That Amazon Android Tablet May be a Reality

by Andrys Basten

In a column I overlooked yesterday because the title wasn’t designed to grab you by the throat, Computerworld’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, aka cybercinic, writes that “The forthcoming Nook Color and the rumored Amazon Kindle Tablet will bring good Linux-powered tablets to users this year after all.”   Then he adds:

‘ “Sources at Amazon tell me that the company will indeed produce a mass-market Android tablet.  I can’t tell you its size, pricing, when it’s expected to ship, or anything else of substance.  The one thing I do know is that, like the Kindle, it will run Linux with a Java-based interface.  In short, this new tablet Kindle, let’s call it “KinTablet,” will run Android. ‘

The Amazon “Welcome Packet” to prospective apps store developers, described in Engadget’s story by Chris Ziegler, contains wording that indicates to Vaughan-Nichols that what he calls a “KinTablet” may be ready in time for the holiday season.  That would surprise me, but it may be that they’ve worked on this intensely for some time already.  He even bets that it will be announced on the day B&N is set to launch their NookColor or the day after.

Part of that Welcome Packet story by Engadget: “Developer-submitted videos will be supported in the app product pages, which is kind of nice — neither the Android Market nor the iOS App Store support that.”  They felt that the apps store would be “ready in time for the holidays” but where does the item “developer-submitted videos will be supported” fit with a Kindle reader? Would that be like the Enhanced Kindle books that only Apple products are able to use?

And there was the Kindle World story here in January, 10 months ago, citing Clayton Morris’ quote of a reply from a Qualcomm spokesman:

‘ When pressed about who its partner might be in 2010, a company spokesman asked me, “You know that device that everyone reads books on?  Well, it’s going to be a game changer on a device we all know.” ‘

Now that’s a way to halt ereader buying for 2 weeks, isn’t it.  With two online ‘zines suggesting strongly that Amazon is about to release an Android tablet and this particular columnist at Computerworld citing sources at Amazon confirming a “mass-market Android tablet,” it now looks as if Amazon is actually leaking the news.

Is it to staunch the flow of orders going Barnes and Noble’s way?  And even if it is, would they even talk about it to Computerworld if there wasn’t a good deal of truth to it?  Is it about timing? Effect? NO hint of what kind of screen.  Did they ask the sources? Is there a reason nothing’s being said about that rather important ‘area’ ?

He feels that this would be a more expensive model, as the LCD NookColor is, and was a reason that the pricing for the Kindle 3 was dropped.  And what’s happening with the Kindle DX Graphite? Why hasn’t the software to it been upgraded to match the Kindle 3’s since they are sharing the same higher-contrast and faster screen technology?

The Computerworld story is written by someone who feels he knew “dedicated ereaders would die off” so there is also a whiff of wishful dynamics going on here too.  First, this means he doesn’t value, himself, a dedicated ereader, and while people like me might look forward to a GOOD ereader tablet, in no way would I want to give up my *primary* dedicated e-book reading device.

There are too many columnists who don’t understand that and are puzzled by the extreme interest in these small, portable, HIGHLY-readable devices (something I think of everytime I pick up my Kindle 3 or DXG).

In his previous column, in June, he felt that interest in ereaders would die off in a year because a dedicated ereader cannot compete with an iPad. That’s been shown to be nonsense.  That he doesn’t even mention the differing screen technologies in EITHER column makes me wonder about his perspective and his interpretation of what was said to him.

There is a flood of buyers for dedicated ereaders at their currently decent pricing, WHILE the iPad is doing well, and he is at a loss to explain it, seeing NO reason whatsoever for that.  Here are his stated reasons, which show his blindness to the attraction of paper-like screens:

‘ Everything a Nook or a Kindle can do an Apple iPad can do better.  And, what’s far more important, an iPad can do far, far more.

Why should I buy a Nook or Kindle to read a book, when I can read the same books, from the same vendors, on an iPad?  Or, for that matter, an iPod Touch?  As Jason Perlow pointed out in his great overview of iPad ereader applications, anything you can read on one of those devices, you can read on an iPad. ‘

He probably never goes outdoor with his ‘reader’ and his eyes are probably never in need of adjustment when reading whole books on an LCD device.  Therefore the rest of the world couldn’t possibly value e-paper type screens.

Of course, everyone would prefer to spend that kind of money for screens that do irritate the eyes of many who like to read novels.  I’m not talking about surfing the web (see my story yesterday on that), since I can surf the web for an entire day without eye-difficulty, as it presents eye-relief in many ways that reading a book on an LCD screen does not do for me and for many others.
And I guess some do believe that everyone would prefer to play bird-games or surf the web on their reader.

The ereader world is a niche area — most books are still bought (heavily so) by those choosing e-Ink readers because that’s their ‘focus.’

He wrote, in June, before the recent explosion of ereader and e-book buying, that dedicated readers … “They’re history.”

For months, other columnists have been baffled by the popularity of the dedicated devices and discovered that the iPad and dedicated ereaders seem to be complementary rather than one ‘killing’ interest in the other.

He views the idea of a supplementary device filling the needs of another target audience (one that wouldn’t want a B&W reader (and only about 10% of households make up the avid reader population, per Bezos) or who would like a *secondary* reader for magazines, travel books, children’s books) and it matches his core belief that others are like he is, wholly disinterested in reading in eye-soothing e-Ink (he doesn’t mention the technology at all which is really bizarre, since most columnists now acknowledge its attractions).

So, while I think the rumor is being dropped by Amazon intentionally, I also am sure he is misinterpreting the long-term meaning of it. Where he and I meet is if ereaders are built with screens that are usable for fast video AND for eye-pleasing e-paper (as Mirasol is), only then would people who love the new Pearl screen technology (and I am not exaggerating how much ereader owners “love” these screens as shown in all kinds of general forums these days) move toward a tablet.

It would have to be as light, portable, and *clear* — not anything like the iPad is when it comes to reading of entire books. I know too many people who have given up reading on the iPad and gone (or returned) to dedicated e-Ink readers, and we’ve also seen the tremendous interest currently in dedicated ereaders during the height of interest in the iPad.

I was intrigued a couple of months ago that an E Ink, Inc. demo of its newer technology involving color discussed the need for making higher-contrast screens because whatever is needed to produce color e-Ink will *decrease* screen contrast.  Now that I’m used to the Kindle 3 and the DX Graphite, I find it harder to use my older Kindle 2 U.S., which just looks very light, though it beats any laptop LCD screen or trying to read a book (not surf) on an iPad in daylight for any length of time.

I don’t think the answer will include E-Ink color; it’d still be too slow.  It would have to be something like Qualcomm Mirasol, Pixel Qi’s dual screen capability, or one of the other emerging color screen technologies.

Interesting times.


  1. Justin5 November, 2010

    A PixelQi screen would be great. They currently only seem to have 10 inch models, and their website lists 7 inch models as being “in development.” So maybe we’ll see a 10 inch PixelQi Kindle – that might explain the lack of an update for their current “jumbo” model reader. The PixelQi website only says that, “other products are unannounced and we can’t discuss but are coming along nicely as well.” I can always hope, but unless it’s amazingly priced, I still have my eye on the Notion Ink Adam

  2. fjtorres5 November, 2010

    On the color tablet vs dedicated reader divide: what are the odds of a color screen offering 200dpi and 1 month battery life at $99 in the next decade? Never mind the contrast, never mind the video; just something that you can use to read anywhere for a month on a charge without carrying 50 lbs of battery.
    Lost in the tablet debate is that tablets need GHz CPUs and 3D graphics; they need lots of working RAM, not just 64MB, and they need lots and lots of battery just to get through *one* day.
    There future of dedicated readers is small and cheap. The future of tablets is probably larger and pricier. By the time you tally up the required general-purpose hardware you’ll be talking full-function PC pricing, whereas dedicated eink readers can be profitably built using feature phone tech.

    What remains to be seen is *if* there is any kind of market for ($200-and-under) NookColor/Pocketbook IQ-type hardware dedicated to color books like kids books, cookbooks, and coffee table book class content that can get by with lesser hardware than a full-blown tablet.

  3. Mike Cane5 November, 2010

    ALL hardware gets cheaper. The value comes from the SOFTWARE locked to it.

    I’ve said a KindlePad has been coming for months and months. Only NOW do people think it’s coming?

    You can expect two things:

    1) VERY limited supplies
    2) BLEED-OUT prices for it on eBay (worse than last year’s Nook frenzy)

    Amazon doesn’t have to have enough on hand to sell to EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY. Just enough on hand to stab to death NookColor sales.

  4. […] That Amazon Android Tablet May be a Reality […]

  5. Alexander Inglis6 November, 2010

    It’s just nutty to believe Amazon will release a colour Kindle in 2010. Jeff Bezos was categoric in his denial of such a beast as recently as June on the very credible reason that “the technology isn’t ready”.

    I agree with Andrys that the columnist is either mis-informed or in denial … not something rare among tech columnists.

    Amazon is also not a competitor like Apple which teases and leaks and bashes anyone outside the garden … including customers if necessary (most recently seen in “purifying” content viewable on its devices). Amazon’s DNA is to be the “most customer centric brand in the world”; releasing a product long before it is ready, or in “very limited quantities” is just not the Amazon way. Amazon is about winning in mass, delivering an end-to-end outstanding customer experience.

    So, Mike, you can expect neither of your two things. Besides, Amazon is not in a to-the-death struggle with B&N’s Nook: B&N will take itself out on its own the way things are going. And, in the meantime, having a Nook, Sony and Kobo in the market makes regulators happier … and that’s very good for Amazon and its shareholders.

    1. Andrew H.7 November, 2010

      This won’t happen anytime soon. First of all, as Alexander noted, Jeff Bezos denied any color devices back in June.

      Second, making a tablet like this makes little sense from Amazon’s point of view – the purpose of the Kindle is to sell books, not to make money on the hardware, and as Kindle Apps are widely available on other tablets (except the NC), Amazon has no need to go to the expense (and take the risk) of producing its own tablet. (Especially if other tablet makers took that as a reason to to allow the Kindle App).

      Third, I think that the announcement of the iPad spooked Amazon, and their strategy (which they implemented very quickly) was to distinguish the Kindle from the iPad as much as possible: in terms of price; in terms of size; in terms of the screen; and in terms of simplicity. It would be completely inconsistent with this strategy to then come up with an item that competes directly with the iPad in the tablet space.

      1. fjtorres7 November, 2010

        Actually, there is one very good reason for Amazon to do a webpad/tablet: to sell more videos. Remember, Amazon sells downloadable video and isn’t doing too well because they lack a flagship device; they have many STB deals but nothing they can point to, as they can with ebooks.
        That is why *I* think Amazon will do an Android pad but *not* necessarily call it a Kindle.


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