Amazon's iPad competitor is a 7-inch Android-forking Kindle tablet... for $250?

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M.G. Siegler from TechCrunch claims he's gone hands-on with the future of iPad competition, and the future of Amazon's Kindle line -- a 7-inch full color, touchscreen tablet built on an Android core but entirely Amazon at the interface level. All for $250. If you think it sounds like the Nook Color, you're not wrong, it just trades the B&N brick-and-mortar shelves for Amazon's hugely popular homepage.

The interface is all Amazon and Kindle. It’s black, dark blue, and a bunch of orange. The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device. This includes books, apps, movies, etc. Below the main carousel is a dock to pin your favorite items in one easy-to-access place. When you turn the device horizontally, the dock disappears below the fold. [...] But the key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazon’s content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. The app store is Amazon’s Android Appstore.

With nary a Google app in sight. Phil Nickinson from Android Central says:

It'll still be interesting to see how a post-Nook Color Amazon tablet will compete. The Kindle's no longer the only game in town, and Barnes & Noble has a pretty good leg up by being a brick-and-mortar organization as well, plus it's got its excellent in-store customer training, which has to take a lot of the scare factor out of using the Nook. (One could argue that a proper tablet UI doesn't need any sort of training, but we digress.)

Everyone and their comment thread seems to be thinking this will be the first real competition to iPad (which is what they said about Xoom, PlayBook, TouchPad... you get the idea.) It well might. It'll be small. It'll be light. Amazon has a great checkout system and a compelling content story in the US (international is, as with every platform, a mixed bag of hurt.) Their hardware has never been great, however, and international sales have become increasingly important to Apple and iPad.

People like cheap, but cost and value aren't always the same thing -- as Apple has proven time and again. (Apple's competition hasn't, however, so maybe they'll be in even more danger from the KindleDroid?)

One thing is for certain -- Android is the new Linux.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

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's iPad competitor is a 7-inch Android-forking Kindle tablet... for $250?


When I read about this I was confused why anybody feels this will have a significant impact in the tablet marketplace. It's just another bargain basement Android device with a heavily customized UI. When the Kindle came out it was revolutionary for the display, battery life, and 3G. This device has none of that. This is a waste of time. The Kindle app is available for all the major platforms so why should they bother with this? My only guess is they will sell this at a loss to try to lock people into the Amazon content ecosystem.

Long live the king! Keep your ithoughts to yourself, please. apple is NOT the be-all, end-all ...

Still think they're playing in different realms. People will think of this as a reader, not a tablet. More of an answer to the Nook Color than the ipad and probably the smart move for Amazon.
The wait is still on for windows 8 IMO for a real ipad competitor.

I hear you but nah. Android is Linux mobile so not eclipsing by any means unless Android takes over desktops.
The tablet will be interesting though.

So, in your opinion, is this a serious contender or an amazonian folly? I know Amazon are aiming, along with Google and Apple, are looking to take the world over, but will this help or hinder?

But I don't want any of that stuff from a Kindle...I want a great reading experience. That is the thing that the iPad was never designed to provide, and where the Kindle not only had a niche, but was a dominant player. The Kindle is the iPad of the eInk world, making all of the other competitors play catch up. Only now with the Nook Touch is B&N actually starting to level the field.
If Amazon only comes out with a tablet/Nook Color in this next refresh, and does nothing to their eInk line of products, not only are they not going to ever be a real threat to the iPad, but they risk losing their dominance in the eReader world.

Android is the new Linux? This sounds like a devastating verdict for a consumer front-end operating system. Linux has had amazing success elsewhere, but as a desktop OS it is confined to a few geeks or cheapos who couldn't afford Windows for their netbook. If that's the future of Android - oh vey....
I still think that - if Apple repeats history - Android will become the next MS Windows and iOS the next MacOS. In the 80s Apple had a big head-start to the others (MS-DOS, anyone?), but they threw it away by keeping an iron grip on the hardware and developers, while the IBM-compatible machines undercut Apple in price and soon in capabilities.
Right now this seems EXACTLY what is happening, and $250 Android tablets is the next step for Apple to confine themselves to a very hip and very minority audience.

They already have confined themselves to that audience, for the most part. Who else gets a new phone every year? Hip/tech savvy peeps. My mom sure doesn't. :-D She's eyeballing an iPhone 3Gs because it is cheap on AT&T [her carrier] and her old phone is busted. If she gets one, she'd keep it for 4 or 5 years with no worries.
As for the Windows vs Mac equaling Android vs iOS, I partially agree. Where it isn't correct is in hardware and developers. The build quality of iOS devices is astonishingly well done. Android manufacturers simply are not matching it outright. Some are close [I dig several of my devices] but Apple gets this right. Their developer ecosystem is doing astonishing things for developers. They made a lot of people rich and numerous people well off. This is way more in 4 years than anyone else for the life of independent mobile development.
So, it is close to the same situation and iOS will become more niche as Android floods the market w/ more devices but iOS is getting the hardware and developer story right, by a country mile. Just look at how Android devices struggle to match on pricing and hardware build quality [not just specs]. Those two [hardware/developers] are great reasons why you see the medical, education, etc fields taking the iPad in as their default device.
I can barely stand iOS devices so don't think I'm fanboying in this response. I'm the resident Android guy on TiPB. lol. I just call it like I see it. :) Oh and I follow TiPB for solid commentary on iOS and Apple since I have multiple iOS devices and MacBook Pros.

The Mac/Windows outcome is possible, but it likelihood is overblown. Three of the big reasons MS crushed Apple in the computer wars, and ways iOS is different:
1) MS courted developers, where Apple pissed on them.
iOS: App Store policies may have pissed off quite a few people (me included), but nobody else has stepped up really wooed developers to a compelling alternative, like MS did in the 80s and 90s. Apple is in no danger here until somebody gets developers to write first/best on their platform.
2) Apple had limited hardware options, and even more limited ways of upgrading existing boxes, which businesses demanded.
iOS: A big concern for computers, but irrelevant in the phone/tablet market.
3) Wintel boxes were cheaper.
iOS: Apple has not let much room to be undercut this time around.
The iOS=Mac, Android=Windows thing could still happen, but I think Apple is in a much more comfortable position than they were back in the day. Of course, if Apple execs themselves start believing their position is comfortable, that is when you get knocked on your keister. :)

Jobs did two things when he came back. Simplified existing product ranges and started building new mass market consumer devices. Whenever possible he created, or massively expanded, new sectors - all in the consumer space. He once said it as was as vital to decide what NOT to do, as what needed fixing right now.
Apple almost went bust serving the needs of a "hip minority audience". Jobs killed all that. I think Apple need an iOS device between iPhones and iPads now, people already want them. So I hope the design process began in spring 2010 and the packaging design is at the printers.

The one thing Apple SHOULD pursue from this, is the issue of size. The iPad has a tendency to stay at home; but there IS a size (somewhere between a smart-phone and a 10 inch pad) that becomes truly mobile.
I use my little 7 inch Archos this way and it seldom leaves my side. I would be the first to admit that it is a bit fatter and slower than I would like, but it has a fully accessible 250Gb hard drive - and NO bloody iTunes getting in the way. For me, these are key benefits. I realise that Apple can't break that iTunes addiction, but perhaps they can go into rehab regarding their complacency in other matters. This means you Jonathan and Tim. Margins are not a long term substitute for good new products.
I like the iPad2, but Frankly, Apple need to get their arse in gear. Samsung alone will soon offer FIVE device sizes from 4.3"-10.1", with lovely screens and great resolution. You had a 12 month lead, but it is fading fast. It is time to stop worrying about the shading on individual icons, drop all this courtroom bollocks, and get some real work done.

It does not need to be. Amazon see this as an extension of their shop, most Android fans won't touch it.
The real issue is serious contenders in the middle sizes at good prices - and they are coming fast. When people can buy light, pocketable full range devices that people can afford; they will be the ones selling 20 million a year.

The iPad killer is going to be a Windows based tablet. I can see Microsoft already merging their desktop and mobile operating systems. You've also got the processing power of tablets increasing exponentially.
A tablet than can run the same version of Microsoft Office and other software as a desktop is going to be a game changer. Companies will be able to buy tablets, laptops, or desktops based on need and not have to worry about software compatibilty. I know there are "compatible" apps out there, but ultimately the features and output don't exactly match the original.
Throw in a consumer version for $299 or less and the $499 iPad will have a serious run for its money.

The Windows based tablet killer has always been the iPad. I can see Apple already merging their desktop and mobile operating systems. You've also got the processing power of iPads increasing exponentially.
See what I did there? See what Apple is doing there?

Even though it runs Android, if I'm honest I don't think it stands to beat, or even come close to the iPad. The iPad just has something no other tablet has. The lower price point might appeal to some people, but to be honest it's still not cheap. I'd have to see it properly though, and in a few months time I might have to completely eat my words!

In some ways "Forking" is the new "Fragmentation." Old-school fragmentation happened when all the droid-based iPad cloners and cell carriers hacked in their own weird UI tweaks and dumped crapware onto the base Android releases. Not to mention the varying screen geometries and pixel counts. Confusing and frustrating for users, extremely annoying for developers. And Google doesn't care enough to stop fragmentation from happening.
New-school forking happens when an iPad cloner replaces not just the UI layer but also the profit layer. Fusion Garage completely eliminated all but the Android kernel in their (catastrophically haphazard) Grid 10. Amazon has built their own UI and dumped Android Market for their own App Store etc.
And that's the real killer, isn't it? Amazon has surgically removed Android's cold advertising-driven heart. And once you strip out Android's profit layer (worth only $6 - $10 a year to Google anyway) Google actually loses money on Android. Microsoft already makes more money per copy of Android than Google does, thanks to patent royalties.
Oh, the irony.

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