The Amazon Way
Amazon's role in technology is a fascinating one. It started out as a store, became a cloud architect and now powers a sizeable chunk of the Web. But, it also innovates outside its comfort zone. The Kindle has reinvigorated the once-stagnant e-book market and now Amazon is looking at media tablets as another way to help the public consume its digital downloads and media offerings.
Amazon's goods store is massive compared to Apple's, but the digital versions of books, music and movies are just starting to take off. For the massive segment of consumer culture that still buys boxed DVDs and CDs, and doesn't care about or know of Apple, HP and other high-tech brands, this could be the opportunity for them to go digital.
For them, Amazon represents "online shopping," and this development could see tablets appeal to a new sector. And, with Google offering notebooks, why should Amazon miss out on all the fun?
Inside the Box
The likelihood of an Amazon tablet has been talked about for some time, but only now are details starting to emerge. The models may be Android-based and are rumored to be powered by dual- and quad-core NVIDIA processors with a entry-level "Coyote" model running on a Tegra 2 chip, and the higher-end "Hollywood" model sporting a T-30 superchip itself code-named Kal-El (the Kryptonian name for Superman), so it sounds like a big deal.
The Coyote will happily run alongside the iPads and new Android tablets of this world, but the Kal-El-powered model could be something of a technological marvel that will turn heads even among the geek fraternity. The superchip was shown off at the Games Developers Conference back in February and is theoretically hundreds of times more powerful, which would open up high-level gaming and compute-intense apps.
The question is, what can Amazon add to the overall package that others can't? An integrated, iTunes-like storefront for digital media and apps would be a huge deal, boosting Amazon's already vast empire and one-upping other devices with their mere Amazon apps. To help market it, an Amazon subscription could offer extra discounts and deals across the store and help subsidize the device, enticing more loyal Amazons into the digital age.
And, if the Kal-El chip is as powerful as people think, then it could be used for not only high-end games, but also as an emulator for vast libraries of console games. With Sony planning its PS2 PlayStation Suite, and Microsoft likely to do something similar with Xbox or Xbox 360 games, if Amazon's tablet is one of the few that can take advantage, it could become a powerful force.
All that CEO JEff Bezos is saying is, "stay tuned!" But things are leaning toward a release in the second half of the year, and if Amazon can offer something new and unique to the party, it could make rather an impact.