Amazon’s New Kindle Tablet – An iPad for the Rest of Us?

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The forthcoming Amazon tablet is now officially leaked thanks to MG Siegler’s (TechCrunch) hand’s-on look at the device. It’s going to be a 7-inch color touch-screen with no physical buttons running Android…well, sort of. Amazon has elected to use a version of Android prior to 2.2 (Most new Android-based tablets are running 3.2 or the soon to be release 4.x) as the base and then created an entirely new interface completely integrated with Amazon’s own apps like Kindle Reader, MP3 Cloud Player, Amazon Instant Videos, Amazon’s Store, Amazon Appstore, etc.  From what I’ve read none of the Google-supplied Apps will be on the device. Whether the browser supplied on the device will run Adobe’s Flash content remains to be seen. If you want more technical details take a hop over to Mr. Siegler’s article.

It appears that Amazon is creating a device much like Apple’s iPad, with three key differences; size, price and, most importantly, content provider.

The new Amazon Kindle will be substantially smaller than the iPad and while we don’t have the actual weight yet it will most likely be considerably lighter. That’s wonderful for portability and for reading books and listening to music, but may not be that great when it comes to watching videos.

Amazon is reportedly going to sell the tablet for around $250 and include a no-additional-charge subscription to Amazon Prime service (It’s unclear if there will be a renewal fee or not). Prime normally costs $79 a year and grants subscribers no-charge 2-day shipping on many items and a “Netflix-like” library of instant-watch content.  While the Prime instant watch library isn’t huge it has been growing and with the Netflix/Starz breakup could end up being close in the number of titles available.

The third key difference between the new Amazon tablet and actually the whole family of iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad) is also their closest similarity. When the iPad was launched it was labeled as a “content consumption device”, more specifically an Apple provided content consumption device. While possible, Apple makes it difficult to load outside content on its devices much preferring you buy your music, videos, games, apps and books all through Apple-branded stores provided on the device.  All of these Apple stores produce revenue for Apple. Apple went so far as to forbid Amazon and others from having links to their own stores in apps running on iOS devices.

Amazon is going down the same path, but at a lower price and throw-in a fair amount of video content at no additional charge to boot. It will be interesting to see if the Amazon Appstore will allow for the distribution of the Barnes & Noble Nook reader with its store built-in (Presently it’s only available through the Google Market which will not be included in the Android Kindle tablet.)

This is why I wouldn’t call what Amazon is releasing just another Android tablet. It has little to do with Android, screen size, CPU speeds and all the other techno stuff that the other tablet manufacturers seem to be playing up. It’s also decidedly not directed at the devices like the slightly smaller Samsung Note that are directed more at productivity. In many ways the new Kindle tablet more closely resembles a large iPad Touch, or a game console for adults. It will be sold at a low price, perhaps at or below cost and then create multiple locked-in revenue streams for Amazon.  Amazon is not competing with the iPad they’re competing with what many call the Apple eco-system.

But wait…there’s more! (And you thought Billy Mays was gone), Amazon has not only created a real competitor for Apple, but has taken a nice shot at going after Amazon’s other large rival, Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart? Yes, Wal-Mart. Amazon still makes the vast majority of its revenue by selling and shipping products to customers. Their chief competition has always been the “Walton family’s businesses”. People still prefer to buy from retail stores because they don’t have to deal with the time or cost of delivery.

Remember the first benefit to an Amazon Prime subscription?  Yep, Amazon may end up with millions of people with access to a prominently featured Amazon Store App as well as no-additional charge 2-day shipping. Couple that with Amazon’s ability to avoid charging sales tax in a great many states and they may take  sales away from their very large, brick and mortar competitor.  A percentage point or two increase in sales in a market that size is big, big money.

So, while the technology fans are going to talk about a fork in Android development and the ramifications of fragmentation I believe this is far bigger than a technical issue. Amazon is  going to be the first tablet to truly go after what Apple created and at the same time potentially reap some rewards in their core business as well.

Is this an iPad killer? No, I don’t believe so. I do think that over time we’ll see Apple’s market share shrink, but as Steve Jobs once said about the Macintosh, “Apple’s market share is bigger than BMW’s or Mercedes’s or Porsche’s in the automotive market. What’s wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?” Absolutely nothing, Steve, and it now appears we’re going to have Amazon attempting to play the role of  Toyota.

I am excited about the new Kindle, but I’m hoping they don’t stop developing the pure reader devices. I like tablets, but when it comes to reading books (a small percentage of the content marketplace) I really appreciate the much-easier-on-the-eyes e-ink displays.

19 thoughts on “Amazon’s New Kindle Tablet – An iPad for the Rest of Us?”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Why compare this tablet to the iPad 2, which it’s nothing like, and not the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which it’s almost exactly like?

    Same form factor.
    Forked Android with custom interface.
    Tied to proprietary services and apps.
    $250 price tag.
    Same general performance level and limitations.

    Comparing these things to the iPad is lazy writing.

  3. OMG, why are you still hyping this device, didn’t you read the report?

    Amazon dropped the ball, the fell down, they are face down in the dirt – and you are still cheering.

    Hello – reality calling – wake up.

  4. Really excited by the reports on the new AmazonKindle/Tablet! However, I have to agree, that we don’t won’t to lose the e-reader version! I would keep my Kindle e-reader for books and the tablet, for newspapers and magazines etc…

  5. @rdclark, If you look at how B&N positions the Color Nook it really isn’t comparable. Yes, I know you can root it to get a more full-featured Android experience, but that’s not something many will do. B&N created an e-reader that does a bit more and runs some Android apps. Amazon is creating something that will do most of what the iPad2 does…and most importantly to them does it with all of Amazon’s content.
    Since we don’t know much about the technology inside the new Kindle yet as Amazon hasn’t released a spec sheet nor a finished device for review it’s hard to compare.
    There are rumors that B&N will be launching the Nook Color 2 shortly…and its supposed to have similar capabilities to the new Kindle. I’m looking forward to seeing it as well…although I’m not sure how they’ll counter Amazon including Prime in the deal…if that’s what happens.

    @Robert – which report are you speaking about? What part of my article wasn’t realistic? I didn’t think I was hyping the new tablet although I am looking forward to seeing it just as I am most new technology especially mobile devices.
    I should be clear that I don’t own Amazon stock nor do I have any financial interest in the company. I don’t wear Jeff Bezos boxers, but I have been purchasing books and other items from them since 1996. The only discount they give me is 15% off for repeat orders on Pull-Ups for my son.

  6. @Chris, I’m thinking that Amazon is waiting on the next leap in e-ink technology before we see a true new model. It wouldn’t shock me if they do a refresh on the Kindle 3 though in the meantime.

  7. Anyone who actually read and comprehended the TechCrunch article knows that thi is a tablet whose purpose is to consume Amazon content and nothing more. Its obviously not a general purpose tablet and obviously not a competitor to the iPad. Amazon wants no part of that market, They only want to sell there content.

    Putting that in the title is just linkbait. I’ve been reading gadgeteer for a really long time but all these silly articles and half-baked reviews have convinced me its time to dump it from my RSS reader.

  8. @Darwin I guess you don’t believe the new Kindle will be any kind of competitor for the iPad. I disagree. The iPad is an Apple content selling device the Kindle is an Amazon content selling device. They both will run preapproved 3rd-party apps. What do you think the majority of people are doing with iPads? They’re reading email, reading websites, using facebook and Twitter, watching some videos and playing games. Which one of those functions won’t the Kindle handle?
    The iPad is going to end up costing roughly 2 – 3 times the price of the Kindle and will also be a nicer, faster piece of hardware. Some will choose the iPad, if Amazon executes what I think they’re going to do…many, potentially more than the iPad will buy the Kindle tablet especially if they can get the price to around $199.
    Apple will still sell a lot of phones, tablets and make a lot of money…Amazon will continue to sell a lot of everything.

    I wrote the headline for this piece…not to grab attention, but because I thought it matched the conten of the article.

  9. I am getting tired of people bickering over Apple vs Them. For me, IPad is jumbo size IPod Touch which I have been using past 3 yrs.(yes, it is 2nd gen and I don’t jump over every generation Apple pump up every year. I love my Ipod touch.). HP Touchpad fiasco proved that there are certain price point mass would accept for what is worth. People paid $499 base for IPad since they wanted it and Apple is good at that. I use both PC and Apple for my need. But it is sort of irritating to see Apple loyalists relentlessly attacking any other tablets or platforms. Please, chill out. Let’s enjoy advancement of technologies. I’ve been using PDAs predating Palm Pilot and it has been fun to see how it has been evolving.

  10. Anyone not seeing the POTENTIAL competition to the iPad is not remembering the initial iPhone rollout. No apps, very poor implementation of just about everything. What got people was the POTENTIAL. Now, giving a device poor specs can really kill it all, but we’ll just have to see what happens. I use my iPad about 80% of the time for web browsing. Webkit based browsers don’t ALWAYS need a huge amount of processing power behind them to be solid.

    I say it will sell like hotcakes, just as the kindle has (though not as much as fast), and will grow over the next iteration or two into the device that MOST people need when they think they need an iPad. At 7″, it is NOT going to be the same experience as an iPad, but it’s going to be good.

    Best of luck to them. We need it to sell amazongly (ha!) well, and really cut into Apple’s market share, at least for second devices in the home. Anything that can kick Apple in the pants will be great for EVERYONE. I LOVE my iPad and nothing is going to replace it any time soon, we just need some competition and that’s something that’s been short on the ground thus far. GO AMAZON! Make Apple make even better products 🙂

    I’m buying one at launch.

  11. Contrary to some strong opinions, I believe the title “An iPad for the Rest of Us?” fits perfectly with the Amazon Kindle. What does this mean? The Kindle tablet really is basically a poor man’s iPad. While I would love to own an iPad, in reality I’d much prefer to buy the Amazon Kindle and save hundreds, especially because I already have an Amazon account.

    Seriously, what can an iPad do that you won’t be able to do on the Kindle tablet? Angry Birds? You can install it from the Amazon Appstore. Garage Band? It’s all right, I won’t be making music on a tablet. It’s a freaking tablet, come on — it’s not like you’re going to be doing 3D modeling on it. The Amazon Kindle tablet is meant mainly for media consumption: reading, watching movies, listening to some tunes, some casual gaming, surfing the net. This is what I expect from a tablet; anything more then I’ll break out my keyboard-equipped laptop.

    I predict the Amazon Kindle tablet is going to sideline the Nook Color and most other Android tablets because Amazon is the only player that can match Apple’s secret recipe: a complete ecosystem. Let’s quickly run through them…

    – App store? Check.
    – Music store? Check.
    – Movies on demand? Check.
    – Ebooks store? Big check!
    – Magazine subscriptions? Check.
    – Cloud storage? Check, and Amazon has the edge here since they are one of the first movers in this field with EC2.
    – One account to buy them all? Check, and may be even simpler than Apple’s purchase process since Amazon, for better or worse, owns the “one click” patent.

    Amazon also has one dark horse that probably keeps even Apple up at night: With 130 million members and quickly counting worldwide, all Amazon has to do is replace the Kindle e-reader that’s currently splattered all over the home page with the Kindle tablet and it will just sell itself. There are rumors that Amazon will ship every Kindle tablet with your online store account already linked and ready to make purchases out of the box; if this holds true, it would be a genius move that should strike fear and loathing — and even an anti-trade lawsuit or two — among other industry players. And when you throw in the free Amazon Prime membership with its free 2-day shipping and movie streaming (among other perks), then it’s not even fair anymore.

    Oh wait, let’s not forget the price: $249. Amazon will be making a loss with every Kindle tablet sold, but will be reaping millions from content purchases and increased number of one-click orders made from said tablets.

    For those who asked whether the author has read “the report”; well, I implore y’all to read this report:

    DISCLAIMER: I do _not_ own a Kindle e-reader or Amazon stock, though I am in the market for a Kindle 3. I currently use an iPhone 4 that is company issued, but I own or have used GRiDPAD, Newton 2100, GEOS (HP OmniGo 120), Palm, Psion, Symbian, WinCE, WM6, Linux (PepperPad 3) and Android mobile devices in the past (i.e., I’m platform agnostic).

  12. Actually the Amazon Prime service will be the killer App in and of itself! I understand what the author is saying. There is great potential in this device for it to take on Apple marketing; notice I didn’t say iPad 🙂
    I am a PC not a Mac guy but I do love my iPod Touch. I also have an iPad but I find it too bulky and expensive to throw in my backpack on my way out the door. My iPod Touch goes everywhere I go. An Amazon 7″ tablet with Prime I might consider because I’m always shopping at Amazon and right now am looking for a Netflix replacement. But the Amazon Tablet won’t replace my iPod Touch! I will fight to the death before I let it go and then they’ll have to pry it out of my clinched bloody hands breaking finger by finger to get at it 😛

  13. FWIW Amazon was already doing the “ships with your account enabled and ready to make purchases out of the box” thing with the very first Kindle. It’s a small thing, but surprisingly impressive when you turn it on and it’s ready to go, and immediately starts downloading the stuff you bought while you were waiting for the device to show up…

    (Personally I am not all that interested in the smaller Amazon tablet though… I prefer e-ink for reading, and I have a 10″ tablet to use for PDFs and such as well. I’ll be very interested to see what they do next year with the rumored large tablet though…)

  14. Once again I’m amazed by the US-Centric analysis of the tech world.
    Amazon Prime is only available in countries that have Amazon stores, and it doesn’t apply to International shipping. For those of us in “the rest of the world” this will be little more than a cheap Android tablet, with hugely restrictive software. Availablility of books, music, video etc is all restricted by region thanks to deals with local publishers/broadcasters/studios. Apple has managed to bully most of these into granting them rights but Amazon has not been nearly so succesful (Aus Kindle store has less than 1/10th the number of ebooks as the US Kindle store). What use is an Amazon tablet, restricted to Amazon apps going to be when most of these apps provide only limited or no functionality in my region?

  15. @Rob, The difference is this Kindle tablet isn’t just about books…it’s going to come ready to buy everything. Amazon is currently working on a new design for their website that is leaked to be tablet optimized. I wonder if Amazon should call this new device a Kindle…or something else.

  16. I already own both the kindle 3 and the nook color. I LOVE my kindle, but am not satisfied with the NC for several reasons. With the NC you MUST buy your apps from BN. BN charges for the same apps I get free for my phone from Amazon app store! BN also does not have the variety of apps already available from amazon. NOok has a lot of issues, first is a faulty charger, which rumor has it they are redesigning due to high numbers of breakage and a few fires! Nook has update problems with every update for every nook version! My kindle has always updated seamlessly. Nook also offers no support and no refunds for apps that do not work! Finally the big nook killer is a design flaw in the hard drive of the NC. it can not handle many apps before you get a low memory error despite having several GB available. The only fix BN has come up with is to take your NC to BN store and have them repartition the hard drive. This will only leave 1gb available and showing for books. You will then have no idea how much memory is left until you fill it! Nook color as an ereader fails due to the weight alone. As a tablet it didn’t live up to its reputation! Personally I don’t like reading on back lit anyway but I would buy the amazon tablet just for use as a tablet!

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