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8/29/2011
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5 Predictions For Amazon's Tablet

Forrester says that an Amazon tablet will pose a credible threat to the iPad. Here's a look at the reasons why.

As rumors about the possible launch of an Amazon tablet continue to build, a credible voice has emerged from the cacophony to place odds on the device's prospects.

In a blog post, Forrester senior analyst Sarah Rotman Epps says that she and her team project that Amazon will emerge as Apple's top competitor in the tablet market.

Citing Amazon's influence, the strength of Android as a platform, and pent-up opportunity for outside players to dive into the Android app market, Epps said, "If Amazon launches a tablet at a sub-$300 price point--assuming it has enough supply to meet demand--we see Amazon selling 3-5 million tablets in Q4 alone." That's a big prediction.

As it happens, I have a few predictions of my own where Amazon's tablet is concerned. Here are five probable details about the forthcoming tablet that will set it apart from the pack.

1. It will run Android. This isn't a particularly bold prediction, given that it's consistent with all of the prevailing rumors, but it's an essential one because it defines the Kindle tablet as part of a major platform. Until now, Kindle devices have run a closed operating system built on top of a Linux kernel, with very limited functionality. A fully Android-based tablet will not only offer a noteworthy alternative to the iPad, but will likely undercut most of the other Android-based alternatives.

2. It won't be very hackable. Existing Android-based e-readers enjoy a cult following for being so hacker friendly, and I know more than a few savvy users who've bought them just to install a clean Android image. But Amazon's business is all about content distribution, and that requires solid device security. Where other manufacturers, such as Motorola for instance, have remained lax on using anti-tampering technology, like the eFuze chip, to prevent users from modding their devices, I predict Amazon will become the first major Android device producer to openly brick modded devices.

3. It'll be thin. Apple has routinely swatted away competitors through the sheer thinness of its iPads. Amazon, meanwhile, has produced some wonderfully small and lightweight Kindles. Prevailing rumors peg the Kindle tablet's screen size at 9 inches, which is smaller than the iPad. I predict Amazon will deliver a device that's no thicker than the current Kindle's 0.33-inch depth, and weighs less than an iPad.

4. It'll be low-power. Amazon likely realizes that Apple's strength lies in the simplicity of its devices. To keep its tablet thin, light, and cheap, Amazon will probably try to play Apple's game, opting for slightly anemic components that work great for ebooks and basic browsing, and will last a very long time between charges. It's unlikely that Amazon will attempt to grab the high-end enthusiast market with big performance specs. Keeping it simple will pay off for Amazon's mainstream customer base and those who've already bought into the Kindle ecosystem.

5. It won't be that cheap. Most rumors about the Android tablet peg it at a price point well below that of the iPad, somewhere in the $200 to $250 range. Based on the current $379 price for the 10-inch Kindle DX, I think that's low. In fact, I suspect Amazon will drop the DX and offer the new tablet at the $379 price. That pricing would put Kindle's tablet well below the price of a 16-GB iPad, while also undercutting most of the major Android tablets on the market. Amazon doesn't need to race to the bottom to succeed here. It just needs to offer a compelling alternative to devices that are already available.

Robert Strohmeyer has been covering tech since before Google existed, and spent a few years in IT before ascending his ivory tower. Reach him at robert@strohmeyer.org.

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