Amazon is set to launch their new tablet in November for $250. Runs Android and will be called Amazon Kindle.
Itís called simply the ďAmazon KindleĒ. But itís not like any Kindle youíve seen before. It displays content in full color. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. And it runs Android.
Rumors of Amazon making a full-fledged tablet device have persisted for a while. I believe we were one of the first to report on the possibility
from a credible source ó the same person who accurately called
Amazonís Android Appstore. That source was dead-on again, it just took Amazon longer than anticipated to get the device ready to go. Theyíre now close.
How do I know all of this? Well, not only have I heard about the device, Iíve seen it and used it. And Iím happy to report that itís going to be a big deal. Huge, potentially.
First of all, before every commenter asks, no, sadly, I donít have any pictures to share. That was the one condition of me getting this information. So instead youíll have to rely on my prose to draw a picture of the device in your head. Or you can just look at a BlackBerry PlayBook
ó because it looks very similar in terms of form-factor.
So hereís what I know and what I saw:
Again, the device is a 7-inch tablet with a capacitive touch screen. It is multi-touch, but from what I saw, I believe the reports
that it relies on a two-finger multi-touch (instead of 10-finger, like the iPad uses) are accurate. This will be the first Kindle with a full-color screen. And yes, it is back-lit. There is no e-ink to be found anywhere on this device.
Earlier this week, reports suggested
that a 7-inch Amazon tablet could be released in October, with a larger, 10-inch version to follow next year.
Thatís somewhat accurate. As of right now, Amazonís only definitive plan is to release this 7-inch Kindle tablet and theyíre targeting the end of November to do that. The version I saw was a DVT (Design Verification Testing) unit. These have started floating around the company. Itís ready, theyíre just tweaking the software now. If itís not in production yet, it will be very soon.
Originally, Amazon had planned to launch a 7-inch and a 10-inch tablet at the same time. But that plan changed this summer. Now theyíre betting everything on the 7-inch. If itís a hit, they will release the more expensive 10-inch tablet in Q1 2012.
So how much will the 7-inch Kindle cost? $250.
Yes, Amazon has been able to trim the cost of the device to half of the entry-level iPad. And it will be the same price as Barnes & Nobleís Nook Color, which this will very obviously compete with directly. Both have 7-inch color touch screens. Both run Android.
And this is where things get really interesting. As anticipated, Amazon has forked Android to build their own version for the Kindle. Simply put: it looks nothing
like the Android youíre used to seeing.
The interface is all Amazon and Kindle. Itís black, dark blue, and a bunch of orange. The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device. This includes books, apps, movies, etc. Below the main carousel is a dock to pin your favorite items in one easy-to-access place. When you turn the device horizontally, the dock disappears below the fold.
Above the dock is the status bar (time, battery, etc) and this doubles as a notification tray. When apps have updates, or when new subscriptions are ready for you to view, they appear here. The top bar shows ďYOUR NAMEís KindleĒ and then the number of notifications you have in bright orange. It looks quite nice.
There are no physical buttons on the surface of the device. You bring up a lower navigation menu by tapping the screen once. This can take you back home, etc.
But the key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazonís content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazonís Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazonís Instant Video player. The app store is Amazonís Android Appstore.
Googleís Android Market is nowhere to be found. In fact, no Google app is anywhere to be found. This is Android fully forked. My understanding is that the Kindle OS was built on top of some version of Android prior to 2.2. And Amazon will keep building on top of that of that over time. In other words, this wonít be getting ďHoneycombĒ or ďIce Cream SandwichĒ ó or if it does, users will never know it because that will only be the underpinnings of the OS. Any visual changes will be all Amazon.
They are not working with Google on this. At all.
There is a web browser (of course), and while itís styled a bit to match the Kindle UI, it looks pretty much the same as the Androidís WebKit browser. Yes, it has tabs! And yes, Google Search is still the default (the Kindle also has its own search tool to find content on your device).
Overall, the UI of this Kindle felt very responsive. You can flick through the carousel seamlessly. This is something Amazon has apparently been working on quite a bit, Iím told. And they continue to. Some of the page-turning touch mechanics still needed a bit of work in the version I used.
I believe the visual web reading app Pulse will be bundled with the Kindle. A game like Angry Birds may be as well. Again, it uses Amazonís Android Appstore, so all of the content accepted into that store will play well on this device. Apps, games, content, you name it. Amazon creating their own app store is starting to make a lot more sense, and looks potentially very smart (as anticipated
A few more bits about the hardware:
I believe it is running on a single-core chip (though Iím not 100 percent sure). My understanding is that the 10-inch version, if it comes, will have a dual-core chip.
I also believe the device only has 6 GB of internal storage. The idea is that this will be more of a ďcloud deviceĒ for things like music and movies. The storage is meant for storing books and apps There were a few references to an SD card expansion, but I couldnít find a slot on the hardware itself.
This initial version of the device will be WiFi-only. Amazon is supposedly working with carriers to possibly product 3G-enabled versions (as they have with their other Kindles), but that wonít be the case at launch.
Iím not sure what the battery life is like (I only played with it for about an hour), but I imagine it is very good and in line with other tablets ó 10 hours or so.
There is no camera.
So why will people buy this device instead of a Nook Color? Well, beyond the deep Amazon services integration, there will be two other reasons, I believe. First, Amazon is going to promote the hell out of this thing on Amazon.com. Second, the plan right now is to give buyers a free subscription to Amazon Prime.
The service, which Amazon currently sells for $79 a year, gives users access things like free unlimited two-day shipping, and no minimum purchases for free shipping. More importantly for this product, Prime users get access to Amazonís Instant Video service. There will be more Kindle-related perks, I imagine.
As far as the existing e-ink-based Kindles, all Iíve heard is that theyíll continue to co-exist with this new tablet (though the DX may or may not stick around). Theyíll simply be the low-end, low-cost Kindles, whereas this new one will be the high-end one (at least until the 10-inch version comes out, if it does). One source said it doesnít seem likely that Amazon is going to release a touch-screen e-ink Kindle, like the new Nook, anytime soon. But none of that is confirmed, itís simply speculation based on the emphasis on getting this new tablet to market.
Oh and one more thing: Amazon has been working on a multi-touch screen/e-ink hybrid tablet device. But thatís nowhere near completion, Iím told. So for now, this new Kindle will have to do.
Thatís all for now. I suspect even more information (and pictures) will start leaking out soon ó again, the new Kindle is very close to being done. Not only is the device real, from what Iíve seen, itís solid. I suspect it will be on many peopleís holiday wish-list this year