What’s So Special About an Amazon Tablet

Amazon’s going to make an announcement on Wednesday, and the smart money is on the online retail giant unveiling its long-awaited tablet device.

Though Amazon has officially been quiet about whether such a tablet even exists, rumors hold that it will run Android 2.1 and cost considerably less than the iPad’s US$500 starting price.

Amazon rivals Apple’s iTunes store in terms of the amount and variety of content offered, and it arguably has just as slick an online purchasing system.

Still, we’ve seen putative iPad killers come and go, like the ill-fated HP TouchPad, for example.

Why would an Amazon tablet fare any better? What would help it stand out from the crowd of non-iPad tablets flooding the market?

Lining Up the Content

Content is the lifeblood of tablets, which are widely regarded as consumption devices.

Almost any content you can get at the iTunes app store — music, TV shows, films, books — you can also get on So how does Amazon stack up against Apple?

For one thing, Amazon’s at least as aggressive as Cupertino in signing up content providers.

On Monday, for instance, Amazon announced a licensing agreement with Fox that would let Amazon Prime members stream a variety of popular movies and TV shows from the Fox library.

This will give Prime members free access to more than 11,000 movies and TV shows later this fall. They will include movies such as “Speed,” “Office Space,” and “9 to 5,” and TV series such as “24,” “The X-Files” and “Arrested Development.”

Amazon Prime gives members unlimited fast shipping and access to videos and movies for an annual $79 fee.

Amazon also has licensing deals with CBS, NBC Universal, Sony, Warner Bros. and other content owners.

In addition, the Internet retail giant has also been solidifying its strong position in the e-book space. Last week, it announced that Kindle books are now available at more than 11,000 local libraries throughout the United States.

Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that Amazon was talking with book publishers about launching a Netflix-like service for digital books that would let users access content for an annual fee.

Taking On Cupertino

Amazon could probably compete with Apple in two different areas, said Charles King, principal at Pund-IT.

“One, the Kindle’s clearly the device of choice so far as e-readers go,” King told TechNewsWorld.

The other area where Amazon could compete with Apple is in the cloud, King suggested.

“So far as I know, the Amazon cloud drive is up and running now, but Apple’s iCloud is still a work in progress, I understand,” King stated.”

Amazon might make its tablet a kind of super e-reader, King remarked.

Further, if Amazon uses Qualcomm’s Mirasol display, which consumes less power than other screen technologies and lets users view the screen in bright sunlight, a feature the iPad cannot yet match, it “could create some very interesting competitive circumstances,” King said.

Price May Be King

Rumors have the forthcoming Amazon tablet variously priced at $170 and at $250.

Both price points are well below that of the iPad, and that might help the Amazon tablet’s sales.

There is a large potential customer base for a well-performing tablet at a competitive price point, Rhoda Alexander, a research director at IHS iSuppli, told TechNewsWorld in a previous interview.

More than half of existing tablet owners are contemplating or actively planning to buy another tablet in the next year, IHS has found.

Could Amazon sustain such a low price for its tablets?

Yes it can, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, given that Amazon subsidizes the Kindle, even though that device has an expensive ePaper display and built-in free 3G.

“This suggests Amazon could hit more aggressive prices with a more interesting tablet product than anyone else has yet explored,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

“I think Amazon can be very competitive in price against Apple by doing what they did with the Kindle, which is subsidize its price by recouping profits from book and music sales,” Pund-IT’s King opined.

“If Amazon can come out with a really aggressive price, especially in the current economic climate, they could effectively cut the knees out from under Apple among certain classes of consumers,” King stated.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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