TechCrunch's MG Siegler got an exclusive look at Amazon's Kindle Tablet, and by the sounds of things, the iPad may finally have its first credible competitor. The first thing Amazon got right was the price: US$250 for a device with a 7-inch, full-color display. Other manufacturers have priced their tablets similarly to the iPad, and consumer response has been... "lukewarm" is about as charitably as I can describe it.
Amazon's Kindle Tablet is similar in appearance to the BlackBerry PlayBook and has a capacitive, multi-touch screen based on traditional backlit LCD technology rather than e-ink. Siegler believes the 7-inch version runs on a single-core chip, but a forthcoming 10-inch model may have a dual-core CPU. Initially only Wi-Fi models will be offered, but Amazon may introduce 3G-enabled models once it works out deals with carriers.
Siegler believes the device has only 6 GB of onboard storage -- likely a major factor in its low price -- but deep integration with Amazon's online services may go a long way toward rectifying the relatively low storage. (My colleagues point out that 6 GB of storage is more than enough for books, but for a device intended for multimedia use 6 GB isn't a whole lot to play with.) Allegedly the device's storage will be expandable via SD cards, but Siegler was unable to locate a slot for one on his preview unit.
The device has no camera and no physical buttons on its forward-facing surface. Amazon is targeting a late November launch for the 7-inch version, and a larger 10-inch model may follow in 2012.
By far the most intriguing feature of Amazon's Kindle Tablet is that, according to Siegler, the device runs a completely forked version of Android. All of the services available on the tablet are Amazon's own -- there was no trace of Google's apps or Marketplace. The tablet's UI is Amazon's own version of Android, and while built on a version of Android's OS, Amazon intends to pursue its own path for software updates rather than going alongside Android's dessert-themed updates.
"They are not working with Google on this. At all," Siegler says. 5000 points awarded to our own Richard Gaywood, who predicted Amazon would go down this forked path several months ago.
The low price (half the cost of an entry-level iPad) and integration with Amazon's services may make this the first truly successful Android-based tablet on the marketplace. Its form factor, price, and intended use put it in direct competition with Barnes and Noble's Nook Color, which may mean hard times ahead for that device. If Amazon subsequently releases a 10-inch device at a price comparable to or lower than the iPad's, that plus the smaller 7-inch model may mean that Apple will finally have its first serious competition in the tablet market.