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.