Report: Amazon Will Soon Release $250 7” Android Tablet

| Analysis

Amazon is getting ready to release a 7” Android-based color, back-lit tablet priced at US$250, according to TechCrunch, which claimed to have seen and held the device. The device will be marketed under the Kindle brand, and it will be the first “Kindle” with a capacitive touch screen interface.

Reporting for TechCrunch, MG Siegler said that the unit he was shown was a Design Verification Testing model that is circulating around Amazon currently, and the company plans on releasing it near the end of November.

Amazon Joins the Tablet Fray?

Amazon Joins the Tablet Fray?

With a 7” screen, the device is roughly the same size as Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and Mr. Siegler said the two tablets look very similar. It’s also the same size as Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color e-reader.

Also like the Nook Color, Amazon’s new tablet runs Android, but the company has forked Android and put a completely-Amazon-centric interface on it. Amazon’s online store is always one tap away, it features the company’s Amazon Cloud Player for a music player, and, of course, a Kindle app for reading ebooks.

While Google is the default search engine in the built-in browser, there are no other apps or even access to Google’s Android Marketplace. Amazon has launched its own Amazon Appstore for Android in direct competition with Google.

Indeed, Amazon supposedly hasn’t worked with Google on this device in any way, and there are no Google apps on it. The Amazon-designed interface was built on an unspecified version of Android before version 2.2 of the OS, and the company plans to continue building on this for the future.

“In other words,” Mr. Siegler wrote, “this won’t be getting ‘Honeycomb’ or ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’—or if it does, users will never know it because that will only be the underpinnings of the OS. Any visual changes will be all Amazon.”

In our other words, Amazon appears to have taken what it needs from Android without giving much of anything back to Google or Android. The company is coming about as close as it can to offering a whole-widget device built around the company’s extensive content ecosystem. The design and manufacturing are most likely outsourced, but Amazon is controlling the interface, the pace of change on the OS, and access to content.

If any of that sounds familiar, this reporter will (not at all) humbly point out that in May, he wrote that Amazon is one of only two companies that can compete with iPad, and that the key to doing so would be building a device around its content ecosystem.

Even though this first Kindle tablet will feature only a 7” display, smaller than Apple’s 9.7” iPad, a $250 price tag combined with a simple, Kindle/Amazon-centric interface may well find a ready customer pool, especially considering the company’s direct marketing access to hundreds of millions of customers around the globe.

In summary, Apple may finally get a proper competitor to the iPad later this fall. If the hardware feels cheap or the screen looks like crap, even a $250 price tag won’t help Amazon move a lot of these devices.

If the hardware is adequate—the company’s existing Kindle e-readers have always gotten at least “good enough” passes—if the screen is at least good enough, and if the company really has developed a solid interface that makes it easy for customers to find the wealth of content available through Amazon, including ebooks, music, movies, and TV shows, a $250 price tag will likely be enough to overcome the differences in comparative iPad quality to find plenty of buyers.

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Comments

barryotoole

Wondering if it will run the iBooks app? Apple got a lot of grief when it changed terms for the Kindle apple on the iPad. At least you can still run that app on the iPad.

Bryan Chaffin

I would give it 0.001% chance of running Apple’s iBooks app, but that’s only because Apple isn’t likely to port iBooks to Android or allow it to be run on any device that’s not an Apple device.

You can’t even read an iBooks ebook on a Mac, at least not yet, much to my personal chagrin. smile

ibuck

It would be great to see Amazon broaden the tablet market. in addition to a good user experience, size and weight are important. A small and lightweight device would tag along with users where the bigger, heavier iPad wouldn’t. The sweet spot could very well be something about 10 ounces and roughly the size of a foreign language phrasebook. That would fit in a cargo pants pocket or a purse, and make it twice the size of the 4-ounce iPod Touch?at roughly the same price.

Bryan Chaffin

ibuck, I would be very surprised if Amazon could make a 7” tablet for $250 that weighs 10 ounces without it being very flimsy.  Lightweight yet strong is almost always the result of expensive R&D, materials, and manufacturing processes.

mhikl

I don’t think this could beat the HP Touchpad at $99, for an ereader, anyway. That’s 41 bucks cheaper than the Kindle 3, it does searches and it has Flash. And it’s got a proven actual sales record. It’s sold hundreds of thousands.

Not sure about its return rate, if it can be returned or if it actually works or comes with a warranty.

So many pluses. A few questions. But by some accounts, a winner.

Forgot to add, it’s bigger than seven inches, for those who say size is important.

dhp

You can?t even read an iBooks ebook on a Mac, at least not yet, much to my personal chagrin.

So true and completely puzzling, Bryan. I love how I can sit and read a Kindle ebook at my my iMac, then pick up my iPod touch and continue reading in the Kindle app from the page where I left off. Why has Apple neglected this? Did someone (I won’t mention any names) just decide that no one wants to read on their Mac?

ibuck

B. Chaffin said: I would be very surprised if Amazon could make a 7” tablet for $250 that weighs 10 ounces without it being very flimsy.

Are we equating light weight with flimsy? If so, that makes the 4-oz iPod Touch flimsy. The Kindle is plastic precisely because a reader needs to be lightweight, because you’re holding it for hours. One can read on an iPad if seated, resting it on lap or table, but if you’re lying or standing it gets damn heavy in no time.

I’m not saying Amazon’s making a 7” tablet. Or that it’s a 7 inch screen. Or that it’s $250. I just think there’s a market for a reader-tablet device weighing about 10 ounces, with a 5 or 6 inch screen, that would fit in a cargo pocket.

As for prices, they can be surprising. Did you think the original iPad would be as low as $499? And would Amazon take a small loss just to sell more ebooks? Certainly possible.

furbies

I wonder if some enterprising nerd won’t work out how to load (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Android in to the Amazon device ?

If a nerd can do that, then Amazon is really on to a loss leader….

Chris B

Are we equating light weight with flimsy?

No, he’s equating lightweight AND cheap with probably being flimsy.

Ross Edwards

I wonder if ditching e-ink will turn out to be a mistake.  Right now that’s the killer app of the regular Kindle.  (If you haven’t tried it, you really don’t know just how significant it is for the purpose.)

Kyle

this will never come close to competing w the iPad. The IPad isn’t just an eReader, in fact I’d go as far to say it isn’t an eReader at all. It is much more. With it’s amazing browser, AppStore, media capabilities, and much much more. The ecosystem apple has built around the iPad makes a 7’ in eReader look like a child’s play thing. Even @ 250$ people will realize you get what you pay for.

Neil Anderson

Backlit, huh? There goes the arguments claiming Kindle is so much better for reading.

coolio

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.

Nemo

Amazon has pulled a Chinese OEM move on Google:  It is providing a complete branch of Android outside of the People’s Republic of China, which, hitherto, had been the only place where major players, nearly all of them, have done a complete branch of Android.  Because of Google’s licensing of Android, once anyone takes the steps that Mr. Chaffin describes, supra, he/it is excommunicated from the community of Google’s version of Android, which means that Google won’t provide you with updates to Android; it won’t let your devices download apps from the Market; it won’t let you use the Android trademarks, and some other things.  So Amazon is on its own with its own fully separate and independent version of Android.

The upside is that Amazon has its own online app store that it can run as it wishes, and it can hardly do a worst job of running it than Google has done of running its Market.  It can develop its version of Android for its devices as its wishes.  And here’s a big one:  Amazon, rather than Google, gets to possess and control the highly valuable customer persona/private information, which means that Amazon gets all the advertising and marketing revenue from pimping the users of its Android devices. 

The downside is rather obvious:  Amazon now bears all the costs of updating, marketing, and supporting its app store, its versions of Android, and its Android-based devices, and of building a brand for its Android-based but not Anroid-trademarked devices.  Also, Amazon’s version of Android and its devices may be subject to some or all of the same infringement actions from Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft that are threatening Google’s version of Android and Google’s Android OEMs.  But we will see whether Amazon has learned from Google’s IP infringement troubles and, thus, has avoided infringing on the IP of at least other major players.

As for Amazon’s device, I don’t think that what appears to be a single core devices with only a 7” screen, and with markedly fewer apps for $250.00 will be an iPad killer.

But you can expect a real catfight between Android pimps, Google and Amazon, on this one.  Indeed, Google may have found a use for the Motorola Mobility patents, which seems useless against Apple and Microsoft:  Perhaps they will be useful in suing Amazon for infringement, though probably not.

Amazon is attempting to do to Google here in the U.S. and, at a later time, almost certainly internationally what the Chinese carriers and OEMs have done to Google in China, though here Amazon will not have the assistance of the U.S. Government so it should be a fair fight. 

Google’s headquarters in Mountain View is under full assault and artillery barrage from Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft.  Now, Amazon opens up with another massive broadside.  Google’s period of market share dominance for its Android smartphones may be one of the shortest in history of business. 

Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practice to infringe.

RonMacGuy

I will post my comment that i just posted on Ken’s article immediately above this article.

I must admit, at first I agreed with Steve Jobs on the tablet size issue (given how incredibly awesome my iPad is), but lately I?m thinking that there should be both a 10? and a 7? iPad 3 in addition to a 4? iPhone 5. Continue pricing the 10? iPad 3 starting at $500, and hit android with a kick to the groin with a $300 7? iPad 3.

Apple can easily make it and still bring in tons of profit, and it enables them to go after a tablet market of people who don?t want a 10? tablet, but still want something to complement their iPhone 5 with a bit more screen real estate. Oh, and while they are at it, might as well come out with the 13? iPad 3 as well!! Oh yeh!!

RonMacGuy

Here’s a link to a great article about schools moving to, as my favorite TMO commenter would say, the “declining and mostly irrelevant iPad”:

The move toward iPads in US Schools

barryotoole

I made the following comment on Asymco, and got some grief:

? for me, iPad has almost completely replaced the laptop because most of the things I use the laptop for can be done with an iPad. I certainly don’t do CAD or editing movies on my laptop, anyway; I don’t think most of the mainstream consumers don’t, either.

? going forward, as the iPad evolves into an untethered device, the use of another PC will even be less. iCloud will make that happen, and it will also evolve to add more functionality.

? I believe that that iPod Touch will be discontinued in it’s present form, within a year. The future iPod could have a 6”, or so, retina display. With a price of, say, $199, this will compete with the likes of Kindle, but with extra functionality and better screen. It will be like a color Kindle plus.

? I also believe that the evolution of the iPad will mirror that of the iPod. There could be another model with the retina screen size of 8.5” X 11”, or thereabouts, to mimic the size of the US letter/A4. If the wieght of this is the same or less than the current iPad 2, it will be a good seller; it won’t be more cumbersome to carry an 11” tablet than a 10” one.

? IMO, this is the ‘mobile’ line-up I see from Apple in the near future:
- an 8GB iPhone with a 3.5” regular screen for $99
- a 16/32 GB iPhone with a 4” retina display for $499/$599
- a 16/32 GB iPod Touch with a 6” retina display, w/ Wi-Fi +/- 3/4G for $199/$299
- a 16/32 GB iPad with a 9.7” retina display, w/ Wi-Fi +/- 3/4G for $499/$699
- a 16/32GB iPad with a 11” retina display, w/ Wi-Fi +/- 3/4G for $599/$799
- a 64/128 GB, 3”/4” RD iPod Touch for $299/$399

? why do I think so:
- with the iCloud, there is no need for higher memory, hence no 64GB models; also money saver.
- there has to be a lower end iPhone that is more affordable. It could be just be 3G to be sold in BRIC countries.
- consumers who can’t afford an iPad would buy an 6” iPod Touch, as the iPad evolves into having more laptop functionality. Apple will not call anything with a screen size less than 9.7” an iPad.
- the 3”/4” iPod Touch is for people who’d want an iPod to store more of their music locally. The HDD iPod Classic may be discontinued.

This is a reason why I don’t see Amazon or any other company using another OS (eg Android) catching up to Apple, either in tablets or the cellphone arenas. I think these products will flood the market and won’t allow a competitor to thrive, just like the iPod did. As Apple takes on other carriers internationally, and Sprint/T-Mo in the US, the iPhone will be even harder to subdue.

Drew Bear

If the hardware is adequate…a $250 price tag will likely be enough to overcome the differences in comparative iPad quality to find plenty of buyers.

I agree if you define “plenty” as 3-4 million unit sales in its first year. Amazon has intentionally never reported Kindle sales, but speculation pegs sales of the current 3rd generation device at ~3 million per year. That’s with an ASP of maybe $150?

Barnes & Noble has likewise never reported how many Nook Colors they’ve sold. DigiTimes claimed B&N had taken delivery of 3 million units 4 months after its release. It is now 10 months since its release and no updated numbers have been rumored. Even if you trust DigiTimes, that still pegs first year sales at 3-4 million.

Such sales numbers by unit won’t even reach 10% of iPad sales. By revenue they are in the low single digits of iPad sales.?If this is the best competition iPad faces, it is well on its way to a Windows-like dominance of the market.

geoduck

I don’t see this as hurting iPad sales much.
I see this as the nail in the coffin for RIM and thePlayBook.
Yay, Amazon.

ktodack

? I believe that that iPod Touch will be discontinued in it?s present form, within a year. The future iPod could have a 6?, or so, retina display. With a price of, say, $199, this will compete with the likes of Kindle, but with extra functionality and better screen. It will be like a color Kindle plus.

Apple is perfectly capable of building a 6” Touch at $199. This would of course run IOS and be much more capable then the new Kindle—essentially killing all Kindle and Nook players. It’s all a matter of Apple timing—it needs to go to market for Christmas.

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