In the consumer tech world this year, there have been a few persistent rumours: An Apple television, the iPhone 5 and an Amazon tablet to compete with the iPad.
The good news for those who have been fearing that Amazon was simply going to launch a me-too device (as so many other companies have done with their uninspired Android tablets) is that they have boldly taken a different direction, at least as far as the operating system is concerned.
According to Siegler, although it is based on Google’s Android OS, the new Kindle (yes, it gets the same name as Amazon’s existing e-readers) has a user interface that is like no other implementation of Android that we’ve seen to-date.
The 7″ capacitive touchscreen unit which apparently bears a striking resemblance to RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook, is running a completely overhauled version of Android 2.2. The customization runs far deeper than other Android skins such as HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz. Even the Android Market has been stripped out in favour of – you guessed it – Amazon’s recently launched App Store.
For more details on the hardware side of the story, check out Siegler’s post. There aren’t any photos unfortunately, but his description tells the story of a capable, if bare-bones tablet that will not only make potential iPad buyers hesitate but should also set off alarm bells at places like Barnes and Noble and Sony.
What fascinates me about Amazon’s move into the tablet space is the way they have fused the hard work done by the Android team at Google with their own in-house design talent. Without having seen it, I’m already confident that Amazon has created a user experience that is consistent with their brand, and not something generic. Replacing the Android Market is not only a smart thing to do from a revenue point of view, it addresses one of the biggest critiques that has been leveled at Google’s app market – specifically a lack of oversight on which apps get approved and the significant security risks that have resulted from this easy-going policy.
You can bet that Amazon, much the same as Apple, will exert a great deal of control over their app store to avoid just this kind of situation.
So, will a $250 Amazon Kindle tablet take the tech world by storm? Will it finally present the iPad with some serious competition? Or will it merely cannibalize sales of their existing e-ink readers? Far too soon to tell. But it’s going to be a very interesting holiday season, don’t you think?