The 6.2.1 operating system update on my Kindle Fire showed up this morning. Adding to  recent updates of  individual apps, the harshest complaints waged about this hot new  bargain tablet have  now been addressed. But look out, Amazon.  New competition is warming up in the bullpen - from the likes of Archos, for sure, and maybe even Apple.

Fire Fixes: Rolling out gradually (and automatically) to Kindle Fire owners, the most important aspect of the OS upgrade  may be the new password protection option - accessed by tapping  on the settings wheel (found in the top right corner of the screen.)  So now you can restrict on-line access and the "one-click-buy" feature which kids have been  using to buy lotsa games and such on the family's  Fire when parental units weren't watching.

The new OS also stabilizes the spinning carousel of apps at the top of the home screen and lets a user shift around the lower display of  favoriites to fit your needs.

Several individual apps  delivering internet radio streams,  TV and movies have also been updated. Now the settings wheel  necessary for adjusting volume is always accessible.

Friendly Fire: Next month's CES will be awash in new tablet announcements. Jumping the gun, Archos is sharing news in today's Consumer Electronics Daily of its own $199, 7-inch tablet competitor to the  Kindle Fire, boasting several improvements on the species.

For starters, instead of running Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread") like the Fire does, the new Archos tablet will feature Android 3.0 ("Honeycomb.") Also to be addressed, says Archos' director of marketing Craig TerBlanche, are Fire shortcomings of "no expandable storage, no HD video playback, no camera, no microphone and no HDMI out, so you can't port it to a TV." The new competitor also will boast full access to the Android Market and to Google Apps including Gmail, Google Doc and Google Talk. Oh, and get this - Archos has even alligned with Amazon to put the latter's music, Kindle books and movie stores on its tab. Go figure.

Of course, by the time Archos brings this product to market, Amazon could have a second generation Kindle Fire ready.

There's also been buzz - from the sometimes reliable Asian trade publication DigiTimes - that Apple will address the smaller tablet market in Q4 2012 with a 7.85-inch screened device. This, in addition to the  higher resolution (2048 x1536 pixel),  conventionally sized next-gen iPad which  could debut as soon as February according to DigitTimes "supply channel sources."