Rumours of an Amazon Android-based tablet, possibly called Kindle Air, have been circulating for a while, but on Sep. 23, 2011, UK newspaper The Guardian further fanned the flames of speculation by reporting on a press conference scheduled in New York on 28 Sep.
The subject of Wednesday’s press conference, organised by Amazon, is widely believed to the imminent launch of an Android-based tablet which could, given the way in which Amazon has dominated the e-book market with its Kindle, become a serious rival to Apple’s iPad.
A few details have leaked to the press, and informed speculation has done the rest to build up a fairly concrete picture of what the Kindle Air will be like. A seven inch touchscreen and a special Amazon version of Google’s Android operating system are expected, as well as a heavy emphasis on cloud-based data storage and apps.
A recent report on Techcrunch suggested the new tablet Kindle would be in full colour (a departure from the mono display of the current generation of Kindle devices) and cost around $250, undercutting the iPad by a considerable margin. Analysts have suggested this price estimate is plausible, given the way in which Amazon deliberately priced the Kindle low in order to gain traction with a reading public not used to e-book reading. It also suggests that Amazon’s strategy is to use the tablet as a portal for users to buy their services from an app and content marketplace, rather than aiming to make money from the hardware itself.
So if Amazon are planning on using the tablet as more of a marketing tool than a product, they will need to shift a lot of units, and the Guardian quotes an analyst who suggested an Amazon ‘game changer’ tablet could sell three million in a year.
Apple will be nervous of an Amazon tablet because of the popularity of the Amazon brand and the Kindle as well as the movie and music services Amazon sells. Amazon will not just be competing on a hardware level with the iPad, but on a content level with iTunes. With Apple focusing on the upcoming release of the iPhone 5 at present, Amazon have an opportunity to make serious headway in the tablet market.
Such competition can only be a good thing for the consumer. Apple have made the tablet market their own, with other companies’ flagship products, such as the Motorola Xoom, failing to gain a foothold. Prices have been high, with tablets selling for much more than netbooks and even many laptop computers. Some healthy competition will drive innovation in the tablet market, and hopefully exert some downward pressure on prices, so that tablet computing can move from being a lifestyle accessory and reach the mass market.
Many in the industry will be eagerly awaiting the results of Amazon’s press conference in New York next week.