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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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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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