Amazon may be planning an overhaul of the Web browser within its Kindle electronic reader.
The online retailer has posted a job listing for a software development engineer in its Lab126, the consumer products division that designed the Kindle. The role of the new employee would be to "design and implement new features on the browser."
While Amazon could well be working on something other than the Kindle, the e-reader's current experimental browser is seen as insufficient to compete against tablet computers hitting the market, such as Apple's iPad and Hewlett-Packard's slate PC. Apple is scheduled to release its device April 3, while HP has yet to provide a release date for its unnamed device.
Industry observers have questioned whether the Kindle will be able to compete with tablet computers that can display e-books, play video, and music and have color screens and a standard Web browser that can play Adobe Flash and other Web technologies. The Kindle has a black-and-white screen based on digital paper technology from E Ink and can not play multimedia.
The one advantage the Kindle has over tablets is price. The Amazon device starts at $259 while the iPad will start at $499. However, analysts say the price of the Kindle would have to come down significantly to lure buyers from devices with much more functionality.
If Amazon were to dramatically improve the limited browser in today's Kindle, then it would likely have to make changes to the current business model. The device comes with wireless Internet access at no additional charge for downloading e-books and newspaper and magazine subscriptions from the online retailer.
If Amazon were to allow broader access to the Web, then it's unlikely it could do so for free. Amazon's newer Kindles use AT&T's network.
As an e-book reader, the Kindle has done well, accounting for about 60% of the market, according to some analyst estimates. The Sony Reader is a distant second.
In an attempt to hold on to its No. 1 position in the face of increasing competition, Amazon in January introduced a software development kit for independent developers to build applications for the devices.
The applications will be sold through the Kindle Store, using a self-service publishing platform. Amazon is offering developers a revenue split of 30% to Amazon and 70% to the developer.
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