Amazon.com has released its Kindle for PC application in Beta, allowing users to download over 360,000 volumes onto PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2 or later, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. A Mac version is coming soon, according to Amazon.com's download page.
Microsoft and Amazon.com originally announced Kindle for PC during the Oct. 22 launch of Windows 7. After a presentation headlined by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, reporters and analysts were led to a separate exhibition area with touch-screen PCs running the application. By swiping or pinching their fingers across the screen, users could flip through digital pages, zoom in on selections of text, or navigate through a library of stored volumes.
Those PCs running the application during the Microsoft event displayed sample books' illustrations in color. That fact, in combination with Amazon.com's banner ad for the application showing a color page from Winnie the Pooh, has led a handful of media outlets to suggest that a color Kindle could be in development.
"I've seen the color displays in the laboratory," he said during a Q&A session following the company's annual shareholder's meeting on May 28. "They're not ready for prime time."
Whether Bezos was providing an accurate assessment of his company's technology, or that statement was a bit of Steve Jobs-style misdirection, remains to be seen.
The Kindle PC application will use Whispersync to sync bookmarks, notes and the last-page-read with the Kindle device. Amazon.com already has an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allows users to access their books on those devices.
Amazon.com faces increased competition on a number of fronts in the e-reader space, most notably from Barnes & Noble, which announced its own e-reader, the Nook, on Oct. 20. In addition to promoting the device through its bricks-and-mortar storefronts, Barnes & Noble is also offering e-reader functionality through an iPhone/iPod Touch app. Barnes & Noble's e-bookstore, launched in July, currently holds over 700,000 volumes along with 500,000 free public-domain books from Google.
On Nov. 9, Barnes & Noble announced that demand for the Nook had forced it to push back the shipping date for some pre-orders from the end of November into the beginning of December. A spokesperson told eWEEK that the "Nook has quickly become the fastest selling product at Barnes & Noble," and that new pre-orders would ship on Dec. 11.
Amazon.com has lowered the price of its original Kindle device to $259, same as the Nook. The larger-screen Kindle DX, which faces no substantial competition as yet, remains priced at $489.
However, Barnes & Noble faces a few challenges of its own. On Nov. 2, small IT startup Spring Design announced that it was suing the bookseller, alleging that much of the Nook's functionality had been copied from its own upcoming Alex e-reader. Both devices feature a dual-screen form factor, with an e-ink display paired with a color LCD touch-screen.