cloud,” said Peter Vosshall, an Amazon distinguished engineer, on the video announcing Silk.

The Kindle Fire acts as a small store for commonly used files, but “we’ve extended that with the Amazon computing cloud to offer a virtually limitless cache for the common files images, cascading style sheets, JavaScripts that are used to render the web pages you use every day . . . that’s all atop Amazon computing utility systems so it doesn’t take a single byte of storage from the device itself,” Joe Jenkins, the director of software development for Amazon Silk, said on the video.

Silk also reads a user’s mind, anticipating from “aggregate usage data” what page someone is likely to click on next, and it starts the download accordingly.

Small tablet devices were not built to crunch massive numbers, but Amazon says if they are coupled with cloud-based services, things get interesting. “If you add the capabilities of our cloud services — EC2 instances with 68 gigs of RAM, 8 cores, just sitting on this massive optical network, you can take the work off and still get that great form factor and experience of the Kindle Fire but with all this power behind it,” said Brett Taylor, the principal product manager for Silk.

Not everyone is buying that the split browser technology is really unique to Amazon, however. Several commenters on Amazon’s YouTube announcement said that Opera has had similar capabilities for some time, although Opera doesn’t have a humongous Amazon-like backend infrastructure at its disposal.

Amazon Silk is available only for the Kindle Fire.