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Amazon.com's new layout (bottom) is more tablet-friendly than the old one (top).  (Source: Stuart Lawder via TechCrunch)

The Amazon Kindle helped launch the tablet craze, with a highly successful debut over two years before the iPad.  (Source: Amazon via SlashGear)
Amazon.com is busy with a webpage design to prepare for its new tablet

When it comes to making electronics, Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN), like Google, Inc. (GOOG), seems an unlikely candidate given that its core business is internet based and not directly related to hardware making.  Amazon.com debuted the first successful e-reader, with the Kindle in November 2007.

I. Amazon's New Tablet OS

Now following 
months of rumors, a company that shaped the tablet revolution is revamping its veteran brand with a new tablet that features significant departures from its current lineup.

A detailed description of the device is at last available, 
thanks to TechCrunch, who viewed a near-production prototype.

Gone is the proprietary barebones eBook-centric operating system.  In its place is Google's Android operating system (there were some previous signs that pointed to this possibility, namely Amazon.com's 
recently launched third party app store, Appstore for Android).

The new tablet will retail for $250 USD -- a psychologically significant price in that it matches Barnes & Noble, Inc.'s (
BKS) Android-powered Nook Color and, further, is half the entry-level cost of an iPad.

While the device reportedly looks much like Research in Motion, Ltd.'s (
TSE:RIM) BlackBerry PlayBook, it will look quite foreign to those familiar with Android tablets.  Amazon.com has forked its own version of Android from a version prior to Android 2.2 "Froyo", and has taken to radically customizing it.  

The result is that Amazon has essentially built its own operating system.  It plans to maintain this operating system, building in its own useful features and staying abreast of changes in the Google codebase, occasionally injecting useful source from the main Android line.  However, updates will come from Amazon directly -- users will not get access to upcoming Android builds like "Ice Cream Sandwich".

The basic layout includes a middle-of-the-screen element that looks like the "Cover Flow" in iTunes.  Users can scroll through all their content (apps, music, books, movies, etc.) and drag their favorites down to a dock at the bottom of the screen.  Above that dock is a notification tray with the battery and wireless internet indicators and notifications for app/OS updates.  At the top is yet another bar with the name of the device and other details.  TechCrunch claims the modified GUI looks very good, compared to the stock Android Honeycomb.

A tabbed web browser is included.  The device has full access to the Kindle Books catalog (of course) and gets apps solely through Amazon Appstore for Android.

II. The Hardware

Gone is E Ink, the energy-savvy display technology.  In its place is a 2-finger capable multi-touch capacitive, backlit 7-inch display, according to TechCrunch who spent time with a prototype.  Note this multi-touch is less sensitive than Apple's 10-finger capable design, although relatively few iOS apps manage to fully utilize multi-finger touch.

The device features no (!) physical face buttons (we suppose this means that Apple 
can't sue Amazon).  It comes with a single-core processor, making it less powerful than most Android tablets, but helping to keep the price in check.  The device also only has 6 GB of flash storage, as it's intended to use the cloud to access music and movies.  An SD slot is rumored, though TechCrunch said it didn't see it on the prototype.

The device will initially launch solely with Wi-Fi support.  It features a rubbery back and comes with speakers, but no camera.

III. Launch and the Future

TechCrunch also noted that Amazon was trialing a new webpage layout over the weekend, which blogger Sarah Perez 
writes, "practically scream 'tablet-optimized."

In 
an email to Reuters, company spokeswoman Sally Fouts confirms the design launched in the final week of office, adding, "We are continuing to roll out the new design to additional customers, but I can't speculate on when the new design will be live for everyone."

One sweet feature of the new Amazon.com tablet is that it will come with a free subscription to
Amazon.com Prime -- typically an $80 USD/year service.  This will give you free two-day shipping on items, something Amazon.com surely hopes increases both impulse and regular shopping.  And the service has the added perk of offering 9,000+ free streaming movies to users.

The tablet will reportedly launch in November and has analysts buzzing, despite the packed market.  Forrester Research says that it 
may sell 5 million units in Q4 2011, given its bargain price and strong brand name.

Looking ahead to the future, Amazon.com is reportedly preparing a 10-inch design for a Q1 2012 launch.  That design will reportedly include a dual-core processor.  Amazon.com is reportedly in talks with U.S. wireless carriers to explore the possibility of cellular modem-equipped (3G or better) variants for 2012 launches.

Amazon.com is also reportedly working on a hybrid E-Ink/multi-touch screen device (perhaps two sided?), but TechCrunch warns, "[T]hat's nowhere near completion, I'm told."

While Apple has certainly stolen the thunder of Amazon.com when it comes to tablets, it should be interesting to see if one of the field's founding fathers can return triumphantly to the market it helped launch.



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By TakinYourPoints on 9/5/2011 3:42:48 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that Amazon is forking off their own version of Android is one of many reasons why they will succeed.

Motorola, Samsung, etc, have all failed horribly against the iPad partly because they are terrible at making consumer devices from top to bottom (look at their pre-iOS/Android phone UIs), and Google has given them a very poor platform to work off of with Honeycomb.

Amazon will succeed because, like Apple, they understand making devices that anyone can use. The Kindle ebook reader is A+. Things like Whispernet cloud syncing worked perfectly from the very beginning. It is so simple to use that a 70 year old can start using it immediately with no problems. Like Apple's iTunes and App Store, they also sell all sorts of digital media from books to movies to music to (!!!) tablet applications. It can't be emphasized enough how important a fully integrated and easy to use digital storefront is.

They'll offer what nobody else aside from Apple is at the moment, a purpose-built and integrated product with primary focus on usability. I'm still not sold on a 7" tablet, but a 10" Kindle tablet with a Tegra 3 will be very cool, and unlike the other Android disasters it should actually sell.




By kmmatney on 9/6/2011 11:38:32 AM , Rating: 2
The Nook also uses it's own version of Android, and is also a purpose-built device with integrated storefront. I'm not sure how this will be much different, except for the fact that Amazon is bigger than Barnes and Noble.


By Netscorer on 9/6/2011 12:25:57 PM , Rating: 2
You are absolutely right. What we are facing with this Amazon tablet is further segregation of Android platform which Amazon tablet is inevitably going to be associated with. They even call their app marketplace as Appstore for Android. For the users who want a simple reader that can also do Email and light browsing, Nook Color already exists and does it perfectly. For users who want full Android experience, this new tablet is going to be a major disappointment, because even rooted, it will lack some of the basic tablet features, such as camera, Bluetooth, GPS, and god knows what else Amazon chooses to omit to contain price.
Amazon will still sell plenty of these tablets but they will not compete with Apple. Not with what they are planning to release anyway.


By TakinYourPoints on 9/6/2011 4:09:19 PM , Rating: 2
Amazon sells more than just books, they also sell movies, music, and Android applications. They also have a lot of backend services for customers and businesses, cloud services, etc etc.

Amazon is a much much more tech oriented company than Barnes & Noble, so it is a pretty massive difference in capability there.


rooting
By Jeffk464 on 9/5/2011 11:29:26 AM , Rating: 2
This is going to be great once rooted and installed with cyanogen rom. Not as good a deal as the $99 HP tablet, but that was pretty unreal.




RE: rooting
By kmmatney on 9/6/2011 11:35:50 AM , Rating: 2
It depends on the processor - its only single core, and if its not faster than a Nook, there there would be no reason to buy this for that purpose. You can routinely by refurbished Nooks for $189 and do the same thing. Also, CM7 is really not that great - it gives you access to Google marketplace, but its not a great Tablet interface - and in my experience with it it was still a bit buggy and not performance optimized.


RE: rooting
By theapparition on 9/6/2011 1:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
And why would it be great, especially since you don't know the first thing about it?

Cyanogen also needs to be developed for this new tablet. Doubtful you'll be able to put pure Gingerbread on it, it will take some development time. Even now, there are still nightly builds for the Nook Color, and that's almost a year old.


Core Business
By rs2 on 9/6/2011 2:31:35 AM , Rating: 3
Last time I checked, Amazon's core business was not "web services", it was selling things (as in, tangible things) to people online. Their web services portfolio grew as an offshoot of that (they pretty much took the platform they developed internally to support their online store and started leasing it out to others), but their core business is still very much selling things to people online.

To characterize Amazon as a company whose primary product is web services is inaccurate at best, and ridiculous at worst.




RE: Core Business
By tng on 9/6/2011 11:45:43 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, but I got rated down for saying much the same thing that they were the WalMart of the internet.


gimme e-ink !!!
By veldrane on 9/6/2011 11:39:04 PM , Rating: 3
I am aging :( and my eyes aren't what they used to be, all these fancy shmancy trendy ass teeny tablets are useless for me because they are simply too hard on my eyes, except the kindle.

if amazon can manage to get a decent size color tablet using e-ink, they will gain millions upon millions of customers. i know so MANY people that are in the same boat as i am. and i will so buy an e-ink version of a full tablet.

i really hope they get this going and release an e-ink tablet.




RE: gimme e-ink !!!
By TakinYourPoints on 9/6/2011 11:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
High resolution color e-paper with fast enough refresh rate to display video and scroll pages smoothly is the holy grail, oh man that will be cool. :)


Will It Support Epubs?
By Arsynic on 9/6/2011 1:29:00 PM , Rating: 1
This thing looks like it will be as underpowered as the Nook Color. Hopefully it supports Epub.




RE: Will It Support Epubs?
By Red Jenny on 9/19/2011 11:35:13 PM , Rating: 2
It'll probably need to be rooted before it supports whatever formats Kindles don't now. Ironically a generic Android tablet would make a better e-reader than the Amazon tablet or the B&N Android Nooks because you could run every e-book software program on it while these will probably lock out their competitors' apps.

I don't see what this is supposed to do that my smartphone doesn't; if I want to read e-books I'll get a Kindle. Cheaper, much more energy efficient, and with a better (e-ink) screen for that purpose.


Lenovo A1
By vailr on 9/5/2011 1:49:22 PM , Rating: 2
The Lenovo A1
seems to offer more features (16 Gb [vs. Amazon Tablet's 6 Gb] memory + camera) for the same price point.




Unimpressed
By StormyKnight on 9/5/2011 10:36:27 PM , Rating: 2
I can't help but be disappointed by this upcoming tablet. I guess I fell victim to the hype. The specs are rather lackluster for the pricepoint and the OS. I was hoping for the 10.1" tablet with the same or better specs than the other Android-based tablets with the $250 price point. I wish them the best of luck and hope they succeed if only to drop the prices of the better tablets. HP Touchpad here I come.




Nook Color clone
By hereone on 9/5/2011 12:01:48 PM , Rating: 1
Nook Color Android-based tablet/eReader from Barnes & Noble has been on the market for over a year and sold millions of units at $250. Gives Flash, apps, videos, color magazines and ebooks with video inserts, and the best anti-glare coated screen on the market. Technology "giant" Amazon is finally catching up with the book store company by copying their device.




thanks
By jonaz on 9/5/11, Rating: 0
single core, why?
By riottime on 9/5/11, Rating: 0
Seriosuly?
By mattclary on 9/6/11, Rating: -1
Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By drycrust3 on 9/5/11, Rating: -1
RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By dark matter on 9/5/2011 1:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
What patent? Apple doesn't actually own multi touch. It certainly doesn't own backlit display.

So what patent?


RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By geddarkstorm on 9/5/2011 1:46:36 PM , Rating: 3
The shape.


RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By GulWestfale on 9/5/2011 2:00:06 PM , Rating: 2
it exists, therefore it infringes. - from the gospel of steve

i really hope that amazon succeeds with this, not just because people like me who publish on amazon) will benefit, but because a successful launch will make people realize that there is life outside the apple store. that in turn may heat up competition and increase sales of non=crapple devices, and that in turn may lower prices fr all of us. remember when you had to pay $1000 for a decent laptop? you can get that for 500 bucks now, unless you are one of steve's disciples.
so hopefully tablets will come down to less than 200 dollars very soon. netboks are already there; walmart was selling one for $180 last week.

and now for the obligatory self-promoting link:
http://www.amazon.com/Sascha-von-Bornheim/e/B003Z6...


RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By evo slevven on 9/5/2011 4:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
Amazon has a defensible position though that they rendered it off their kindle as much as possible. Frankly seeing Apple in a state of buying patents and waging warfare among the brands in court really speaks of a sign of desperation. Frankly Apple doesn't have the crushing~prudence bill gates had when it came to crushing competition. Apple also owns some of the multi-touch patents but not all of them.


RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By djdjohnson on 9/5/2011 4:41:50 PM , Rating: 2
Apple has patents on a few small aspects of their implementation of multitouch. Like the bouncing effect when you scroll past the end of a screen. Or scrolling a small portion of the screen using two fingers. Or "slide to unlock." They are very specific and shouldn't interfere with the ability of Amazon to produce a e-reader.


By drycrust3 on 9/6/2011 6:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
Well, according to the media reports anything that looks roughly like an iPad and has a touch sensitive screen infringes upon Apple's patent.


RE: Apple's "Looks like an iPad" patent.
By djdjohnson on 9/5/2011 4:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
You can't patent a shape. Or a "look." Or an idea. Patents are for processes.


By stonemetal on 9/5/2011 7:09:48 PM , Rating: 2
Actually you can. They are called design patents.


By jvillaro on 9/5/2011 8:50:37 PM , Rating: 2
Please go try to defend Samsung on their trials


By Red Jenny on 9/19/2011 11:29:53 PM , Rating: 2
You can't patent a shape. Or a "look." Or an idea. Patents are for processes.

Life would be a lot better if only that were true.


By joedon3 on 9/6/2011 7:57:46 AM , Rating: 2
"Dark colored rectangle" (BS patent if you ask me....) The Galaxy Tab has no physical face buttons, just a power and volume rocker, Samsung to sued.


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