Amazon.com's rumored tablet could launch in October, report says
Amazon.com has been rumored for months to be working on a tablet computer, and now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a tablet from the world's largest online retailer could go on sale as soon as October.
The Amazon tablet would feature a 9-inch touchscreen, a bit smaller than the Apple iPad's display, and would be released along with two new versions of the company's popular Kindle e-readers, according to the Journal.
One of the new Kindle models would have an electronic-ink touch screen, putting it on par with newer e-readers such as the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Kobo eReader Touch Edition. The other new Kindle, the Journal said, would stick with a keyboard, as the current Kindles have, with no touch-display features.
The Amazon tablet, meanwhile, would run on Google's Android operating system -- no surprise there. The company has been setting the stage for such a move for months. In March Amazon launched its Appstore for Android, one day after Apple sued the retail giant alleging trademark infringement over the name of the online storefront, which sells apps for smartphones and tablets running Google's Android OS.
On Monday, Amazon launched a Digital Bonus program that gives consumers $15 worth of credit to buy apps, music and books in digital formats from Amazon when they buy an Android device through Amazon. This is a promotion to get Android owners thinking of the Seattle-based retailer as the place to go to get digital content for their new Google-powered gadgets.
The main competitor to the Amazon Appstore for Android isn't Apple as much as it is Google's own Android Market which sells apps, movies and e-books, too.
Apple's iPod wouldn't have been as appealing without iTunes there to sell users music. The iPad, in the same way, wouldn't be as attractive without the App Store (built into iTunes and on devices) there to sell users games and other apps as well as books and magazines and tons of other content.
Amazon is already selling content for Android devices, it just doesn't yet sell an Android device of it's own. That, if the rumors pan out, could change soon.
Amazon is a retail company first and foremost: Books, CDs and DVDs have been its lifeblood. The company has been able to duplicate that success in digital goods -- e-books, MP3s and now streaming and downloadable movies from its Amazon Prime service.
The Kindle has been a huge success for the company and is the most widely used e-reader on the market. Amazon has never said how many Kindles it has sold but in May it disclosed that its customers now buy more e-books than dead-tree print books.
The Journal report, which cited unidentified sources, said Amazon's tablet would be built by an Asian manufacturer and would not have a camera. Those moves, if true, could help keep down the device's costs and make it more comparable to Barnes & Noble's Nook Color tablet than an iPad.
Could releasing an Amazon tablet put the retailer at the forefront of selling mobile apps? Amazon hasn't disclosed any of its plans in this area, but many pieces of the puzzle are already in place.
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the first Kindle at a news conference in 2007. The e-reader launched at a price of $399. Current Kindle models sell for as little as $114. Credit: Mark Lennihan / Associated Press