Three Ways That Amazon’s Rumored Tablet Could Stand out in a Sea of Cookie-cutter Devices

Posted on 08 May 2011 by

amazon tabletA growing body of evidence is suggesting that Amazon will be moving into the Android tablet market sometime in 2011. The question on my mind is: how can Amazon’s tablet differentiate itself from the rest of the pack?

Amazon is already involved closely with Android (and even iOS) thanks to a number of applications that the company has developed. Let’s have a look at the list, shall we?

  • [app] (Android)
  • [webapp] (multi-platform)
  • Amazon MP3/Amazon Cloud Player (Android)
  • Amazon Appstore (Android)
  • Kindle (Android/iOS)
  • Amazon Mobile (iOS)
  • Price Check by Amazon (iOS)
  • Amazon Deals (iOS)
  • Windowshop (iOS)

Now here’s the thing. Every Android tablet or iPad already has access to these applications. Amazon has effectively given up what could have been exclusive software offerings by deciding to go multi-platform early on.

So how is Amazon supposed to make a tablet that will stand out against other devices that already have access to Amazon software? The company still has some tricks up its sleeve – there are several areas where the company can bring something new to the tablet arena:

Battery Life (efficient screen)

Amazon already has plenty of experience with E-Ink displays thanks to their work with the Kindle. The Kindle can last one month on a single charge, thanks in part to the screen which requires no power when the visuals are static. Sure, an eReader is obviously much different than a tablet, and has components that don’t require nearly as much power, but the display is usually the top-offender when it comes to power consumption on devices these days.

CPU makers can continue to reduce power consumption, but we’re at a point where optimizing such a small portion of the overall power footprint doesn’t have any significant impact on the battery life of the device. If Amazon could reduce display power consumption to 50% of what the standard tablet uses, users would see a big jump in battery life.

That’s not to say that they can just slap an E-Ink display on a tablet… but they are in a good position to develop (through partners) some new screen technology that would meet the criteria for a tablet (color, quick refresh, capacitive input, etc.) while reducing power consumption. Perhaps we’ll see a dual-mode screen which can switch to E-Ink when reading e-Books and doing other work where the screen doesn’t need to refresh often.


One of the defining features of the Kindle is the free Whispnet service that it uses to access and download content without the use of WiFi and without signing any contracts. Amazon has worked out a deal to let the Kindle use Sprint’s 3G service; on the customer’s end there are no fees and no contracts — you just start browsing and buying books (you can even surf the web!).

Using Whispernet, Amazon could capitalize on it’s pre-existing software ventures and regain some functionality from them that could be advertised as “exclusive”. That is, an Amazon tablet could use Whispernet to connect and transfer content from any of the Amazon applications with no fees and no contracts.

In this way, an Amazon tablet with the Kindle app would work just like the Kindle in the way that it offers users no-setup/no-fee connection to downloading books, but this could also be expanded to shopping with app, and even for downloading apps from the Amazon Appstore.

This makes sense because it would help Amazon push their core services, which is undoubtedly where they are making the money: If you’re out of a WiFi hotspot and you’ve got a Whispernet connection that will let you browse the store, then you will definitely end up shopping there more often than a competing site that wouldn’t be accessible through Whispernet. If you can access books from the Kindle app anywhere, users will likely use that over Google Books or another eBook service. Whispernet would even give Amazon a chance to cut out the Android Market in favor of the Android Appstore by giving customers access to it where they wouldn’t be able to access the Android Market.

All of those scenarios would mean money in Amazon’s coffers instead of someone else’s.

This would make an Amazon tablet unlike any other one currently on the market, and Amazon has already shown that such a model is possible with the Kindle.


While there are certainly some exciting Android tablets currently on the market, these devices are only starting to compete with Apple’s iPad 2 entry price of $499 (and they’ll need to not only compete, but beat that price by a lot to get significant tablet traction). For instance, the WiFi-only Xoom will run you $599 while Asus wants you to fork over $550 or so for the Eee Pad Transformer sans the keyboard dock.

Amazon, on the other hand, is clearly willing to cut deals to bring the price down for customers. We’ve seen the company repeatedly slash prices on the Kindle. They’ve recently even announced an option to purchase a kindle with sponsored screensaver ads, dropping the price by $25 for customers who choose this option.

Innovative strategies like this could lead to an Amazon tablet that undercuts Apple’s iPad 2 – an important factor in getting this device out to the mainstream.

If Amazon were to combine these three aspects in a tablet, they would have a truly unique and useful device that wouldn’t’ be like every other 7-10” tablet running Honeycomb with Nvidia Tegra 2, and they’d have a chance at unseating the current king of tablets (by sales volume), the iPad 2.

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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Riiim says:

    the enthusiasts waiting on the Amazon tablet will be disappointed. it will follow in the footsteps of the Nook with no official Google apps, heavily customized UI, & lackluster specs.

    also, it wont be running Honeycomb as it has been deemed too unreliable for the mainstream market. you can expect either 2.2 or 2.3 for maximum reliability & app compatibility.

    the only real high point will be the Amazon apps & store, which will make it at least better than the Nook.

  2. Yu says:

    @ Riiim: I couldn’t care less, if its Android 2.2, 2.3 or 3.0 in case of an Amazon tablet. As you said, its about reliability/compatibility.

    And that is where I see the biggest possible advantage of an Amazon tablet personally. Assuming they manage to get there Android-Tablet the mainstream Android-Tablet (which I believe in), and assuming their app store to mend some issues compared to the Android Market (e.g. moderating the apps with respect to malware, Amazon tablet compatibility and protection from unauthorized reselling of apps), then the Amazon tablet would become the primary target of app developement, which again woould create pressure to mend problems on other sides (firmware-updates of other manufacturers, mending problems with the Android market, etc…).

    Next, Amazon will likely subsidize their tablet, meaning they have no interest to sell new hardware earlier then needed, meaning again that they have quite some interest in keeping the software of their older devices up to date, so people don’t see a need to buy a new device early. This prospect creates a notion of trust in their future update policies in me :-) They have more direct loss to expect (ongoing content sales) from unhappy tablet users than other manufacturers (future device sales).

    As for screen technologies… There IS Pixel Qi. Once they claimed, that their technology should barely be more expensive than LCDs (assuming sufficient production volumes), though I guess it would be a dangerous bet for a first generation device to invest into pushing a niche technology to mainstream market. I think there was a word of building 7″ screens too. Though vaguely I remember a bit outdated pixel densities (10″ with 1024×600, 7″ with 800×600, though in the latter case I’m not quite sure).
    I suppose if Amazon was aiming for Pixel Qi screens, at least I’d have read a vague note on “having one a big partner” on their blog though ;)

    So, basically… I see Amazon as the Apple of Android sans the enforcement of a closed ecosystem policy, who will try to have people using THEIR content channels by convenience rather than lockout of competitors.

    … Reading my text I get this weird feeling I’m putting to much trust into Amazon, but hey, why not become a fanboy of yet to be verified devices? :D

    Note: Currently I do not own any Android device. The problems with current Android devices mentioned are second hand knowledge, but they are exactly my reason still to wait buying one and some of them I’ve heard of through mainstream media (newspapers) rather than tech blogs as well, so this (mis?-)information should scare some less technology interested customers as well.

  3. PJE says:


    Hopefully the Amazon tablet will be as hackable as the Nook Color. I’m currently running Gingerbread (2.3) and have Android Market and Amazon Appstore access… Until Honeycomb has been finished, and there are apps to support it I feel using Gingerbread would be more suitable for the device.

    A Nook Color type device with a mic, and better Bluetooth and sound would be ideal for me. Give me a low cost data plan for it as well and I’d be really happy.

  4. Mike Cane says:

    >>>Kindle (Android/iOS)

    You forget they’ve shown a version for webOS too. I’d expect all the rest for webOS too.

    I’ve already covered screen tech and ramifications of an Amazon tablet too:

  5. Harry Jenkins says:

    i’ll throw you a milkbone here and sya that with “whispernit” you could run a platform strait to the masses- no waiting and no messy service to get mud on the consumers hands with. What I wondr is why you say about “pricepoint” competition when buyers of tablets are already niche-men who can afford the tablit in the first place/ Its not a mater of runing under the current iPAD 2 but simpy getting out a product buyers are willing to pay for with their “moonbucks”.

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