Earlier today, a TechCrunch reporter claims to have had a chance to play around with an actual working Kindle Tablet in a closely supervised situation. Much of the information he came out with isn’t exactly what we were hoping to hear when the real details started to turn up, but everything does fit the current situation pretty well and there are no glaring discrepancies. As with all unofficial reports it should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but for the time being it is probably safe to say this is our best picture of Amazon’s upcoming entry into the Tablet PC market.
Here’s what we have to work with:
- 7″ Back-lit touchscreen of some description with no hybrid options(2 finger capacitive multi-touch)
- Highly customized Android OS, possibly forked as early as Android 2.2
- No physical controls aside from the power button
- Possible single-core processor
- As little as 6GB internal storage
- WiFi Only at launch
- Expandable memory slot
- No camera
- Bundled Amazon Prime Membership
- $250 Price Tag
- Late November 2011 Release Date
Clearly the high expectations of Kindle fans will not be met in their entirety.
There is a sense that Amazon is rushing this to market, even after all this time. If a guess were required, I would say that it almost seems as if they were hoping to carry the day by using the next best thing in display technology to get the jump on everybody only to have that tech fail to manifest in time to be useful. That aside, they’re still bringing plenty to the table to make a splash.
The Nook Color has managed to carve out a space for itself by being something of a budget iPad, for all its stated eReading emphasis. Amazon can bring the same sort of value to the table, perhaps with a more impressive array of applications and support structure, and not even have to bother with the eReader facade. We have to assume at this point that they won’t make the mistake of marketing this as a Kindle eReader, whether or not it’s capable of displaying books, given the whole anti-iPad LCD commercial campaign.
The focus on cloud storage and streaming will negate the obvious problem of minimal storage space to some extent, though Amazon seems to be gambling a lot on the ubiquity of wireless networks. If the reporting article is to be believed, then the Android OS fork should be customized and optimized well beyond simply skinning Froyo and throwing out the standard Google App Marketplace, which means that it’s too early to judge anything based on that at this time. Nobody really expected Amazon to include a completely open copy of Android anyway, right?
Just because this isn’t the ideal situation that would blow the iPad out of the water without any significant contest doesn’t mean it isn’t a great step. Tablets put out by anybody but Apple have tended to fare poorly so far, as evidenced by the HP TouchPad debacle recently, but Amazon has the marketing, support, and name recognition to make it happen. I still don’t think this will end up being a direct contest with just the Nook Color for most people, unless something gets reviewed particularly poorly at release.
Amazon has just announced a large increase in the number of titles available through their Instant Video service, giving customers access to over 100,000 Movies and TV Shows. Amazon Prime members can access over 9,000 of those selections at no extra cost beyond their existing membership fees. While this is of course a good move in general, it works even better with the knowledge of a video-focused Kindle Tablet right around the corner.
There is some fairly good evidence to support the theory that Amazon is getting ready to try to do with video what they already accomplished in eBooks with the Kindle. Even if you leave aside the rumors of the Kindle ‘Hollywood’ Tablet, supposedly being produced for late 2011/early 2012 with lots of processing power and a larger screen than most tablets, the support structure is getting pretty large. Already you can access Amazon Instant Video via many HDTVs, set-top boxes, BluRay players, TiVos, and more, even if you don’t like to watch video on your PC. Like with the Kindle, once you purchase something you can access it through any device registered to your account. For the most part this is even true of the Amazon Prime selections.
Up until now, the video library has been rather thin. It was clear that Amazon was simply testing the waters and no real threat to any of the more established names in the field. Now, however, things are getting more impressive. You have a fairly good movie selection, admittedly heavily weighted to older titles (though not so much as was the case previously), and access to many TV shows within a day of airing.
Does this mean that Amazon is poised to shove Netflix out of the way and step into a well-deserved spot on top? Not really. By all accounts Netflix hasn’t even really noticed them enough to consider it real competition yet. Who knows what might change in the future, though, with Netflix customers quite vocally unhappy about the handling of recent price hikes due to a jump in operational costs. It seems like just about everybody is trying to jump on the video streaming bandwagon right now, which means lots of competition but also lots of potential for a well-planned and well-supported endeavor.
With the upcoming Kindle Tablets, Amazon is in a highly advantageous position. Not only can they advertise hardware optimized for video streaming and integrated directly into existing Amazon.com services of all sorts, but a simultaneous release of an Instant Video for Android App would earn them sales space on the vast majority of competing Tablet PCs.
Such an app would have to be something of an inevitability both because of the choice of OS for the Kindle Tablets and the fact that Amazon’s main goal seems to be harnessing media distribution rather than sales. No need to completely close off the competing hardware if you are making your money elsewhere anyway. The Kindle platform has given them a solid grip on the eReading market by being device-independent. I think we can count on Amazon to have learned from their own success.
The success of any Tablet PC is pretty much going to depend on the usefulness of the associated application offerings. It would be hard to argue that this is anything but a major factor in the success of Apple’s iPad. Naturally, with the Kindle Tablet in mind for the future, Amazon was depending on its App Store to make it big and have all sorts of fun stuff ready when the hardware launches. The money to be made is not really in the hardware anymore for either of these companies, so it is no wonder that Apple is trying to corner the market on anything they can manage with regard to Apps.
So far, not much luck along those lines in the US. While Apple is trying legal channels to prevent Amazon from calling its app store an app store, the judge asked to provide a preliminary injunction against Amazon’s use didn’t see them having much chance of success and turned down the request. It seems like a lot of the argument Apple is making is based on their assumption that Amazon will be happy to host viruses, malware, and porn, which would keep potential customers from trusting anything labeled with the same name. Hard to see that going very far, in the long run, but time will tell. The trial is set to start in October of 2012.
Just because their case does not seem to be going well so far in the US, however, doesn’t mean that it is dead in the water. Germany’s response to the same lawsuit has resulted in Amazon being forced to close the door to new submissions for the time being. Amazon is, of course, going to be spending a great deal of effort trying to defend their interests wherever they can, but for the time being there is no word and little room to speculate on when that situation might change.
On the one hand, it really doesn’t matter how it comes out one way or another. If the name has to be changed to Amazon’s Android Emporium or something else ridiculous, it will only increase the potential for name recognition if they play it right and the functionality won’t be changing a bit. Even in the unlikely event that Apple can pull this off, everybody else is going to do just fine. On the other hand, anything that lets Amazon directly equate their new Kindles and Kindle Tablets to the iPad in peoples’ minds will work to their advantage as they push for maximum dispersal of the hardware. Yes, the important part will be the device integration which won’t rely much on names anyway, but why not make it as clear as possible?
What will happen in the meantime as we lead up to the rulings in various locations, pretty much the only thing that we can be sure of is that nobody with a Tablet is going to want to go without apps. It just wouldn’t really work. Hopefully that will be an option for everybody who wants to when the Kindle joins that marketplace.
After months of speculation and a fair amount of information pieced together from parts orders, supposed inside information, and extrapolation from Amazon’s more recent choices as they expand their reach, we have to assume that we have at least a pretty fair outline of what the upcoming Kindle Tablet is going to look like. I would never simply trust a rumor, but enough of the little things add up and agree with each other lately that sudden conflicting information has to be viewed with some skepticism. This is why, when perusing the latest set of stories, blogs, and whatnot, I was rather surprised to see a sudden turnaround in the speculation that points the proposed device at the same market as the Nook Color. Apparently some people don’t think Amazon is quite ready for the larger game?
Tracing things back, the speculation along these lines seems to stem from a Business Insider article that simply cites “a source close to the company” as saying that it will basically be a color eReader with some apps on it. They build this on top of earlier reports of underpowered processors and the anticipated lack of cameras and leave it at that. For a couple reasons, I believe the evidence fails to support the argument.
Mostly, we know that in the time since the Kindle Tablet rumors started going out Amazon has built up its app store, cloud storage, cloud based music system, and video streaming library. Every one of these would integrate impressively will a full tablet offering and do next to nothing for a dedicated eReader, even if it were color. There are uses for each of these things as pieces to the Amazon.com experience, but they don’t seem like they could have a huge impact in any area taken as individual enterprises. A unifying experience is necessary to explain the overall plan.
Leaving aside the arguments about hardware speculation, since those bits of information don’t give us information on what what display technology the Kindle Tablet line will take advantage of and therefore leave too much to the imagination so far in my opinion, I could see this simply as a misinterpretation of the situation by all parties. We have indicati0ns that there will be at least two Kindle Tablet offerings this year, including a 7″ and a 10-11″. The fact that the smaller, lower powered version of these does not compete well with the specs of the iPad may well make it smarter to market as an eReading Tablet rather than a fully powered Tablet PC.
I think the general idea is going to be a staggered release, in the end. The fact that the first, smaller Kindle Tablet will be released alongside the new Kindles may make it a transition point between Amazon’s eReaders and Tablets. Easily advertised as the next step in eReading and focused overtly on tying that experience in, but without any of the initial restrictions that crippled the Nook Color as a Tablet on release. To say that Amazon is not focused on the iPad competition still seems naive, since we can expect something much more powerful and functional in the next 6 months.
At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading. In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far. The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though. In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months. While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.
The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways. The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing. Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing. That avenue is closed for now. They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.
The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for. It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more. About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard. I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here. We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader. Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization. Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.
This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion. Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US. Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit. I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling. Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option. There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge. Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.
In all of the speculation about the potential for a Kindle Tablet release later this year, few people have speculated much on the future of the Kindle itself. Possibly we’re simply running out of good ideas to improve the device without causing a problem with the streamlined user experience? Whatever the reason, we now have news that there are indeed two completely new Kindles on the way. A recent Wall Street Journal article has indicated, based on sources familiar with the matter, that this October we can expect to be seeing both a newer, cheaper Kindle of the type we are already used to, and a Kindle with a touchscreen.
While at a glance the Kindle Touch, or whatever Amazon chooses to call it, seems to be a reaction to the incredibly popular new Nook Simple Touch, the timing makes that less of an issue. October is also the anticipated release month for the first piece in the new Kindle Tablet line. Many people have been wondering if this meant the death of the Kindle, either by way of abandonment in favor of the newer product, or simply by eroding the existing customer base by offering an affordable alternative that does more than can be handled by existing eReaders. The latter is far-fetched, since customers have shown a distinct appreciation for dedicated reading devices so far and seem more inclined toward dual-ownership rather than abandonment of the Kindle in favor of any tablet. The former was a concern, but by launching the new Kindles at the same time as the Kindle Tablet, Amazon has the opportunity to provide what I assume will be their first sub-$100 eReader, as well as a new more advanced model, and thereby reaffirm their commitment to providing a dedicated reading experience for their Kindle customers.
Assuming that Amazon can be counted on to take advantage of the time remaining before the release to address any remaining shortcomings in their design as compared to the competition, such as the Nook’s current superiority in terms of speed boosts and social networking integration, these new Kindles can’t really help but make a splash. The move at least partially away from the physical keyboard will even leave open the potential for true localization of the newer model without retooling the hardware for every country they decide to open a Kindle Store in. The fact that many expect the Kindle Tablet to come with a customized front end for the Amazon.com site that is geared toward optimized tablet shopping will almost certainly bode well for the new Kindle as well, should it prove true.
It isn’t going to be the color E Ink eReader that many people were, I think, hoping for. It would just be too much of a shock to see the price of the Kindle’s newest model jump to accommodate the higher production costs of something like that. That does not mean that the Kindle Tablet won’t pick up the ball as far as that demand is concerned, though. Time will tell what needs Amazon has chosen to prioritize, but it is heartening to see that they won’t be letting eReading become a minor aspect of their bigger media distribution effort.
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.
A recent report from the International Data Corporation has provided an analysis of the Tablet PC and eReader markets for the first quarter of 2011. Nooks, Kindles, iPads, and their respective markets in general are doing quite well, with eReader growth at 105% over the past year and tablets not doing too bad either. Although demand did not grow quite as much as expected, for a variety of reasons, things are improving.
Right now the Barnes & Noble Nook product line is on top in terms of worldwide sales for the first time, beating out the Kindle a bit. IDC attributes this in part to the introduction of the popular Nook Color, for which this was the first full quarter of sales. While many have leaped at the chance to interpret this as an indication that the Nook Color is single-handedly outselling the Kindle, no indication of such is made in the article. Instead, it seems likely that the Barnes & Noble Nook line’s incorporation of both a dedicated eReader and a budget Tablet PC has proven a smart move, especially with their managing to classify their tablet as a primarily reading focused device. This does not necessarily mean that the Kindle is doing poorly in any way, but it does indicate fairly well that the expansion of the Kindle line to incorporate a variety of Tablets will come at a great time for Amazon. The eReader market is expected to continue to expand, and IDC has increased their number of expected unit sales for the year. Current forecasts call for 16.2 eReaders shipped worldwide in 2011.
On the tablet front, the iPad and newly released iPad 2 are continuing to dominate the market. Though sales fell short of expectations in the post-holiday season, due to both current economic conditions and certain supply chain issues, there was still noticeable expansion and the rest of the year is looking strong. Worst off have been the iPad’s competitors who choose to concentrate on distribution through telecommunication venues. Due perhaps to customer reluctance to get locked into a monthly fee with their purchases, the demand in these areas is growing comparatively slowly.
Amazon’s anticipated third quarter tablet release is definitely looking like it has a chance at making a major impact on the Tablet PC space. Due to firmly established distribution channels and an existing support structure, the device or devices can expect to be better received than most. Should Amazon meet their expected sales numbers, as estimated from reports of supply orders made in anticipation of the upcoming release, they could jump to a 5% share of the Tablet market within months of release.
Given the success of the Nook line in the eReader market in a period when they were offering a fairly outdated eReader and an underpowered Tablet, it can be assumed that the combination of the current generation Kindle and the upcoming high-powered Kindle Tablet will provide Amazon with just the versatility needed to get firmly in place as a hardware provider in the months ahead.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows growth in both eReader and Tablet PC markets. The ownership base for Kindle and Nook owners has doubled in the 6 months from November 2010 to May 2011, ending up at an impressive 12% of those polled. Tablet ownership, over the same period, has seen a 3% jump. The breakdown is about what one might expect in a lot of ways. While it might just be a matter of curiosity for most at the moment, studies like this will be what determines the immediate future of these devices. The study takes into account 2,277 adults aged 18 and up.
Owners of eReaders like the Kindle are fairly evenly broken across the genders. Parents are more likely to have picked up an eReader in the last six months than people without kids under 18. The greatest growth among surveyed ethnic groups was in Hispanics, who jumped from 5% ownership to 15%. The only group that seems to have dropped off in terms of eReader ownership was High School non-graduates, who went from 5% to 3%. College graduates predictably jumped the most.
Tablet ownership grew along similar lines, though not necessarily the same ones. Men, for example, are significantly more likely to own a tablet than women, with a large number of those surveyed saying that being able to impress others with their purchase was a priority. This might have played into age demographic differences as well, since tablets showed the most growth in the 18-29 bracket. eReaders, by comparison, did best with those 30-49. In the case of tablets, ownership among college graduates was actually outpaced by that of those with partial college completion. Hispanics still lead the pack among reported ethnic groups.
Basically, everybody likes their new gadgets. Men, especially younger men, are fond of the flashiness of the tablets. Slightly older people of both genders are getting into the eReader market. Overall, tablets are still lagging a bit behind, in spite of early predictions that they would spell the end of the eReader. Possibly this has to do with the lack of serious competition among tablet makers, in which case we’ll likely be seeing some different numbers this time next year. More likely would be that this is an indication of a trend toward dual-ownership. A good 3% of those surveyed confirm that they have both types of device on hand.
For now, there are already groups where as many as 20% of those surveyed have adopted eReaders. There has been noticeable growth in all households with an income greater than $30,000 per year. Households over $75,000 per year are of course doing the most shopping for portable electronics, but the difference in growth between this and other income brackets is not as pronounced as it is among tablet owners. They seem to be cheap enough to be accessible to, and appealing to, pretty much everybody. Pricing the Kindle at just $114 might be the smartest move Amazon could have made. It will likely surprise nobody if the upcoming Kindle Tablet undercuts the competing iPad by more than a little bit to take advantage of the trends.
I haven’t seen an official Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement yet, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle Tablet and two other Kindle upgrades are set to arrive in October. The Kindle Tablet that has been under speculation for months will directly compete with the iPad, while a new touch version of the Kindle will compete with the Nook and Kobo Touch editions.
To be honest, in a matter of personal preference, I am more excited about the possibility of a touch version of the Kindle because I’m not a big fan of the keyboard. Whenever this does get release, I’ll be ready to upgrade my Kindle. The keys are way too small and somewhat difficult to press. However, when the touch version does arrive, there will need to be some kind of audio enabled to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities.
As for the tablet. This is exciting news, but the iPad has a pretty solid hold on the tablet market, and is said to be successful on into the next year. So, I think that it will be awhile before the Kindle Tablet will make a huge dent in iPad sales. There are also a number of other tablets to choose from as well. Although, I will say, a much cheaper Kindle Tablet might just give Amazon a good start in the tablet game, as will the well liked Android operating system. I see the iPad to the tablet market as the Kindle is to the e-reader market. They are both the inventors of their own niches, and were the only ones to hold their niches for a good length of time.
Lastly, there will be an upgrade on the current version of the Kindle. It will be similar in structure, but include better features and a lower price. Prices are dropping constantly. Amazon just dropped the Kindle 3G Special Offers version from $164 to $139. So, perhaps a $99 or less version of the Kindle is in the near future? We can only hope!