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Despite Rumors, Kindle Tablet Unlikely To Target Only Nook Color Competition

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.

Amazon Kindle Tablet Rumor Recap

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.

The Probable

  • 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.

The Possible

  • 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.

Is The New Amazon Kindle Hollywood Tablet Meant For Movies?

Maybe it is owing to the fact that the rumored high-end Kindle Tablet is code named “Hollywood”, but there has been some talk going around recently about the possibility that this is going to be a video focused device. The idea is being described as a sort of Kindle for movies.  With the most recent information that has come out regarding technical specs, especially in the context of the last few developments in the Amazon.com media services.

At the moment there are a few ways to get video to your computer.  You can go with Netflix and stream all the movies you want, but really the selection is fairly limited and the quality has a tendency to be questionable at times.  Youtube is generally the cheapest and most widely supported option, but it isn’t usually the best way to find what you want to watch.  Apple will sell you movies, but they seem comparatively overpriced.  Even Cable companies will typically provide On-Demand video for subscribers, but these tend to be the worst of the bunch in any number of ways.  In spite of there being a number of avenues, however, nobody has really come up with an impressive option.  The best choice so far is probably Netflix, but if Amazon can come up with a decent streaming/downloading service selection then it shouldn’t be terribly hard for them to make it work. The Amazon Instant Video Store seems to be a push in that direction and might well be paving the way for the new Kindle Tablet.

The “Hollywood” version of the Kindle Tablet will supposedly be featuring the quad-core NVidia Tegra 3 .  This would make it faster than any other tablet on the market today by a fair margin while at the same time not sacrificing battery life at quite the extreme that a quad-core processor in a tablet would imply.  It would also support a display resolution of up to 1920 x 1200, which is a noticeable step up from the iPad’s 1024 x 768 and would allow for HD quality movie viewing.

While the available information would therefore seem to support the idea of a movie viewing Kindle equivalent, the Kindle Tablet’s other specs remain a big factor.  Without knowing what will be available in terms of storage, connectivity, and display technology it is fairly difficult to figure out exactly what is going on.  Storage may be a moot point, given Amazon’s cloud-based music service and the ability to stream movies, but it would make more sense to allow for full downloads to ensure maximum performance and battery life.  Connectivity would have a lot to do with quality concerns as well, of course.  The display is really the big point.  Since Amazon has basically built an entire campaign based on the shortcomings of the iPad’s LCD display compared to that of the Kindle, we have to assume that they have something else in mind for the Kindle Tablet. Which way they go on that point may well be the most interesting bit of information in the end.

Rumor Has Amazon Unveiling Whole Family of Kindle Tablets

It is definitely no longer a secret that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is working on a Kindle Tablet.  It hasn’t been for a good long while now.  While Amazon has not officially come out and confirmed or given any details on what we can expect, little by little details are leaking out and causing talk.  Most recently there has been at least one extensive and plausible rumor put outvia the popular Android-focussed site “Android and Me” from a supposed industry insider with direct knowledge of the project .  The new news is different from what we were expecting in some respects, but it generally fits what we know surprisingly well.

Supposedly at this point we should be expecting not just one tablet but a whole family of devices.  There is some question of where Amazon will be drawing the line, but we can expect multiple tablet sizes and possibly a smartphone or iPod Touch-like pocketable device.  This makes a certain amount of sense if you think about the fact that Amazon will be looking to play up the versatility of their app marketplace.  To get the greatest possible diversity of use, it only makes sense to allow the hardware to accommodate a range of different needs.

There was an earlier rumor going around that pushed the idea that Amazon would be going with a specially skinned version of Android 2.3, but that seems to be falling away a bit.  The more recent news indicates that Android 3.0 or later is more likely.  It is even possible, according to the interview in question, that Amazon has been working directly with Google to some extent in order to optimize the experience.

The display type is still quite definitely in question, especially given a recent comment by Bezos that the color E Ink screens are still “not ready for prime-time”.  Even assuming that this isn’t just reticence, however, it does not rule out the use of Mirasol displays or something along the lines of the Pixel Qi display.  Having seen the videos of the upcoming front-lit Mirasol displays that are supposed to be available this fall, I’d say that these are a good contender if there ends up being no further delay in production.

The big question for me personally is whether or not the Kindle tablet will stand out as an open platform.  The big that people are having to the iPad, increasingly since the Apple decision to basically exclude everybody else from making a profit on eBooks by distributing to their devices, is the closed environment and arbitrary enforcement of rules.  Amazon is not perfect in this regard.  Books have been pulled from the Kindle store before without warning.  It would be nice to see this develop as a fairly open marketplace, however.  Competition is good for everybody.

To head off certain concerns, let me say ahead of time that there is no indication that this will be a replacement of the Kindle eReader. In addition to simply being a proven consistent source of income for Amazon, the Bezos interview I mentioned earlier also included the line “We will always be very mindful that we will want a dedicated reading device.”  This is just an expansion of the hardware presence that they’ve been doing well in developing.