Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

Summary: Amazon is building its own App Store, but for what device? We think we have a good idea -- a secret Android Tablet.

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Amazon is building its own App Store, but for what device? We think we have a good idea -- a secret Android Tablet.

Yesterday, in my piece about the lack of successful Android-based competitors to the iPod Touch, I touched a little bit upon what companies actually had the potential to launch an actual iPod Touch competitor that might actually resonate with consumers.

One of the ones I mentioned was Amazon, which as we all know is kicking ass and taking names in the ebook and e-reader market.

Amazon has all the value-added services that would be necessary in order to launch a mass-market Android device -- be it a media player like the iPod Touch, a 7-inch slate like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or even a full-sized 10-inch tablet like the iPad.

It has a music distribution service, Amazon MP3 that competes well with Apple's iTunes, and has a Video-On-Demand service, Amazon Video, which could potentially provide content downloads to compete with iTunes video rentals on the iPad and also with any Apple TV service that might launch on the iPad in the future. And naturally, it also has the entire Kindle Store with over 1 Million ebooks from which to choose from which it already trounces Apple's iBooks with, even when used on their own iOS platform.

Kindle and Amazon MP3 have already been ported to Android, so the only missing app here would be a media player program for downloading and streaming Amazon's DRMed video.

So what's the real missing part of the equation? Well, an App Store, for starters. But we already know that Amazon is building an App Store, as per the "Welcome Packet" that was sent out to seed developers in early October. And while an Amazon App Store could theoretically support any future platform(s) that Amazon decides to build consumer electronics products on, it mentions Android specifically by name in the literature that has leaked.

One of the biggest problems that most, if not virtually all of recently announced Android Tablets and Android Media Players have is lack of Android Market integration. No matter how good the hardware itself is, without an App ecosystem to accompany it, the value of any Android device is largely diminished.

Most of these low-cost 7" tablets that have been announced in the Sub-$400.00 category (such as Creative's Ziio and the Archos 70) are Wi-Fi only devices, and due to restrictions that Google currently places on the device manufacturers, we're not likely to see many of these inexpensive tablets with Android Market support for a while.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab, which is to launch shortly in the US in retail as well as by various wireless carriers will have Android Market support, but the product is much more expensive ($500-$600 for Wi-Fi only and contract-free 3G-capable devices) than the other aforementioned 7" tablets.

As such, some analysts, such as our own Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan, are predicting that the Samsung is unlikely to resonate with customers as a viable alternative when faced with a compelling product such as the iPad.

The only reason why Amazon would want to develop its own App Store would be to offer the service to low-cost device manufacturers in order to compete with the Android Market, or to provide an app ecosystem for a device of its very own.

Page 2: [The Real Reason Amazon is Building an App Store]  »

I'm taking a wild guess here that it's the latter, rather than the former, although licensing to 3rd-parties is not out of the question. However based on my examination of the initial materials which have leaked, Amazon's App Store is most likely to have a "curated" model similar to Apple's App Store, in order to maintain quality control as well as deny potential competitors access to it. This is in stark contrast to the Android Market, which is effectively a Wild West with limited acceptance criteria.

So what would this Amazon Android Tablet look like? In order to be competitive with the iPad and distinguish itself from the cheap 7" tablets that we're seeing arrive for the 2010 holiday season, I think that the company is likely to gun directly for iPad territory with a 10-inch tablet with a minimum of 1024x768 resolution on a capacitive touchscreen.

I also think that it's entirely possible that the device may even sport a dual-mode transflective LCD display, such as those being produced by Pixel Qi, which no Android device to date is currently using, and would distinguish its color e-Reading capabilities from both the current-generation iPad and the NookColor, which cannot be used to read effectively in direct sunlight outdoors.

What would one of these things cost? Amazon is a smart company and is well aware of the risks of launching a new product and would want to guarantee its success. And unlike its virtual monopoly of the ebook and ereader space in which it enjoys over 70 percent market share, it would be entering an existing market with an established leader in the space already.

So any Amazon Tablet device would have to present a great deal of value for the money, would need to have a comparable set of features to whatever base-model iPad that was selling at the time of launch and be considerably less expensive. So what do I think something like that would likely sell for? $349.00 or less, which would almost certainly be very close to margin and manufacturing/distribution costs.

This is something that the other Android Tablet OEMs cannot do because they would lose money. But as we've observed with the Kindle e-reader, the company is more than willing to break even on the device sales if it has a built-in market with the Kindle books, the Amazon MP3s and the Videos.

And if their existing business practices with Kindle Store are of any indication, Amazon is likely to take a substantial cut of the profits from Apps sold on their new App Store, which would offset any loss of profit on the Tablets.

When this Amazon Tablet is likely to appear is anyone's guess. It's unlikely to be this coming holiday season, and the company may be biding its time until a more polished version of the Android OS for tablets is ready, such as "Gingerbread" that is due for a late 2010/early 2011 launch or maybe even "Honeycomb" which is due in the middle of next year.

But one thing is for certain -- an Amazon Android device is coming. It's simply a question of when.

Would an Amazon-produced Android Tablet interest you? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Hardware, Amazon, Android, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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53 comments
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  • Well, if Amazon can do something for even $450, with 10" dual mode screen,

    they would have a real iPad competitor. There is not anything competitive yet. A 7 inch screen for even $350 is a non-starter.
    DonnieBoy
    • I disagree

      @DonnieBoy, you have been making that blanket statement about screen size for some time now, and I and many others just don't agree. A 10" tablet is too big to carry around, and too big and heavy for reading. If I am going to lug around a 10" model I might as well just carry a netbook and have the advantage of a real keyboard and more power.
      itpro_z
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @itpro_z <br>Personally, the 10" tablet we're featuring on http://www.androidgold.com for under $200 is a steal: we initially selected it simply because we personally found it to be useful, enjoyable to use, and ultimately decided to work hand-in-hand with the manufacturer to help improve it because we felt it was the best Android tablet we found from the long list of OEM factories we visited in Shenzhen and Guangzhou (yes, it's the latest evolution of the ZT-180 at a great price).<br><br>I am sincerely hoping that Amazon is not initially concerned with developing this rumored Kindle Android tablet, but instead recognizes the opportunity to deliver Android apps to the non-Google-endorsed hardware market. If this materializes, these low-cost Android tablets (and phones) will have a much more competitive edge than the current situation with the Google app market. <br><br>Given the tenuous nature Google has had with placating it's handset manufacturing partners in the Open Handset Alliance, I would not be all that surprised if they welcomed this development if not anticipated such a competitor stepping up to provide an open market that their allies have otherwise used as a barrier to entry against non-partner competitors.
        AndroidGold.com - Best Android Tablets and Phones
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @itpro_z

        If a ten inch tablet is too big to carry around, how did we manage carrying around laptops, and notebooks (netbooks) all these years? If I am going to carry a tablet around, may as well get a 10 incher to take advantage of the larger screen real-estate. I already have my smart phone i take everywhere which is truly my mobile device.
        dave95.
      • RE: dave95

        Can't read, Dave? I said that if I am going to carry around big, heavy pad I might as well carry a netbook or small notebook. At least with those I would have a full power machine that can run anything I want, not to mention a keyboard.

        My point on the pads, which is not necessarily yours, is that the pad is not a computer, and will absolutely not replace either my desktop or laptop. Most of us are not going to try to work on a pad, so that relegates it to browsing, reading, and light duty gaming. I don't need a 10" screen for that.
        itpro_z
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @itpro_z
        Sort of agree.. I have tried a Pandigital Novel that the guys and gals at Slatedroid.com have updated to tablet status and done a great job on it. 7 inch color screen does a wonderful job as an e-reader - but for this 50 something year old the web experience is very poor on this size of screen. Everything is too small to read without having many adjustments. The iPad wins hands down for web access, but I agree it is a ton to hold while reading.
        Jim888
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @itpro_z?

        Well, everyone seem to be in agreement that the iPad is hurting netbook sales. So apparently it's enough of a computer for many to be taking the place of Netbooks.

        http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/the-ipad-is-cannibalizing-netbook-sales/10231?tag=content;search-results-rivers

        I've seen many students with iPad in hand doing real work. No it wont replace a laptop for many things but for many consumers its perfectly capable. My point was for those users and others, the 10" iPad is probably much lighter and smaller to carry than their laptops, notebooks. I would like to see Apple reduce the weight some on the second gen but the sreen size is a benefit IMO. If I truly want to play games and such while on the go I have my iPhone. I also agree 7" makes for a nice single purpose eBook reader. But for a multi-purpose device like the iPad the 10" makes all the difference.
        dave95.
    • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

      @DonnieBoy - 10 inch is only for Home use.
      jinishans
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @jinishans Agree. I had an iPad for about 3 months, and it almost never left home. It's the kind of thing you take on a long weekend or vacation, but not the kind of thing you toss in your pocket or bag when you run errands or head into town to go shopping or head to the park with the kid. I would love an 8 or 9 incher, but I think my Kindle 3 is really about the biggest thing I would tend to drag around with me on a casual basis. Also, if it costs over $500 there's another reason not to risk hauling it all over the place.
        .
        There's no doubt Amazon will have to do the color tablet thing, even if the e-ink readers remain good sellers. Tablets are going to be huge, maybe the biggest consumer electronics product we've ever seen. Every single person will have one. And at this point, it sure looks like it would be an Android tablet for Amazon. I totally agree with this post and think we'll see such a beast within 6 months. Amazon I don't think wants to take a back seat to Nook or anyone else, they stole the lead with e-readers and I can't see how they're stupid enough to relinquish that by dragging their feet on the tablet front.
        ArtInvent
  • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

    I have a kindle and have no great interest in an IPad but would certainly look at an amazon entry. One thing I have seen with amazon is when they do something they do it well
    chetbr
    • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

      @chetbr Including cheating sellers out of money. They do that well too.
      blueskip
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @blueskip And who doesn't. Apple$ sure does.
        jgoode@...
  • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

    If it's Mirasol or Pixel Qi and light, maybe, but if people want a 10" one, I don't see entering iPad's territory.

    Many do want a smaller portable though and have said that the 10" iPad's too big to take whenever they leave the house, unless it's for business.

    Jason, I agree with you, it's plausible and I also feel that it's extremely unlikely it'd be this year due to the testing that would need to be done since the two more interesting e-paper like color screens just won't be ready in time for adequate testing.

    They couldn't offer free 3G on a fast web browser though. Would they go LCD to catch that particular market that prizes color above readability outdoors and give it the fun-&-games-sibling slot? A secondary device for color magazines, travel books, comics etc?

    I expanded on your thoughts a bit.

    - Andrys
    kindleworld.blogspot.com
    andrys1
  • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

    Jason, while the possibilities that you mention seem very speculative, they do in fact resonate with what I want and would be willing to pay for. Presently I use Netflix heavily and own 70+ movies through Amazon VOD. I also buy MP3's exclusively through Amazon and want to move into e-book purchases. Basically I want to move away from DVD's, CD's, and books toward electronic content. And I dislike the iTunes store because of its implementation of DRM.

    It would be nice if such a device could also integrate a Google TV interface. And you are right about having a curated app store--that would serve my needs better than an uncontrolled hodgepodge. A webcam that can support some kind of video conferencing would also be helpful.

    I've already concluded, as you have, that a 10" screen would serve me best. My eyesight isn't that great and 10" is much easier on my eyes (lots of babyboomers now have this problem). And for this, I would be willing to pay the same as for an iPad. While I own Apple hardware and like their attentiveness to design, quality, and usability, I am not so committed to the Apple brand that I would not consider moving to a comparable device that provides me with the same or better access to content and apps.

    So I hope your points prove out. They make a lot of sense.
    Cresence
    • drm

      @Cresence <br>the itunes store has exactly the same implementation of drm for movies and books as amazon (music is drm free in both of them). so what are you talking about? video is even more restrictive with amazon, as you can only watch paid content on four devices as for five devices with itunes (for renting both have the same terms). so please, would you mind clarifying your (uninformed?) claim?
      banned from zdnet
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @banned from zdnet
        iTunes is buggy bloatware. That better?
        Droid101
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @banned from zdnet

        iTunes only lets you download your music once, and wants to charge to get DRM free versions of previous purchases. Amazon's prices are more competitive, and of those 4 devices two are streaming, which you can't do at all with itunes. Apple doesn't compete, they litigate, Amazon will always be better. Also, if you have non apple hardware, you'll always be free to choose your content providers and media software. It might be more complicated, but for those of us that are capable, we shouldn't be relegated to the lowest common denominator.
        wraith404
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        Dear banned (?), my information was old and, as you pointed out, probably misinformed at this point. Let me say simply that I strongly prefer Amazon over the iTunes store, for unspecified reasons. Thank you for the kindness and generosity of your comments.
        Cresence
    • iTunes DRM?

      @Cresence

      At least I've never had the iTunes store reach out and delete content I had already purchased.

      Nor have I had issues with not being able to have content on multiple devices unlike one Kindle book which was limited to 1 device. Originally downloaded on an iPhone and required calling Amazon and jumping through hoops to be able to download it on a Kindle without having to repurchase it which was the original suggestion from the Amazon customer disservice rep.
      DNSB
      • RE: Kindle's Secret Sibling: Amazon's Android Tablet

        @DNSB I don't doubt that. They don't have service reps. They have jerks that answer the phones. I'm no Apple fan by any stretch but Amazon wore out their welcome when they stole money from me and it took me months of fighting with them to get it back.
        blueskip