I’ve had it all wrong.
The Amazon tablet coming will not replace the Kindle.
The tablets are a new, separate business. Sure, they’ll have Kindle software on them, but that won’t prevent people from installing Kobo, Nook, Aldiko, Bluefire Reader, or even — should Apple shock everyone — iBooks.
The tablets will be just that: Android tablets. A new business.
There will be another Kindle.
It will have a touchscreen, just like Sony, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.
Why am I so certain of this now?
I’d forgotten what Jeff Bezos said in his Charlie Rose interview (where he showed off the Kindle 3):
They want a purpose-built device where no tradeoffs have been made, where every single design decision as you’re walking down the process has been made to optimize for reading.
The number one thing that people are doing on their iPad right now if you look at the rankings is playing a game called “Angry Birds” where you throw birds at pigs and the pigs blow up. The number one thing that people are doing on their Kindle right now is reading Stieg Larsson.
And especially this:
I think we live in a multi-device world. You’re going to have a tablet computer like an iPad or one of its competitors. You’re going to have a smart phone, you’re going to have a laptop. The tablet computer isn’t going to replace the laptop because there are times when you want to write a long memo or a long email message or an article … And likewise, if you want to sit down and read a 300-page book the Kindle is the perfect device to sit back and read a 300-page book.
He even said it again recently:
We will always be very mindful that we will want a dedicated reading device.
Boldfaced emphasis added by me.
The NookColor had been the best-selling product in all of Barnes & Noble history. But notice that Barnes & Noble did not drop eInk from its line-up. Because eInk is still selling.
People still want an inexpensive device designed specifically for reading.
Reading is an entirely different market from tablet computing.
Yes, there’s overlap. And yes, some people would buy a NookColor over eInk, but eInk is still a market itself.
To get eBooks into the hands of elementary school children, do you think districts or even parents can afford to give them full-color tablets? No. eInk is enough just for reading.
So, despite eInk apparently not having any new screen technology this year, Amazon doesn’t need to do anything more to the Kindle than add a touchscreen to it — well, and optimize the UI for it too.
Given Kobo is $129 and the new Nook is $139, could Amazon finally get its price down to $99 for a WiFi-only model? Given the new millions of these Amazon could push, it’s not unreasonable to expect that. Amazon knows it could make up the small difference in eBook sales.
And at $99, all hell will break loose in the eBook market. Even people who love LCDs will probably pick one up, just to have something cheap and light only for reading.
Also, now that Barnes & Noble has shown it’s possible to postpone eInk refresh flashing for every six pages turns, could Amazon up that ante to ten page turns? Twenty?
This is May. Last year, the Kindle 3 was introduced in July.
July is not too far away to expect an all-touchscreen Kindle 4 to appear.
Standby for action!