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7/14/2011
04:50 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Amazon Tablet Expected By October

Amazon will have to price its tablet lower than the iPad and integrate its digital goods services in a way that's natural, easy, and inexpensive for customers.

Amazon is preparing a tablet device based on Google's Android platform. It is scheduled to debut by October, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sources who provided details about the tablet appear to be pretty well informed. The device, as yet unnamed, will have a screen measuring about nine inches. It will run Google's Android platform, though which version wasn't specified. It will lack a camera, leaving it unable to do things such as perform video chats. The tablet won't be designed by Amazon, but instead will be outsourced to an Asian manufacturer, according to the Journal.

Earlier this year, DigiTimes said Amazon would field a tablet by the end of the year, and named Quanta Computer as a possible manufacturer. Initial sales targets were between 700,000 and 800,000.

The idea isn't entirely crazy. By sticking Android in its top-of-the-line Nook, Barnes & Noble sort of set the stage for this type of move from Amazon. Of course, Amazon probably also wants to compete against the Apple iPad. Surely, an Amazon tablet won't surpass the iPad in terms of capabilities.

Instead it will do for Amazon what the iPad has done for Apple: serve as a platform through which digital goods can be sold.

The iPad is a digital media consumption device, plain and simple. Through iTunes and the App Store, iPad users can download applications, books, movies, music, TV shows, videos, and so on. Since it is so easy to make purchases directly from the iPad, no doubt Amazon is losing out on some digital sales that might otherwise be made through its website.

I purchase digital music frequently. I nearly always end up choosing between iTunes and Amazon's MP3 Download service. I generally pick whichever one is the cheapest, though there are times when I pick iTunes over Amazon because I can download a track or an album directly to my device and skip the need to sync with a PC to get it. It's just this sort of opportunity Amazon wants to turn around in its favor.

Entering the tablet market is not without risks for Amazon. First, it will probably price its tablet lower than the iPad. It has to, whatever the development costs are. Unless the Amazon tablet can stand up to the iPad feature-for-feature, it has to sell for less. It is going up against a widely established market leader. In order to be successful, it has to tie together Amazon's digital goods services in a way that's natural, easy, and inexpensive for customers. How low can Amazon go? That depends a lot on which features it chooses to include and which it chooses to leave out. For example, skipping the camera for now is probably smart, as it will help keep the cost lower.

But Apple won't be Amazon's only competitor. Amazon has already done a good job of making digital content available to Android-based handsets and tablets. There's a solid crop of Android-based tablets that are gaining a foothold in the market now. They've set the benchmark for what Android tablets are capable of. Amazon will probably have to undercut these competitors on price, as well.

Amazon also has to make sure it doesn't steal away sales from its own Kindle products.

Can it? Will it?

Naturally, Amazon has not confirmed the Journal's report.

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