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A.T. Faust III
| May 23, 2011
Amazon: Android's Only Hope For Relevance, Apple's Only Competition
If you'd asked me six months ago about Amazon's self-branded impact on the oncoming tablet wars, I'd have painted you a picture of pure triviality. Since then, between the launch of Amazon's controversial Android app store and CEO Jeff Bezos' non-confirmation confirmation, it's a near certainty that the retail giant will ship an LCD-based entertainment tablet later this year. Our man Bryan summed up the expected "facts" pretty well last week:
On May 3, DigiTimes reported Amazon would reveal an unnamed device later this year, which would include a full color LCD screen and fringe field switching technology. They stated Taiwan-based notebook maker Quanta Computer had already received OEM orders from Amazon for the project... Amazon’s tablet will likely be Android-based considering the company’s recent introduction of its Android Appstore. This means the tablet would naturally have to ability to use apps.Further rumors suggest a seven-inch screen (bah!) in an assembly constructed (and possibly co-branded) by the Samsung Group. And don't expect E-ink on this particular device, nor any fancy, dual-mode display technology (i.e. Mirasol or Pixel Qi) -- Anything other than a traditional wide-angled panel would drive up costs and prompt launching the product beyond its desired MSRP "sweet-spot" of $250 to $350. (Amazon's also made it pretty clear that the EPD-sporting Kindle will remain its flagship, dedicated e-reader.) I imagine something along the physical lines of a customized, under-spec'd Galaxy Tab will be the ultimate shape of Amazon's new toy. In other words, the tablet's going to look basically like every other Android slate already out there. But that's not the point. Instead of attacking the tablet market with cutting-edge design and technical performance, Amazon is going to play the content game. And it's this very content -- and the company's ability to deliver it -- that sets Amazon apart from every other tablet seller. Amazon is indeed going to fix Android's content problems, but only for it's own devices. With it's Cloud Drive data service and Cloud Player music locker (admittedly weak though it may be), Amazon does have some buzz-generating clout with its large user base. Coupled with Amazon Prime's streaming options and premium, paid-membership platform, Bezos' company has all the pieces to be a major player in this "post-PC era." Assembling those pieces and parlaying that recognition into product identification with its new device will be key to Amazon's tablet success. And, for iOS users, Amazon is still holding its trump card: the Kindle app. Enjoy this one while it lasts, folks, because, come that June 30 deadline, I'm guessing the app will be officially pulled. Amazon knows that if it continues to provide iPad support for its e-book environment, selling its own tablet will be all the more difficult. It is clear that, aside from Apple, no other brand in the world has the healthy infrastructure and means to deliver virtual (and physical) goods that Amazon enjoys. iTunes has proved over and over -- as iCloud is set to prove once again -- that content and services make all the difference to modern consumers. I think, if Amazon sticks with the plan they've seemingly already deployed, they'll successfully eat into Apple's dominance just a bit. I don't think anyone can dethrone Apple (except Apple), but controlling 10 to 15 percent of the ever-growing playing field is optimistically feasible. I like Amazon a lot. I purchase many goods from the website, including most of my DVD and paperback collections; and part of me is rooting for them in some small way. Apple is a juggernaut and will keep steamrolling the competition, but it would be nice for the market to bear a solid "number two." (Yes, your joke is very funny.) I only wish Amazon had outbid HP for Palm, as webOS would've made this endeavor ever so much more compelling. At any rate, Amazon will release a tablet, and it's going to sell. Hopefully, the thing might even matter.