Rumors of an Amazon tablet had been swirling since before the launch of the iPad, and those speculations have just been renewed as CEO Jeff Bezos tells hopeful audiences to “stay tuned” when asked if the company would launch such a tablet in the future. In an interview Consumer Reports, Bezos says that such a device would be positioned as a complement to the existing e-ink, reader-centric Kindle, rather than replace it. However, the answer that Bezos gave in his interview was non-specific, and non-committal at best: “We will always be very mindful that we will want a dedicated reading device. In terms of any other product introductions, I shouldn’t answer.”
Rival bookseller Barnes & Noble, which operates a chain of retail stores, had launched a Kindle competitor in the form of the Nook. Since the introduction of the iPad and with the growing field of Android tablets, Barnes & Noble had recently launched the Nook Color tablet, which is one of the best selling Android tablet.
Though the Nook Color runs the Android platform–it was recently updated to give support for Adobe Flash, third-party apps, and other features–the Nook Color isn’t like the typical Android tablet. Unobstructed with a singular home button denoted with the Nook “N” symbol, the device turns on to reveal a heavily skinned experience that gives little trace of the mobile OS that powers it. Expandable with a memory card, the sleek, slim, reader-centric tablet is a curated experience that’s centered around books and magazines, rather than apps that are the focus of traditional consumer tablets.
Given that the device runs the Android OS, some enterprising users have rooted the tablet to gain additional capabilities that Barnes & Noble did not allow, and a few have been able to upgrade the OS, unofficially, to Android 3.0 Honeycomb, making it one of the most inexpensive Honeycomb tablets at just $250.
It seems that if Amazon decides to launch a multi-purpose tablet, it may be taking notes from its rival with a device that helps to complement, if not focus on, the reading experience rather than replace that experience to be too generic of a device. After all, why directly compete with the market-leading iPad when you can create the e-reading tablet category that’s being filled now by lesser rivals like the Nook Color and BeBook Live? Additionally, focusing on the reading experience may give Amazon the credibility and leverage that it needs to be a popular product. This way, it won’t alienate devout Kindle users and it would serve to promote Amazon’s services, rather than say a native Google Android Market. If it’s a Kindle Tablet, it could, for example, focus on a Kindle Store app and augment the Kindle experience with its own Amazon Appstore for Android. That way, it wouldn’t even have to promote Google’s Android Market as the Kindle Tablet wouldn’t even need to be marketed as an Android tablet. Rather, it’s a Kindle reading device, that by the way, has a full color LCD display and access to apps running on a core open-source Android OS.
In regards to color e-ink technology, the same display technology that’s found in the monochrome Kindle right now that’s great for reading under direct sunlight, Bezos says that the display isn’t quite ready for primetime yet.
With Bezos’s non-denial, it’s a wait and see game as to how Amazon will fend off rivals from the multi-purpose tablet market. Given that Amazon itself is launching cloud-based services, has a movie and video store, and a music service, a tablet would help to leverage and unify all those technologies into an Amazon-produced hardware with Amazon-curated content.