Regarding that Amazon tablet

The Wall Street Journal claims Amazon is going ahead with a 9-inch Android-based tablet to compete with the iPad.

Amazon.com Inc. plans to introduce a tablet computer before October, said people familiar with the matter, in a move that will heighten the online retailer's rivalry with Apple Inc.

The Seattle-based company will also release two updated versions of its popular Kindle electronic reader in the third quarter of the year, the people said. One will be a touch-screen device. The other won't have a touch screen, but will be an improved and cheaper adaptation of the current Kindle, said people who have seen the device.

On the surface, that sounds great. A lot of other competitors, including RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook and HP's webOS TouchPad have struggled to ship feature-complete, and previous Android Honeycomb tablets had a similar beta feel about them. All in all, they seemed to be bringing specs to an experience fight.

At first blush the idea of an Amazon-filled Android tablet sounds better than a non-Amazon filled Android tablet (though Samsung and other companies are putting together better and better content offerings of their own every day.) But that's all it really is at this point. Until we see it, it will be impossible to know for sure, but the Kindle inspires absolutely know confidence in their industrial design chops, much less their user interface skills. If the next version of Android, Ice scream sandwich is ready by then, and if Matias Duarte has been able to work his web OS wonders on it, maybe Amazon will be able to stick with stock. But that's a big maybe. Apple has made it very, very hard to compete on software polish, and their huge bank account has made it ever harder to compete on hardware pricing.

Amazon has content though. While they're working on it, currently neither RIM nor HP nor Google have TV, movie, music and other content deals in place to match iTunes, nor do they have the 90-country strong check out system, with hundreds of millions of credit cards ready and willing to buy. Amazon does. Sort of.

While Amazon has an incredible array of content deals in place in the US, probably the most competitive to iTunes on the market, the international story is quite different. Sure, even Apple struggles with the archaic, fragmented media licensing model that assigns different publishers different rights in different geographies, but Apple's App Store is in the aforementioned 90 countries, iTunes music is around the globe, and they've slowly and surely rolled out movies and TV shows to an increasing number of countries. Canada may not have TV rentals yet, but they have HD movie rentals and TV show purchases. They have something.

Amazon said they'd be bringing Amazon MP3 to Canada in 2008. It must be having a hell of a time at the border, however, because it still hasn't made it across. When you listen to Apple's earning calls, more and more of their revenue is coming from the international market, a market that now has incredibly popular Apple Stores to provide a retail jab to set up the iTunes Store uppercut.

So Amazon could be bringing content to an experience fight. But it would be mostly in the US, and if they nail the other aspects.

I really want a great iPad competitor. I haven't seen one yet. Though they're every bit as ruthless as Apple, if not more so, I really want Amazon to be that competitor. But I haven't seen anything to date to make me think they will be.

Slapping a tablet on the front page of Amazon.com will get them sales, but they'll have to make a truly exceptional product to get them into the game.

Especially if Apple is readying to ship an iPad 3 or iPad 2 Pro at the same time...

[Wall Street Journal]