This is sad. For a while now (read: many months) we’ve been hearing mumbles, rumors, and chatter about upcoming Amazon Android-powered tablets. These mythical beasts would launch before the end of this year, would be priced aggressively, and would be the first ‘real’ competitors to the iPad. So we got our hopes up. Which, it turns out, was a pretty bad idea.
Today a myriad of details (yet unfortunately no pictures) about Amazon’s tablet plans have been made public by TechCrunch, and for now it’s all rather disappointing.
Let’s start at the beginning. As we’ve heard countless times, Amazon had two tablets in the pipeline, a 7-incher and a 10-incher. However, sometime this summer the company decided to only focus on the 7-inch offering for this year and delay the 10-inch tablet. If the 7-inch device sells well, the 10-inch one may also be launched, in the first quarter of 2012. But this year it’s all about the 7-inch Kindle tablet.
Which brings us to the name. It will be called, simply, Amazon Kindle. Of course we’ll refer to it as the Kindle tablet so as to differentiate it from the Kindle e-book readers. Yet Amazon sees it as just the highest-end Kindle, and it’s part of that lineup.
Okay, now brace yourself. Especially if you were expecting the Kindle tablet to be a competitor to Apple’s iPad, you’re in for a big disappointment. The Kindle tablet is, in fact, the perfect competitor to Barnes and Noble’s Nook Color.
Yes, you read that right. The Kindle tablet is a perfectly logical offering coming from Amazon. It’s centered on all of Amazon’s services and strengths. It’s obviously first seen by the company as an e-book reader, second as a music and video player (using Amazon’s services, mind), and only after that it’s a ‘general purpose’ tablet.
The Kindle tablet will have about 6 GB of internal storage and may not even have an SD expansion slot. It’s aimed as a cloud-enhanced device, so the internal space is there just to store books and apps.
Speaking of apps, Amazon’s Appstore will be preinstalled, as expected. You’ll obviously be able to install apps from it and such. However, it’s unclear at the moment whether there will be any special tablet-optimized apps available, or how well the apps designed for phones will look on the tablet.
Although it will run Android, it won’t be the Android we know and love/hate. This is a version of Android prior to 2.2, apparently, which has been effectively ‘forked’ by Amazon, customized and developed in parallel with the ‘normal’ Android. So it won’t be Android 2.3, 3.2, or Ice Cream Sandwich that the Kindle tablet will ship with. Instead, it will be an Amazon-made OS based (heavily) on Android.
Which brings us to the big question. Will apps designed for Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich tablets even run on Amazon’s Kindle? We don’t know yet, but there’s a chance they won’t. In which case there will be a lot of app rewriting to be done in the Android world.
But should we even call Amazon’s tablet an Android device? After all, the OS it will run will reportedly look nothing like Android. Not like the phone version, not like Honeycomb. It will feature a UI designed by Amazon and based on a content carousel that’s reminiscent of Cover Flow in iTunes. The notification area is also changed, and the entire thing is certain not to scream Android at you when you look at it.
Oh, and it’s got absolutely no Google apps. None. Nada. It does have a Web browser, which has tabs and looks similar to the ‘default’ Android browser. And its default search engine is Google. But that’s it as far as Google stuff goes inside Amazon’s Kindle tablet.
Hardware-wise, the processor will probably be single-core but we have no hard details. The screen resolution is also unknown, and that may prove to be quite an important feature with regard to app compatibility. There will be no cameras on the Kindle tablet, and no physical buttons on the front. There will be a microUSB port, and the Kindle will be Wi-Fi-only at first. 3G versions may come, but they won’t be available at launch.
And now for the big reveal. The Amazon Kindle tablet will cost $250. Not only that, but the plan is to bundle a free Amazon Prime subscription (currently going for $79 per year) with the tablet. Prime users get access to Amazon’s Instant Video service, as well as free unlimited two-day shipping and no minimum purchase for free shipping when ordering stuff from Amazon.
Needless to say, the Kindle tablet will be heavily integrated with every single service Amazon has. And it will be promoted a lot on Amazon’s sites. So, for those reasons alone, alongside Amazon’s brand recognition, this will clearly sell well. Very well. At least in the United States. Elsewhere it will all depend on Amazon’s content licensing deals, since without those the Kindle tablet becomes a pretty nice paperweight.
We’re guessing that, best case scenario, the Kindle tablet will be out in all the countries where there’s an Amazon domain name in operation. But that may happen next year.
It’s clear that Amazon’s main focus with the Kindle tablet will be the US market. Which may respond very well.
Just keep one thing in mind: this is no iPad killer. It may even turn out to sell more than the iPad (though that’s doubtful), but it’s not competing. It’s in a different category altogether. It’s not by mistake that Amazon chose to call it Kindle. For that’s what this is. It’s not Amazon’s iPad, it’s Amazon’s 2011 Kindle. And it will be out in November.
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