Analysts consider the notion that Amazon.com could build an Android tablet to compete with Apple's iPad 2 at a time when the Motorola Xoom, RIM PlayBook and HP TouchPad may struggle.
Anyone else for an Amazon.com Kindle
tablet based on Google's Android operating
system as a challenger to Apple's iPad 2
Analysts believe it's not outside the realm of possibility for the
e-commerce giant, which finds it lush e-book business challenged by sales of
Apple's iBooks, which recently crossed 100 million downloads on the iPad and
other iOS devices.
Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps started the conversation with a
March 10 blog post
, in which she noted that the Motorola Xoom,
HP TouchPad and RIM PlayBook can't threaten the new iPad 2 because they are too
expensive and can't compete with the Apple Store channel.
Epps polled consumers and found the carrier-subsidy model leverage by those
tablet makers is unappealing to consumers. Most people prefer going into an
Apple retail store than shopping for tablets or smartphones in a carrier
"Compare the experience of walking into an Apple Store, where the iPad
is front and center, to walking into a Verizon store where the Samsung Galaxy
Tab is collecting dust at the back of the store and the sales reps don't quite
know what to make of it," Epps wrote.
Amazon.com, by contrast, could create an Android- or Linux-based tablet to
connect users to Amazon's storefront, including its forthcoming Android App
Store, said Epps. Users would have access to the Amazon Prime free shipping and
Instant Video service; the company's recommendation engine for books, music and
other goods; and one-click purchasing.
Epps' peers had different takes on the value proposition of Amazon.com
boldly challenging the iPad, whose first version defined the market by selling
15 million units and whose iPad 2 drew huge lines across the country March
Industry analyst Jack Gold acknowledged Amazon.com's brand recognition and
ability to sell products but said the price of the device would be key. Apple
has set the bar with $499 pricing for its base WiFi version and $629 for its
base WiFi+3G version.
"A Kindle-Android device could prove popular, building on the large
installed base of Kindle users. And Amazon clearly has the largest 'store' out
there (bigger than the iTunes/app store world), so that could be a swaying
factor if they got aggressive with offering special deals on their own
device," Gold said.
However, he cautioned that with all the other tablets coming to market in
the next few months, an Amazon.com tablet might get lost in the hype-field.
Industry analyst Rob Enderle agreed with Epps that if any brand is going to
bring competition to Apple's tablet, Amazon.com has the best chance. He said
Apple's edge is less the device and more the services it connects into to get
music, media and applications.
"In effect it is that the Apple 'store' is their big
differentiator," Enderle said. "This would suggest that someone that
was even a better expert at being an online retailer would have the best skills
to challenge Apple. Amazon has that skill set so I agree, if a real competitor
is ever to emerge it likely will come from the service side of the solution,
and Amazon fits that bill nicely."
Gartner analyst Van Baker isn't buying it, telling eWEEK Amazon's interest
is in the reader market because it supplements its book selling business.
"It is more likely that Amazon will make the Kindle free to Amazon
Prime subscribers and then make their money selling ebooks rather than
introduce a full-featured tablet," Baker said. "They don't have an
app store yet and admittedly that could change things, but for now I just don't
think this makes sense."
The potential is interesting no doubt. If Amazon.com were to bring an
Android tablet to market, it would both give the e-tailer another weapon with
which to challenge Apple and give Google a more powerful vehicle with which to
drive its operating system in the market Apple is trying to sustain success.