Amazon looking to release a smartphone next year, analyst says
The longtime bookseller and online retailer is broadening its business to include not just electronic reading devices and tablet computers like the just-released Kindle Fire, but also handheld smartphones, according to business intelligence gleaned by Mark Mahaney, an analyst at Citi.
Mahaney says he thinks Amazon will release a mid-priced smartphone by the fourth quarter of 2012 -- one that could cost less than $200 and that will be customized to work with Amazon's digital movies, music and e-books.
"We continue to believe Amazon has now set its eyes on the mobile (and tablet) media and product
consumption frontier," Mahaney wrote in a note to investors.
Mahaney said industry whispers indicated that Amazon would be working with Foxconn International Holdings, a subsidiary of the Taiwanese company Hon Hai Precision, a global leader in electronics manufacturing that makes other Amazon products as well as Apple's iPhone and iPad.
Further scuttlebutt from Mahaney on the specifications of the tablet:
We believe the smartphone will adopt Texas Instrument's OMAP 4 processor and is very likely to adopt [Qualcomm's] dual mode 6-series standalone baseband given [Qualcomm] has been a longtime baseband supplier for Amazon's e-reader.
If the rumors are true, the phone may also have an 8-megapixel camera, a 4-inch touch screen and an HSPA+ radio -- part of the newer generations of cellular technology that allows for faster data uploading and downloading.
"With the clear success of the Kindle e-reader over the past three years, and Kindle Fire possibly succeeding in the low-priced tablet market, we view this as the next logical step for Amazon," Mahaney wrote.
His note did not mention the type of software the phone might run, but in passing he cited a possible "OS royalty to Microsoft." Because of patents it owns, Microsoft collects royalties from many manufacturers of mobile devices running Google's Android operating system. The Kindle Fire is one such Android-based device.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
-- David Sarno