Amazon preparing a 9-inch iPad competitor for fall

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. 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 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]

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Amazon preparing a 9-inch iPad competitor for fall


Rene Ritchie, can I ask you a personal question? I usually find your articles, well most of your writers as well, to be intriguing. The question is why do you constantly refer to an iPad 3 or iPad 2 Pro if there is no substantial evidence that the aforementioned devices are even coming to fruition this year? I understand your optimism, but I feel that you are shoving the rumor in our faces. I would like to understand your point of view. The iPad 2 came out a few months ago, but from an economic standpoint, Apple will most likely not create a new iteration of the iPad this year as they cannot keep up with demand on the current model, and the fact that there are more profits are to be made since it was just released a couple of months ago.

The Kindle inspires "know confidence" in their design and ui?
Grammar aside, what do you find so lacking? I have been reading books on my iPad for some time now, and just recently picked up a Kindle (for a Dance with Dragons, if anybody cares). Maybe I am in a honeymoon phase, but I am finding it a much, much, much better reader than the iPad -- not even close. The interface is limited, but, for what it is supposed to do, it seems fantastic so far. What am I missing?

That reply is more a Chopra-esque platitude than a legitimate criticism. Besides, you criticized both the industrial design and the UI of the Kindle.
The Kindle is designed to be a lightweight, single purpose electronic reader. That's it. No less, and certainly no more. In that, from my admittedly limited time period I think it succeeds brilliantly.
You seem to think it fails badly enough that it destroys any credibility Amazon has in creating similar products. To merit such a vitriolic reaction from you, the Kindle must have had specific, enumerable failings for you.
I am certainly open enough to concede they could exist, but that I just have not hit them yet. What I am asking, honestly, is for those specific failings for its single purpose that so damaged the Kindle in your eyes.

I want a reader. Was going to wait to see what Amazon put out, but I don't want to wait for third quarter before I get it. Guess I will be going with the Nook Touch.

No, I am not. You still offering generalities, not specifics. As to your single use case mentioned here:

  • I have yet to have an accidental page turn on a Kindle, and I have on both Kindle and iBooks readings on my iPad. But that is obviously a matter of personal taste. I have yet to have a single problem, but maybe I have not used it enough. I was asking for use case example -- not saying "it does nothing to get out of my way," but how it gets in your way -- which you seem unwilling or unable to provide.

The Kindle's design succeeded, both in terms of sales and (IMHO) usability. It seems illogical to point to a successful device, and say, because they succeeded in A they cannot design B. If you think that Amazon is too wrapped up in A (like RIM with email-focused devices) that they will make no credible effort at B, that is an argument worth having, but that was not your argument. You were arguing that their Kindle design shows they cannot design a tablet, and that does not logically follow.
I am not saying Amazon will make a sweet tablet right out of the gate. I frankly doubt they will. But nothing about the Kindle informs that opinion. It would be as if I said Apple's hockey puck mouse and Magic Mouse sucked, therefore they cannot make a trackpad. The first two were true, but the conclusion is nonsense. Different markets, different designs, different goals.