The Amazon Tablet: A Brief Guide of What We Know So Far

The Wall Street Journal (“Amazon to Battle Apple iPad With Tablet”) brings news that an Amazon tablet could be coming as soon as October of this year. Rumors of an Amazon tablet have been ongoing for quite some time (for just one variation upon the same theme, The New York Times: “On the Lookout for an Amazon Tablet”).

WSJ takes the opportunity of this news for some reflections on the complicated relationship between Amazon and Apple, which only looks to become more competitive going forward: “Amazon and Apple are frenemies” — both friends and enemies — said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst. They “rely on each other as partners” — Amazon, for example, sells digital books via its Kindle app in Apple’s iTunes Store — but “at the same time, they aggressively compete for customers’ attention and dollars,”

The most interesting questions revolve upon two main issues: what will an Amazon tablet do? How much will it cost? Click here for more from Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, who provided some well-thought out reasons on how and why an Amazon tablet could compete with Apple’s iPad.

This is the first time we’ve seen fairly concrete details about the new Amazon device, hence the news. From WSJ:

“Amazon’s tablet will have a roughly nine-inch screen and will run on Google’s Android platform, said people familiar with the device. Unlike the iPad, it won’t have a camera, one of these people said. While the pricing and distribution of the device is unclear, the online retailer won’t design the initial tablet itself.”

And keep in mind that Amazon does have its own Android App Store. On that topic and more, Engadget dares to “over-specunosticate”with some useful, in-depth thoughts on how the Amazon tablet might shape up (“What the Amazon Kindle Tablet Might Be Like”).

Personally, I like the Kindle because I like it as a reading device. So, one of the more pressing questions is what effect an Amazon tablet might have on the Kindle, the company’s bestselling product. Would people buy both a Kindle and a tablet? What would the differentiation be between a Kindle and an Amazon tablet? Would people be interested in owning both? Also tucked away towards the end of that same WSJ article is further confirmation of a touch screen Kindle due out later this year. That’ll make for some interesting revisiting of this topic we looked at a few weeks ago.

If I could contribute my own rampant speculation, I could see Amazon making a move similar to the strategy they had used with ebooks and the Kindle, in which the company took a loss on each book sale, in order to stimulate interest in then-still-new device by offering an attractive price point. Conversely, perhaps the Amazon tablet itself could be sold below cost, and the company elects to make up the difference selling the rest of their digital content such as books, movies, music, etc. (For those that are interested, Ken Aulettta had a good breakdown on the ebook pricing wars in The New Yorker: “Publish or PerishCan the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?”).

The New York Times has some interesting background on the decision for Amazon to go with a Kindle vs. Android platform for an Amazon tablet device (“Amazon’s Tough Decisions on Its Android Tablet”). Would consumers and developers tolerate yet another app ecosystem? Based on the experience from HP and Blackberry, the answers seems to be ‘no.’ And, further on the need for the tablet device: “If the Kindle wants to compete with Apple and its highly popular iPad, Amazon realized that it needed to offer services and products beyond just video, music and books. It also has to give customers access to games, social applications and other third party products.

PCWorld (“Amazon Tablet: Why it’s a Big Deal”) has a good rundown of the main questions surrounding an Amazon tablet: The Content Problem; The Price Problem; The Android Problem; and The iPad Problem.

Much can happen between now and October, the Amazon tablet’s speculated released date. A lot of it is based on rumor, hearsay, and conjecture — but hey, that still counts as news nowadays, right?

Update: And, the Wall Street Journal has another good one (with the caveat that this is all heavily based upon speculation): “Should You Wait for the Amazon Tablet?

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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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