I feel like the ring master in a Barnum and Bailey circus. Not only did Amazon announce a tablet today, they unveiled updated and new e-ink devices in an attempts to dominate anything that resembles electronic book. Their lineup shows that Amazon is hoping the dictate the battle lines and pick the terrain where they hope to succeed against the Apple behemoth and their other mass book nemesis Barnes & Noble. If you’ve read my previous posts regarding analysts predictions for Amazon and whether they could actually take on iPad, you’re not surprised to see that largest e-Book is waging a war not on technology, but on content and entertainment properties that is control. Unlike Google and other Android tablet manufacturers, Amazon has an extensive catalog of Movies, Videos, Music, Books, Android Apps and the cloud infrastructure that it can now tie together to bring a very compelling entertainment hub for consumers at varying price points. Apple may be the great white shark of the market, with Amazon looking to be a fishing trawler casting a very large net and hoping to catch everything it its wake.
Now that the preamble is over, let’s get on with the show!
The Amazon Kindle, the original mass-appeal e-reader that defined the market has been updated to be lighter, faster and smaller than the original. Weighing in at only 6oz, you’re not even going to notice that it’s in your pocket or handbag. Battery life is expected to be 1 month, has built-in Wi-Fi it doesn’t have much in the terms of updated capabilities from the original. But the kicker is the $79 price point – at that price, it’s going to sell like hotcakes. Who in their right mind is going to by a competitor’s e-reader device that sells for almost a third of the price more?
For those who are just focused on reading and acquiring books, this is the new king to beat. A lot of people don’t want/need an iPad, they just want to read – at this price there is no way Apple wants to be in this market, so consider Amazon the victor in the e-reading space just on price alone. The only one who could attempt this price point would be Barnes and Noble, and right now their Nook 1st Edition is $10 more expensive than the Kindle – look for a price drop really, really soon if you prefer B&N for your e-reading needs.
There are 2 Kindle Touch announcements today. One that includes 3G and one that just has plain old Wi-Fi (for those who are always close to a Starbucks or a McDonald’s). With an additional 1 month of battery life over the basic Kindle (impressive), the biggest change is that it uses an infrared sensor for it’s e-ink screen so no buttons required to flip pages (like the Nook Touch). Text-to-speech, audio books and plays mp3s (unclear if this actually connects to Amazon MP3, so if someone knows, please let me know); there’s a new feature called “X-Ray” which basically gives you basically the CliffNotes (or Coles Notes if you’re Canadian) of the book you’re reading. The Kindle Touch is probably the sweet spot when it comes to capabilities for Amazon’s e-Reader ambitions and with a price of $99 there’s going to be a lot of people taking this over the Kindle – make dinner for you’re loved one you’ve saved the money it. Apple doesn’t have anything in this category (nor does it want to), but this sells for $40 less than then Nook Touch – again, look for a price drop coming from Barnes and Noble..
This is the device that analysts and tech enthusiasts were hoping for. This is a 7″ IPS color touch screen device, TI OMAP 4430 Dual core processor clocked at 1Ghz with an 8 hour battery life of continuous reading or hours of continuous playback – excellent value $199. Using a heavily custom skinned Android OS (I suspect it’s 2.2), it represent the culmination of everything Amazon has purchased and developed to date. Easy access to purchase your music, movies, video and apps (oh, and books to) without every needing to be tied to computer at all; the biggest complain of Android is that it’s too complicated for the average person – this is the tablet that my mom can use. Everything goes through Amazon’s cloud service – even the new Amazon Silk browser that leverages Amazon EC2 to accelerate your browsing experience. With everything that is Amazon, you can expect that the store is always watching you, waiting to suggest purchases based not on your previous buying habits, but your new surfing ones that it now has access to. Storage space is only 8GB, but you won’t need it – with EC2, all your Amazon purchases have free storage in the cloud and can be streamed to you when you need it.
When compared to the iPad, here’s what’s missing:
- Cameras. This has no front or rear facing cameras.
- GPS. Forget about bolting this to your car’s dash and using it to figure out how to get from A to B.
- No 3G/Cell Radio. Wi-Fi only
- It doesn’t have an SD Card (neither does the iPad, but this thing has unlimited cloud storage!)
Are the Trees Burning in Cupertino?
I don’t believe Apple has much to worry about in the short-term. Amazon is targeting a different part of the market that they don’t have much interest in; however if Amazon is wildly successful the music and movie industry will have an alternative and be able to have more influence on Apple’s restrictive pricing requirements. Barnes and Nobel should be worried; each of these devices target their offering and providing better capability at cheaper prices. We already seen Borders as one of the casualties of the ebook and tablet wars; hopefully we won’t see B&N fall and that we have a health, competitive market that will benefit consumers and continuously spur innovation.
It will be interesting to see what Google does; if Amazon is successful, what will happen to their initiatives in music, books and movies? Will developers write for both the Amazon and Google app stores (won’t be that difficult)? Since the Amazon’s app store is available to be installed on any Android device, it’s going to be difficult to justify building for both stores when one can service all within the ecosystem.
This only issue issue is the limited availability of these devices – so far only the Kindle is available world-wide; if you want the Kindle Touch or Fire and live outside of the USA, you’re out of luck. Hopefully the content and distribution deals can be worked out so that others in the world can feel some warmth.