Amazon.com has not confirmed the existence of an alleged Android tablet computer, but that isn't stopping one analyst from modeling unit sales for the erstwhile Apple iPad rival.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said he believes Amazon could sell 2.4 million Android tablets in 2012, following a late 2011 launch in time for the holidays.
Munster is basing his information on a recent report by Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin, who wrote that Amazon is aiming to release at least one tablet computer based on Google's Android operating system in time for the holiday 2011 season.
Bajarin said in a PC Magazine piece that the e-commerce giant plans on releasing a 10-inch tablet, and possibly a 7-inch tablet, later this year.
Bajarin expects the 7-inch tablet to be priced at $349, with a 10-inch model offered for $449. Those prices assume Amazon will subsidize its tablets similar to the way it does with its Kindle e-readers. Amazon, for example, began selling an ad-supported Kindle for $114 last month.
Indeed, Munster believes an Amazon slate would join the Kindle e-reader family as a means to an end, representing yet another vehicle to peddle the popular Kindle digital book application.
Munster said his expected Amazon tablet sales of 2.4 million units will add just a "fractional contribution" to his 2012 estimates for the company, presenting no measurable impact on sales or earnings.
"Our overall Kindle sales (tablets and traditional Kindles) currently account for 3 percent of overall Amazon sales, but would account for 4 percent of revenue in 2012 if the tablet is a reality," Munster wrote in a research note May 27.
With a tablet (or tablets) likely costing three to four times the cost of the Kindles, the analyst also expects the Amazon tablet will only slightly eat into its Kindle e-reader count next year as Amazon will continue to mark down Kindle prices.
Munster believes Amazon will sell 13.5 million Kindle e-readers in 2012, up from 7.3 million in 2011, but down from his current modeling of 15 million units.
The introduction of a new Android tablet invariably invites comparisons to Apple's iPad. Amazon's 2.4 million tablet unit sales would hardly post a threat to the iPad, which the analyst expects will sell 44.8 million in 2012.
Munster has anecdotal evidence to support his belief. He noted that in a survey of 250 iPad buyers conducted during the iPad 2 launch, nearly 80 percent of people who bought an iPad did not consider any other device prior to buying.
"Apple's customer loyalty and significant market share leaves a number of competitors fighting for less than a third of the tablet customer base in CY12," Munster said.
The remaining questions about the Amazon tablet(s) are legion.
How much will it really cost? Who is making the tablet(s) and what software beside the Kindle app for Android will make it on the slate(s)? Will Amazon support Google's Android Market, as well as its Amazon Appstore for Android?
WiFi-only or WiFi+3G? What carriers will offer it? Amazon has become cozy with all of the carriers by selling their phones through the Amazon Wireless store.
People became convinced Amazon was building a tablet after the company launched its Android Appstore in March. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos left little doubt when he cryptically told Consumer Reports to "stay tuned" when asked about a tablet.