10 Ways for Amazon to Keep the Kindle Relevant After Apple's iPad Ships

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-02-04 Print this article Print

News Analysis: A report has surfaced claiming Amazon has acquired a touch-screen manufacturer. What the online retailer is actually planning remains unknown. But with the help of that touch-screen company, Amazon could ensure the Kindle stays relevant after the iPad hits store shelves. Here are the reasons why.

Amazon has acquired a small touch-screen manufacturer, called Touchco, according to a report in the New York Times. Touchco offers touch displays at a reduced price, compared with those Apple's has purchased for the iPad. Perhaps most importantly, Touchco's technology allows for multitouch and can distinguish between a finger and a pen. The technology is far more advanced than E-Ink, which currently runs on Amazon's Kindle e-book reader.

Speculation abounds over what Amazon plans to do with its reported acquisition of Touchco. Some say that it's simply Amazon posturing as the tablet market heats up. Others say it's acquiring Touchco to ensure that it has the technology it needs to compete with Apple's iPad. In either case, Amazon might be coming to the realization that if it doesn't change things quickly, its Kindle will be in danger of becoming irrelevant as consumers opt for the iPad over Amazon's product.

Let's take a look at how Amazon, with the help of Touchco, can ensure the Kindle stays relevant after the iPad hits store shelves.

1. Ditch E-Ink

As viable as E-Ink technology might be for reading e-books, it can't compete with Apple's touch display. If Amazon wants to stay relevant beyond April, it needs to make a concerted effort to get away from E-Ink. It's important to remember that the e-reader market is in its infancy and the mainstream has yet to really pay attention. The iPad could open its eyes. When the average tech user compares the Kindle to the iPad, they might not like what they see from Amazon's device. Flashy products are important. E-Ink isn't flashy.

2. Focus on Design

Surprisingly, the iPad doesn't boast the kind of design most have come to expect from Apple. Instead, the device has a large bezel, making the display look smaller than it really is. If Amazon wants to trump the iPad, it needs to work on the Kindle's design. The Kindle is an unattractive product that's arguably worse looking than Apple's iPad. Consumers want products that appeal to their eye. The Kindle doesn't do that. If Amazon wants to stay relevant, it must focus on improving the Kindle's design.

3. Leverage the Kindle Store

Amazon's Kindle Store is arguably its best asset. Aside from the fact that users can quickly add books to their Kindles in less than a minute, the store is available in several other places, including Apple's App Store. The more places Amazon's store is available, the more likely its chances of staying relevant in the e-book space. The market will soon be flooded with e-readers, not to mention the iPad. Amazon's store might prove to be its ticket to relevance.

4. Remember the iPad's Shortcomings

Apple's tablet omits Flash support, its screen is a bit small, and its lack of multitasking makes it a less-than-ideal choice for many consumers. As Amazon prepares to compete in the post-iPad market, it can't forget those shortcomings. It needs to ensure that any follow-up to the Kindle will include the features that Apple has forgotten about. If Amazon offers up an iPad clone, it will be wasting its time. 

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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