Rumored Amazon tablet might not challenge iPad, but Google

by Phil Hornshaw

By now you’ve no doubt heard that the Wall Street Journal has reported the first solid-ish details about the rumored Amazon Android tablet, and that Amazon is planning to bring the device to take on Apple’s iPad.

The news broke Wednesday that Amazon was working on the tab due in October, which the WSJ reported from unnamed sources. We’ve been hearing rumblings about this Amazon tablet running on Google’s Android operating system for a while, so the new story wasn’t completely “new,” but the Journal has filled in some details about the tab that are pretty interesting – provided they can be trusted.

Here’s a quote from the Journal detailing what it has found:

Amazon's tablet will have a roughly nine-inch screen and will run on Google's Android platform, said people familiar with the device. Unlike the iPad, it won't have a camera, one of these people said. While the pricing and distribution of the device is unclear, the online retailer won't design the initial tablet itself. It also is outsourcing production to an Asian manufacturer, the people said.

As TechCrunch points out, this is interesting, considering that the WSJ believes Amazon expects to compete with Apple. The iPad has moved 19.5 million units thus far, and yet Amazon isn’t even designing its own device, nor is it including a camera. In fact, the tab sounds a lot more like a Kindle or a Nook Color – Barnes & Noble’s Android-running e-reader that competes with the Kindle – than it does an iPad.

The Wall Street Journal report says that the Amazon tab will be a full-fledged multitouch screen tablet, though, and that means it’ll likely be meant to be comparable to the iPad. But TechCrunch makes a valid point: Amazon will likely have to sell the tablet at a loss if it puts its price point in line with the iPad at $499, and while Amazon has shown it’s willing to do that under certain circumstances, it doesn’t seem like selling its tablet at a loss in hopes of selling content like e-books for it will be a successful strategy.

TechCrunch makes a compelling case for who the Android tablet might be actually aimed at defeating: other Android tablets. Instead of competing with the iPad, Amazon could preload its tablet with access to its stores, like the Amazon Appstore and the company’s retail outlet, and make it compatible with services like Amazon Prime and one-click checkout. The tablet would be like an instant window to Amazon.com, with customers able to buy content at any point and have most of it available on the tablet immediately.

No other Android tab could compete with Amazon’s content distribution, so the tablet would be a real force even against Google, which is rumored to be bringing its own Nexus tablet to the market sometime soon. So while Apple might not have anything to worry about from Amazon just yet because it’s such a dominant force, Google and other Android tablet makers might be facing a big new threat.