An Amazon Tablet: Repercussions

I still waver over whether or not Amazon will release its own tablet and whether or not it will be a general tablet or a “KindlePad.”

I think it would be in Amazon’s greater interest to make it a general tablet without restricting the eBook portion of it to Kindle books.

And should Amazon enter this market, these are the effects I think it would have:

1) eInk would become a niche product, with probably only the Kindle itself as the remaining eInk device.

2) ePub would begin to go away, with iOS devices the only ones using it as a built-in feature — until Apple overthrows it with its own eBook authoring platform or just hijacks the spec. There is no compelling reason for any Kindle user (hardware or software) to switch to ePub.

3) Niche ePub uses — such as library eBook borrowing — can be handled by a third-party tablet app, such as Aldiko.

4) Amazon would create tools for creating interactive books (books-as-apps). While Apple has disdained releasing something like an updated HyperCard to handle this, Amazon would have no such hesitation.

5) The books-as-apps frenzy would explode into overdrive, with Amazon getting more of those than iOS.

6) Amazon’s Kindle is known for the largest selection of books and this would continue with books-as-apps for a tablet. (Books-as-apps have their own set of repercussions outside of the scope of this post.)

7) Most other tablets could pack it up and go home. An Amazon tablet would sell in the millions, providing fierce competition for the iPad, crushing the NookColor, and seriously wounding the upcoming HP TouchPad. Not everyone out there is going to want more than one tablet and to have to buy apps more than once for different operating systems.

8) Amazon is more of a mainstream company than Apple. That is, it’s not seen as being particularly adventurous. So Amazon releasing a tablet would legitimize them in a bigger way than the iPad has.

9) People would feel absolutely safe buying an Amazon tablet. This is due to Amazon’s amazing customer service reputation.

10) Like Apple, Amazon could provide a full suite of media for it: books, music, video, magazines, apps, plus one thing Apple doesn’t have: stores for physical goods (hello Zappos!).

11) I doubt Amazon would require a 30% in-app vig like Apple. All of the Amazon revenue tie-ins that already exist for it would provide more profit possibilities than Apple has. Such magnanimity would create a stampede among developers.

12) Having succeeded with a tablet, Amazon would venture into a phone too.

11 Comments

Filed under Amazon Kindle, Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General, Other Hardware

11 responses to “An Amazon Tablet: Repercussions

  1. Shock Me

    I think Amazon would make a fine vendor for an Android tablet. Their physical shipping and digital businesses complement eachother very well.

    An Amazon tablet however might suffer from a lack of retail stores and people to demonstrate it like Barnes and Noble has placed prominently at the entrance to its stores. (Yet another large ePub vendor). B&N is also in a good position to sell both physical and digital goods.

    Amazon has loads of smart people, so the keys for a successful tablet for them will be pricepoint and usability. At the moment, the Kindle has a niche Apple is unlikely to pursue at the lower end.

    If Amazon can ship a pixel qi tablet under $400 for their top end they could slurp up quite a bit of the low end tablet market now occupied by vendors like Archos.

    The Nook Color is quite an attractive alternative and has a large library also. If for no other reason the success of the Nook Color will drive Amazon a bit higher up market into something with a color display.

    I’ll stick to my iPad in the interim. But I would be interested to see what Amazon could do in this area especially if LG or Samsung built it for them.

    • mikecane

      >>>An Amazon tablet however might suffer from a lack of retail stores and people to demonstrate it like Barnes and Noble has placed prominently at the entrance to its stores.

      That never stopped the Kindle from slaughtering the Sony Reader which had a head start. Amazon would quickly sell millions just based on their Kindle and store reputation.

      • Shock Me

        Sony’s retail presence is different from B&N. At B&N people already are going for books, music, and DVDs. Sony’s reader was abandoned on a shelf with Pandigital and the rest.

        I do agree that an upmarket color Kindle would be a stronger product than say a Motorola Xoom or HP TouchPad based solely on reputation instead of specs.

        An Amazon product with Samsung manufacturing muscle behind it would sell quite well and it would be perfect for apps like the WindowShop product for iOS. Ideally they would then allow an Amazon VOD app on their new line of smart TVs with DNLA compatibility.

        Would be fun to see especially if they could tie their recommendation engine to a decent UI.

      • mikecane

        Well over a year before B&N had its Nook, Borders had the Sony Reader. And they did nothing with it. Everyone thinks Amazon killed Borders. It was a slow-motion suicide.

      • txvoodoo

        And Amazon already has Kindles in Target and BestBuy. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t be able to get penetration there with other products.

      • Staples also. Two blocks from me.

  2. James

    If Amazon were to do this, should they allow third party ebook applications like Apple has done? Would they? If they disallow ebook competition, would you revile them they way you have Apple even though Apple allows ebook competition on the iPad?

    I won’t use anything other than ePub myself. But that’s because I like open standards to win over proprietary things like Kindle. Mostly I convert Kindle books to DRM-free ePub books. This works well. I get the largest selection of books for sale and the ability to read them on any device that supports ePub.

    • mikecane

      That’s why I said I think it’s in Amazon’s greater interest to make it a full Android tablet and not a “KindlePad.” Their Android store already lists both the Kobo and Aldiko apps. I’d like to see those and others available to load on an Amazon tablet. And yes, I’d scream at Amazon just as loudly as I scream over any company — including Apple — if they were to disallow that.

      Yes, buying K but converting to ePub is a good idea if you know how to *cough* do that.

  3. Interesting scenario. I’m not convinced Amazon will do it, but with the success of Kindle under their belts, they might just give it a try. I agree it makes sense both for books as well as TV/VOD applications. Not holding my breath for Pixel Qi though. Back when I was following this more closely, I would’ve bet on Mirasol.

  4. Synth

    The problem with your scenario is that Amazon has never ‘fessed up to how many Kindle readers they have actually sold. Bezos simply said that “Millions of people now own Kindles.” That’s pretty lame for a product that has been on the market since 2008. I think Kindle as a platform is doing pretty well, but Kindle as a device is just okay in terms of units sold and profitability. With Apple selling >40 million iPads in the next year, and every other Android/Windows OEM and HP/RIM looking to offer a slate, jumping into the general purpose Android tablet market is a pretty risky bet for a company that really doesn’t have hardware chops compared to Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, HP or Apple. The Kindle fills a very specific niche which no one else has really managed to fill. I think Amazon would be better off making sure it’s Kindle software is the absolute best e-reader on any platform. Making your own hardware might just tick off the OEMs and do more harm than good.

  5. stefn

    Amazon must do a tablet; it has no choice. Here’s why: the competing tablet makers will continue to force prices down to the point where the Kindle will look hugely overpriced for its feature set. At this point Amazon’s book sales will be under threat. Jeff Bezos has proven he will do just about anything to protect book sales, his first pet project way back. An Amazon tablet with free 3/4G would be killer diller.

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