Amazon Buys Multitouch Company for Kindle

Amazon looks to be ready to ramp up the Kindle's features to include multitouch support now that it has purchased Touchco. The small company specializes in touch screen technology, and Amazon plans to roll the Touchco team into its Kindle division, according to the New York Times.

The Touchco Web site says the company stopped "doing business" in January and Amazon isn't talking about the deal, but sources that were briefed on the transaction apparently leaked the details.

Assuming Amazon finds a compelling way to include Touchco's technology in the Kindle, it could give the company's ebook reader a competitive boost in its pending battle against Apple's iPad. Touchco's screens are flexible, can detect an unlimited number of simultaneous touches, and cost far less than the multitouch screens used in the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Apple's iPad won't be available until March, but the company gave consumers a preview of what to expect during a media event in late January. The iPad includes a 9.7-inch color multitouch display, a built-in ebook reader called iBooks that supports in-book multimedia, the iBookStore online ebook store, the ability to run iPhone and iPod touch applications, movie and music playback, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G wireless data support.

Amazon's current Kindle offerings are limited to monochrome E-ink displays, don't offer touch-based controls, use a physical keyboard for basic data entry, and don't offer the wide range of applications that are available for the iPad. Adding multitouch technology, coupled with Amazon's recent announcement that it is opening the Kindle to third-party developers, might help sway some consumers that have been considering an iPad over a Kindle.

The prospect of a competing product, and actual shipping products, however, aren't the same thing, and for now Amazon's current Kindle lineup will have to fight for marketshare with Apple's iPad when it ships in March. Unless the iPad stumbles out of the starting gate -- which doesn't seem likely at this point -- Amazon will likely have to play catch up with future Kindle models.