After Barnes & Noble unveiled its Nook Color e-reader recently, I got a few e-mails from folks asking me what I thought Amazon.com was up to and whether Jeff Bezos had some sort of color device up his sleeve. I'd written an article a few months back about a possible Amazon Android tablet and they wanted to know whether they should opt for the Nook Color or wait for an Amazon tablet. Did I know if a Kindle Color was coming soon?
Well, for starters, I don't think we'll see a color e-reader from Amazon this year--or probably anytime soon. I think Amazon really sees the iPad as its color e-reader of the moment. A lot of people are using the Kindle app on the iPad (and iPhone), even though Apple has iBooks. Of course, Barnes & Noble also has a Nook app for the iPad, and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo want their customers to know they can tap into one of these platforms from a variety of devices and share e-books across those devices. I can't tell you what percentage of iPad owners are using the Kindle app to shop for e-books, but I'd guess it's a fairly large number, judging from my informal poll of colleagues and friends and my own use (I rarely use iBooks and have both Kindle and Nook accounts).
Barnes & Noble has been smart enough to price its "reader's" tablet at $249, which is pretty reasonable. However, while that's half the price of the entry-level iPad, the fact is that Apple is still going to sell a ton of iPads this holiday season and Amazon will be quite content to have those buyers download the Kindle app. After all, it's much easier to deal with software than hardware, and if you have the design geniuses at Apple serving up the hardware for you, it's a win-win. Next April, Apple will have a new iPad--presumably with a better screen--and despite Steve Jobs saying the company wasn't doing an iPad Mini, there's still the distinct possibility of a smaller iPad, perhaps with a 7-inch screen.
So if Amazon appears willing to let others do much of its hardware dirty work for it, what's the road map for Amazon-branded Kindle devices? … Read more