Excitement builds for imaginary Amazon tablet
"Will the Hypothetical Amazon Tablet Slay the iPad?" asked the Consumerist on Monday. Named one of Time Magazine's 25 Best Blogs of 2011, the Consumerist is the young-and-sassy member of the Consumer Reports family, and it sees a promising future for the imaginary device. "The Amazon tablet doesn't even exist yet and already some are saying it could be the one to take Apple's iPad down a notch, in the form of actual competition," the site writes.
"Some," in this case, would be Forbes, which spoke to analyst Avi Silver. He told the magazine that Apple's iPad currently has more than half of the tablet market, with all other companies combined making up the other half. Expected to be about $47 billion in 2012, the tablet market could be somewhat affected, Silver says, by the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and HP's TouchPad, both expected this month. But he's "more intrigued by the merits of a potential Amazon tablet." Forbes writes that the online bookseller's "perceived assets mean the introduction of an Amazon tablet would 'significantly impact the tablet wars,' according to Silver."
Is an Amazon tablet really on the way? Analysts have been itching to say yes ever since Amazon launched its own Android Appstore in March. (Although they might not be able to call it the Appstore; Apple has filed a lawsuit claiming the digital storefront violates its "App Store" trademark.) In late April, industry observer Peter Rojas called Amazon's development of a tablet an "open secret."
PC World soon jumped on board, crying, "Is an Amazon Tablet Inevitable? Yes!" But the magazine noted that since the (admittedly nonexistent) tablet's expected platform, Android, comes from rival Google, there might be some sticking points along the way. Nevertheless, the magazine concluded, "the question of whether Amazon will release a tablet is becoming a matter of when, rather than if."
Engadget followed a week later with a very certain-sounding headline, "Amazon Tablet Shipping Later This Year According to New Tattle." Making predictions about component parts, the tech blog proposed that the not-confirmed Amazon tablet would ship in the second half of 2011.
Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos threw gasoline on the rumor fire -- silicon on the motherboard flames? -- in mid-May, when Consumer Reports electronics editor Paul Reynolds asked him if Amazon was working on a multipurpose tablet device. "Stay tuned," Bezos replied.
Noting that Bezos is usually "very secretive about coming products," the New York Times' Nick Bilton speculated "a new and improved device could be coming soon" from Amazon. The company might even, he suggested, move beyond the tablet to phones or music players (that's crazy talk, far too crazy for a books blog like this one).
Boy Genius Report quickly followed with more certitude, including the names of the players. The tipster-driven technology blog said its sources knew of two coming Amazon tablets, codenamed Coyote and Hollywood. According to that report, Coyote will be entry-level and Hollywood higher-end.
PC World reported on the rumor with a level of skepticism absent from some reports, noting that the technical details would "put the theoretical release of the rumored Hollywood tablet at no earlier than the second half of 2011."
Yet the rumors of an Amazon tablet continue to heat up. Last week, an analyst predicted that Amazon would sell 2.4 million tablets in 2012 -- tablets that, as far as we know, do not yet exist.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo illustration: From photo of a contemporary Kindle by Amazon.com. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times