Initial thoughts on the upcoming Amazon Tablet

I usually don’t engage in speculation about something that hasn’t been introduced yet, and of course I suspend any judgment until this ‘Amazon Tablet’ is available. Nevertheless, the information we have on it at the moment made me wonder about a couple of things, so I thought I could share some initial observations. My only source reference for this piece is MG Siegler’s article at TechCrunch, Amazon’s Kindle Tablet Is Very Real. I’ve Seen It, Played With It., just to be clear as to where the information I’m citing comes from.

Let’s start from the end. After reading Siegler’s article, the question that kept coming to my mind was Why should I buy the Amazon Tablet instead of an iPad? — But also: To which audience the Amazon Tablet is targeted?, and What’s the Amazon Tablet’s appeal?

The information MG Siegler has kindly gathered about this upcoming device can be summarised as follows:

  • 7-inch tablet
  • Capacitive touch screen
  • Multi-touch, but very likely to rely on a 2-finger multi-touch interaction (instead of 10-finger, like the iPad)
  • Colour screen, backlit
  • Does not feature e-Ink technology
  • Runs a forked, heavily customised version of Android
  • Google’s Android Market is nowhere to be found. In fact, no Google app is anywhere to be found.”
  • Amazon — as Siegler deduces — is not working with Google on this project
  • 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.”
  • Internal storage appears to be 6 GB (again, quoting Siegler: The idea is that this will be more of a “cloud device” for things like music and movies. The storage is meant for storing books and apps. There were a few references to an SD card expansion, but I couldn’t find a slot on the hardware itself.)
  • There is no camera
  • The price will be $250
  • It won’t replace the existing Kindles (Siegler: though the DX may or may not stick around.)
  • -§-



    Now, let’s consider such a device from different perspectives.

    1. The iPad owner — Obviously not interested. The iPad has many more apps to choose from, has a bigger screen, a better multi-touch interface. An iPad 2 is probably faster and has two cameras; no matter how crappy they are, you can at least do videoconferencing with it. If such iPad owner is an avid reader, he or she will probably have a regular Kindle as second device, just for reading, thanks to its e-Ink technology that makes long reading sessions easier on the eyes. If such iPad owner already uses the iPad for all his/her reading, I don’t see any reason why the Amazon Tablet should appeal to him/her.
    2. The Kindle owner — For Kindle owners, this new tablet may have enticing features: multi-touch (yay, no more having to put up with that crappy keyboard), bigger screen (than the 6-inch Kindle), colour, an overall better user experience, hopefully faster and more responsive. But the lack of e-Ink technology may be a serious drawback for them, especially for those with sight problems. When you’re accustomed to reading on a good e-Ink device such as the Kindle, it’s hard moving to regular backlit screens.
    3. The prospective tablet buyer — I am in this category myself. Disclaimer: as a Mac user and iPhone owner, I am of course biased towards Apple and I know I will eventually purchase an iPad (probably the next iteration, although I’m tired of waiting and could just get an iPad 2), but for the sake of the analysis, I’ll try to be as objective as possible. When you’re in the market for a tablet, you can’t obviously leave the iPad out of the picture — unless of course you’re an Apple-hater, so that you’ll purchase anything but Apple products — so let’s just make a quick comparison between the upcoming Amazon Tablet and an iPad. The possible advantages of the Amazon Tablet over the iPad: a smaller screen (for some the iPad is too big), it’s likely to be lighter and easier to hold, and it costs half the price of the entry-level iPad model; then, of course, it perfectly integrates all Amazon’s services and applications. On the other hand, as already mentioned, the iPad is faster, has a bigger (probably better) screen, has many more apps to choose from (which ensures great versatility), has a better multi-touch interface, more storage, two cameras, better build quality. Again, I won’t say anything regarding iOS vs. Android: depending on the user, the software platform may be the paramount concern or the least important factor.

    The Amazon Tablet might be the first non-iOS tablet to succeed, especially if Amazon — as it seems — is working hard to provide a great user experience. It may appeal to those people who are considering a tablet but find the iPad to be too bulky and expensive for their tastes (or budget), and who want something more colourful and easier to interact with than the classic Kindle. For the rest, considering all the information MG Siegler was able to share, this Amazon Tablet doesn’t strike me as this huge deal. 

    What perplexes me most is the lack of e-Ink technology. An Amazon Tablet with all those features and e-Ink technology could have interested me enough to postpone my iPad purchase. But a tablet with which you’re supposed to do lots of eBook reading (it’s going to be the Kindle’s big brother, after all) that’s not equipped with such a distinctive and useful feature as e-Ink, well, it’s just another tablet. In other words, those who read a lot of books and love e-Ink will buy a regular Kindle. Those who read a lot and don’t mind reading on a traditional backlit LCD/LED screen, will probably be more tempted to purchase an iPad, unless they find it too heavy to hold for long periods of time and/or can’t afford to spend at least $499 for such a device. Or hate everything Apple.

    These are just first thoughts and observations, and I’m probably missing something or not seeing the whole picture. I will gladly discuss the Amazon Tablet when it ships, since I prefer an informed debate. Meanwhile I’d be thrilled to know your opinion on the matter.

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    About Riccardo Mori

    Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!