The Amazon Tablet



There is something fun about speculating and guessing. It’s part wish-list and part wild guess, and it’s fun to see how things actually turn out. And so, in the spirit of enjoyable speculation, here are my thoughts on the Amazon Tablet.

Right now there seems to be three potential concepts for what this rumored Kindle Tablet will be:

  1. A full-fledged tablet, powered by Android and with an LCD screen and glass display. (Basically Amazon’s entry to the tablet market.)

  2. An improved version of the current Kindle: one with no physical keyboard, a touch-sensitive black & white, e-ink display. (Basically Amazon’s version of the Nook Simple Touch.)

  3. Something in the middle. Like option number 2 but with color e-ink.

As someone who owns an iPad already, option 3 sounds the most appealing to me. A device like this would have all the advantages of the current Kindle (such as its light weight, low price, long battery, and great use as a reading device), plus some new advantages (such as color display and no keyboard). However, as Marco points out, the cost of color e-ink is still very high and its response time on a display is still very laggy. In short, color e-ink is still too expensive and poor in performance for a Kindle. So option 3 is likely out.

Marco is convinced option 1 is what it will be. And, while I think it is very likely that we’ll see a full-fledged tabled device with Amazon’s name on it, I have a hard time seeing it as being interesting at all.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t sell well. Again, Marco:

If Amazon can deliver a $249 tablet that does a serviceable job for reading books, browsing some top newspapers and magazines, watching movies and TV shows, and playing some casual games, that’s going to be very attractive to a lot of people.

We know for sure that the Amazon Tablet will have at least two things going for it:

  • The Amazon brand and ecosystem: which is strong, has a great reputation, and people love their Amazon Kindles. Regardless of the details about what the device looks like, how much it costs, etc., Amazon is one of a few tech companies with a household name and a positive reputation.

  • The Price: Every rumor and speculation I’ve heard has pegged the Kindle Tablet as being somewhere around $250 or less.

Perhaps it will be cheaper than an iPad, and perhaps it will be better than all the other me-too Android tablets out there. But I simply cannot imagine what would be compelling about a full-fledged Amazon tablet, powered by Android, other than the fact it would be cheap and carry the Amazon brand and ecosystem.

If Amazon is going to make an inexpensive device that is backed by their brand and ecosystem, then why not make a better Kindle rather than a crappy tablet? Is the Kindle market saturated? Are they trying to increase the perceived value of the Kindle by making a secondary, more expensive device?

However, if the full-fledged tablet idea is not true, and they are just going to make a better Kindle then why did they set up the Amazon Appstore?

Here’s a thought: what if the there are two future Kindles: something like a Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch HD.

Or, put another way, what if Amazon shipped both option 1 and option 2 above?

The Kindle Touch (option 2 above) would be black and white e-ink technology, no keyboard, and a touchscreen. The Kindle Touch HD (option 1 above) is the full-fledged tablet device.

And if the Kindle Touch HD were a 7-inch tablet, then that would help make it lighter and easier to hold (one of the biggest strengths of the Kindle and biggest complaints against the iPad as a reading device).

But what about the Retina Display iPad?

There is another elephant standing just outside the room: the iPad 3. An iPad with a Retina Display is Apple’s answer to the Kindle.

If and when the next iPad ships with its Retina Display, it will obviate the need for a “better” dedicated reading device in the minds of many consumers. Amazon doesn’t need another me-too tablet. They need something that pulls on all the strengths they already have: the high readability of e-ink, a low price, lightweight, a huge ecosystem, and a strong brand. If not that, then what?