There have been a lots of theories, rumors, and “leaked” information floating around for the past couple months about what we all assume will be the new Kindle Tablet (or Tablets) later this year. Lately, even the Wall Street Journal has printed a few bits of information coming from a “reliable source”. It all adds up to a potentially impressive picture that a lot of us are looking forward to. I thought, as a result, that it might be useful to go over what we think we know so far.
- Reports from various sources say that at least one Kindle Tablet, almost certainly the first of a series, will be released before the end of the year. Possibly as early as October.
- The Kindle Tablet will not compete with the Kindle, or result in its being discontinued.
- The new Tablet PC will be running some variation of Google’s Android 3.0 or later, with seamless integration into Amazon’s Android App Store.
- The focus will be on media consumption, with streaming video being strongly emphasized
- The first Kindle Tablet will likely have a 9″ screen.
- Prices on any and all Tablet PC offerings from Amazon are expected to undercut iPad 2 prices.
- The initial stock order is sufficiently large that selling out should not be a problem.
- There will be no camera.
- An improved mobile shopping experience will be a major issue for Amazon’s new device.
- Some sources have claimed that two Kindle Tablet models will be available at launch, codenamed ‘Coyote’ and ‘Hollywood’. The former would be a low powered, but affordable option with either a 7″ or 9″ screen. The latter would feature more impressive hardware and a 10+” screen.
- In order to fill as many niches as possible, Amazon plans to offer pocket-sized devices similar to the iPod Touch eventually, and maybe even a Kindle Phone.
- The Kindle Tablet could be priced at or below cost in order to bolster sales, with any deficiencies made up through advertising space on the Tablets themselves.
- Amazon may have some deals in the works with AT&T to provide 3G connections to the Tablets.
- It is hoped that the displays for the Kindle Tablet line will take advantage of newer, more power conserving technology, based on Amazon’s criticisms of LCD shortcomings in previous ad campaigns.
A fair amount to go on so far, especially since Amazon has declined to even officially confirm the existence of the new device. The only things we can be completely sure of are that Amazon has a Tablet PC in the works, they are anticipating strong sales based on manufacturer information, and it is unlikely that the Nook Color is the intended competition. Amazon seems to have their sights set a little higher than Barnes & Noble’s almost unintentionally impressive budget Tablet.
Given that some rumors place the announcement and release as early as August, and that almost all of the more well sourced ones mention 3rd quarter 2011, it is certain that we’ll know more definite details soon. In the meantime, it might be a good time to hold off on impulsively buying the next cool looking Tablet on the market. Amazon has done a pretty good job of proving they know what they’re doing via the Kindle. It should be worth the wait to see how they hold up on their next big hardware push.
It is not surprising to see me claiming that the Kindle is a great product, nor that the Kindle Tablet line is likely to be impressive. The former point is by now, I think, borne out as more than simply personal bias. The latter, while possibly wishful thinking given the lack of official detail so far, is based on a few points that seem to make sense to me. I’ll admit right at the outset that I’m not a market analyst, product tester, or specialist of any really useful sort when it comes to these things. I still just think that it makes a lot of sense.
The most important point that I see in favor of Amazon’s potential success is the marketing. So far, nobody has even come close to marketing a tablet as heavily as the iPad has been by Apple. On the occasions when you see much at all from the competition, they tend to be focusing on specific points of technical superiority. As far as I can tell, the average consumer is less concerned with what goes on behind the scenes than anything else about their device. That’s where Apple has managed to do so well up until now. They make a point of providing devices that “just work” without any knowledge or skill necessary. Amazon, along the same lines, has demonstrated well by now that they know how to point out what their potential customers might want to know without getting too technical.
The same basic theory applies to the product itself. Yes, there are some customers who will undoubtedly want to make use of the configurability that an Android Tablet provides to get the most out of every bit of potential the hardware has to offer. What will make the Kindle Tablet stand out, however, is a clean, understandable, and heavily supported user experience that any customer can pick up in no time at all. Whether or not existing tablets offer this, and some do to at least some extent, this is something that Amazon is known to do well based on both the Kindle as we know it today and the Amazon.com site as a whole.
I’m also hoping, of course, that they choose to make a big deal out of screen technology. Now, I love the iPad. I find all sorts of uses for it. The LCD screen is, in my personal opinion, its weakest point. If Amazon can release a Kindle Tablet with an optionally back-lit screen, not only should battery life make them stand out impressively, but general use will improve to the point where people cannot help but take notice. Now, we can’t know for sure that this will happen, but after having an entire ad campaign devoted to pointing out the shortcomings of the iPad’s LCD screen, I think it is fairly inevitable.
All of this makes the assumption, of course, that Amazon will be able to undercut Apple on tablet pricing. At present, Kindle Tablet pricing is estimated to be around $399 at launch. This would give them a jump on the iPad even with an underpowered device. Look how well the Nook Color did even before B&N realized that it didn’t work as just a dedicated eReader.
As many of you may be aware, the deadline for app developers to comply with Apple’s new competition stifling rules is the end of this month. So far, no changes are evident in either the Amazon Kindle for iOS app or even the Barnes & Noble Nook app. While it would seem odd for this to be the case this close to the deadline, I’m thinking it might be a carefully made decision on Amazon’s part.
We know by now, or at least are overwhelmingly confident, that there will be a Kindle Tablet coming later this year. By releasing something like that, Amazon sets themselves up for a far more justified version of the old Kindle vs iPad debate. They need to set themselves apart as a device company. The way I see it, Android isn’t enough at this point. Too many other people are already working with it. Even having their own on-site app store won’t necessarily wow anybody. Some good publicity would help though.
Assume for a moment that the Kindle for iOS app doesn’t get changed in any way before the June 30th deadline. Apple will then have two choices. They can either follow through on threats to remove apps in violation of the new rules or they can publicly admit that they need what these developers bring to the table. I think it’s likely that banning will occur.
Amazon’s response to this, if planned correctly, could be huge publicity. I would expect something along the lines of a public statement explaining that the Kindle Store simply cannot productively operate under the restrictions that Apple is trying to place on it, but that as a service to their loyal customers the app will be chopped down to comply with the new rules enough so that existing customers can still read what they’ve bought while Amazon examines other solutions. Then, a month or two down the line, a full roll-out of Kindle for the Web that completely bypasses the need for apps.
Yes, under the new rules Amazon could just raise prices of in-app purchases to make up the margin that Apple is demanding. This would bring them nothing but ill will from the average Kindle for iOS user, though. With the new line of Kindle Tablets pending, these are the same customers that Amazon has to be hoping to win away. Probably not the smartest thing to pass on fees to them.
They could also choose to simply announce that all purchases must be done on the website and do away with the in-app purchasing links. I think that’s probably what will happen with the post-banning reboot of the app, should my scenario prove true, but it would cause the loss of impulse buying opportunity for a large portion of the Kindle user base without also providing any sort of good PR. I just don’t see that making sense right now.
We’ll know by the end of the month, of course, but right now there hasn’t been any intention to comply expressed by Amazon. Most likely, they’ll just stand by and watch Apple shoot themselves in the foot while pointing out that the Kindle makes a great, affordable eReader alternative to putting up with that sort of ridiculousness. The Kindle for iOS app doesn’t seem likely to be as profitable for the company under the new guidelines anyway, so they might as well get that preemptive jump on Apple in the public eye.
There’s been a fair amount of interest lately in Apple’s recently announced iCloud service that brings greater attention to the cloud based storage options available to consumers today. So far so good. It doesn’t really seem much like innovation when Amazon has effectively been doing it with the Kindle on a small scale for a few years now though. What new and exciting thing are they bringing to the table for their portable devices that isn’t available anywhere else?
The vision that we are given for the Apple iCloud is a service that just works. It knows what you own, makes sure it is available on every device you own at all times, and generally makes your life better. The focus is on music, of course. On these points, I think a comparison with the Whispernet situation is relevant. Your Amazon account will keep track of all your books, make sure that every registered device can access them (and thanks to the many Kindle apps, that means almost anything you own with a screen on it regardless of who makes it), and keep everything nice and consistent during transitions. It’s the same concept in a lot of ways.
The one point where we have to give Apple loads of credit is on their iTunes Matching idea. They actually found a way to make people want to pay money to listen to things they already either own or have pirated. It’s impressive. Your whole library is available whenever you want it so long as you keep up with your annual fee. In spite of this, I don’t think they quite thought it through enough. Sure, people will be willing to sync their music, but to really set themselves apart a streaming solution would have worked a lot better. As it is, you end up having to download every song you own to every device you might want to listen to it on. You might as well be just plugging in your iOS devices and syncing to a computer at that point. It isn’t that the iCloud is a bad idea, just that it doesn’t really do anything all that exciting for the money they are asking.
Amazon offers a similar cloud-based media service that also fails to offer streaming for now. It doesn’t have the matching ability that Apple offers, but it does have a smaller sized free account option and pretty much everything else that the iCloud brings to the table. If I had to guess, I would say that between the Amazon Cloud Drive and their Android App Store Amazon is getting into a position to do for their upcoming Kindle Tablet line, which will likely eventually compete with Apple in most slots including an iPod Touch equivalent, what the iCloud does for iOS. The only differences would seem to be that Amazon doesn’t have Apple’s history of multiple failed efforts to push cloud storage and they do have at least one market specific experience with how to do it right, thanks to the Kindle.
Continuing the recent trend of slowly filling in the details of the upcoming tablet additions to the Kindle family, we have finally gotten a little bit in the way of technical specs. It is certainly true that you have to take everything these tipsters say with a grain of salt, but the timing seems right for more information to be making its way out and the site that released the information has a fairly reliable track record. Here’s what we’ve got to think about at the moment:
The first of the new Kindle Tablet devices is code-named “Coyote”. This tablet, seemingly the introductory model, will run on NVidia’s Tegra 2 processor. Not an unusual choice in the world of Android phones and tablets at the moment, but it seems to do the job fairly well. While it won’t make the Coyote stand out particularly, there’s nothing to be particularly disappointed by.
The more impressive model is code-named “Hollywood”. The Hollywood model will be making use of NVidia’s upcoming T30 “Kal-El” quad-core processor. It will likely come as little surprise to most of you that the quad-core model is likely to be ridiculously fast by comparison. NVidia has reported that the new processor will be approximately 500% the speed of the Tegra 2.
The only obvious comparison that you can draw at this point in the Tablet PC field is to the iPad. None of the others have managed to make a particularly impressive splash by comparison. Given what we know at this point, it would seem that Amazon has opted out of carving themselves off a chunk of the market to call their own and is jumping straight into contesting Apple’s dominance.
Consider what it was that gave Apple the edge in all this. Yes, they came out with a very affordable tablet and they beat everybody else out. The biggest factor, though, was their being poised to take advantage of every stage of tablet usage. You don’t just buy your iPad from Apple, you also need apps if you want to do anything. In many cases, you can’t even get by with just the app. You need media to run with the app. Apple makes a profit off of hardware, software, and media because they get a cut from every single step. Amazon is now in a position to do the same. They have themselves some new hardware, an app store, every sort of media you can think of, and an already strong following that while not as extensive as the iPhone owner community was at the launch of the iPad, is still impressive. It is obvious that the first people likely to be successfully targeted for the new device are the many satisfied customers of the Kindle since they have some experience with the company’s hardware already.
As with the Kindle, it is going to take a truly impressive product and an extensive support system for Amazon to hope to come out on top here. The thing is, they seem like they have that. Is Amazon going to come out with an iPad killer? Of course not. They are likely going to create the first meaningful rivalry that the tablet world has seen so far, though. It is to be hoped that the Kindle vs iPad competition will do as much for tablets as the Kindle vs Nook has managed so far for eReaders.
So, Apple vs the Amazon Kindle platform. I brought this topic up a few days ago, I know, but it bears repeating now that representatives from Apple have come out to clarify their position and put an end to the speculation based mainly around the rejection of Sony’s Reader app submission to the Apple app store.
For those who haven’t been following the situation, Apple has apparently decided to start enforcing some of the rules regarding in-app purchasing that they have seemed uninterested in until this point. As a result of this, Sony was unable to get its iOS Reader app published, and Amazon’s Kindle app, along with all the other eBook readers out there linked to a store, may be in some pretty serious trouble. Up until now, the way things work has been for the Kindle app to send you to the Amazon.com website whenever you want to pick up something new to read. It results in convenience for users and neatly bypasses the need to work within the app store infrastructure. That part, I doubt Apple minds. What they are objecting to is the fact that these sales, going through the website as they do, fail to make Apple any money. So, new restrictions. Now, since Apple wants a 30% cut and Amazon is making as little as a 30% cut as it is on many sales (specifically those coming from its self-publishing authors), many people are foreseeing a problem.
Heading off many of the potential solutions that Amazon could have used to address the new restrictions, Apple reps have made clear that there can be no linking to outside stores from inside an app anymore, and definitely no marking up of in-app sales to dissuade their use. Basically, anything you’re selling to users of your app had better be available through the app so that Apple can get its cut and it must cost the same or less than in any other store you operate. Not good news for the Kindle platform.
It remains to be seen how Amazon is going to respond to this. There really seem to be very few options. The question may come down to a matter of how much of Amazon’s eBook sale numbers comes through Apple devices. I would imagine it would have to be a large percentage to persuade them to raise prices across the board for eBooks, which is what would have to happen for Apple’s percentage to be accounted for. But it is also highly unlikely that the numbers could be so low as to make pulling the app completely a viable option. Simply forgoing their own percentage of the price on a product that many believe is already being sold at cost or below is the least likely scenario of all, in my opinion. Short of withdrawing the app, it seems like any compromise in favor of Apple will have a negative impact on users of Amazon’s own Kindle owners and that seems like a silly choice to make unless it’s overwhelmingly necessary.
Maybe this is a move intended to bolster Apple’s unimpressive efforts to take over the eBook industry’s distribution network the way they have that of the music industry, but if so then at best this will be an uphill battle that will earn them no small amount of ill will. With the eReader capabilities of the iPad in particular being a selling point for many people, all Apple may be accomplishing here is diminishing the value of their devices by causing problems with one of the most popular apps they have seen to date.