How a Kindle tablet could shake up the market

September 26, 2011

Amazon’s got something up its sleeve for Wednesday, and the general expectation is that the company will unleash an Android-based tablet unlike any other, with its own, independent flavor of the market-leading operating system.

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler reported that he’s had a hands-on session with the device and that it will be a 7-inch slate with a backlit, capacitive color touchscreen. Sounds pretty standard for an Android tablet, right? Maybe even less functional than your average Android slab, since Siegler reports that the tablet will have no camera and will be WiFi only.

So why is the Kindle tablet poised to change the whole market?

For one, there’s the price point. Siegler reported that the tablet will retail for $250 and include a free subscription to Amazon’s $79 per-year service. That undercuts most tablets by a sizable margin — especially the cheapest iPad, which starts at $499.

The other thing the Kindle tablet will offer to customers is an even more direct way to buy things from Amazon.com. That’s the appeal for Amazon, which has already seen enormous success with the Kindle e-reader. Like the app stores on other tablets, the Kindle tablet is able to put a wider range of items at your fingertips. Apps, videos, music and e-books will all likely be a tap away on the tablet, and a Prime membership also gives users discounts on shipping, meaning that customers will be more likely to spend money on physical goods as well as digital ones.

The tablet is potentially giving Amazon thousands of small storefronts in pockets and briefcases across the country, offering shoppers the simplicity they crave at the prices they want. Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said in March that Amazon’s access to content and the familiarity of its brand puts it in a real position to give Apple a run for its money.

But what the Kindle tablet could really do is remove the distinction between what is an e-reader and what is a tablet. The line’s already blurry thanks to the Nook Color, which offers some Android apps and other tablet-like features. The Kindle tablet is poised to obliterate that line altogether.

We’ll see what the company unveils on Wednesday. But if all the speculation is true, Amazon’s likely to see the Kindle tablet on more than a few holiday wishlists this year.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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