Amazon.com is aiming to release at least one tablet computer based on Google's Android operating system in time for the holiday 2011 season, said an industry analyst May 23.
Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin, who spoke to sources in Tapiei where many computers are manufactured, said in a PC Magazine piece that the bookseller-turned-mobile-device maker plans on releasing a 10-inch tablet, and possibly a 7-inch tablet later this year.
The tablets, which will challenge Apple's iPad, the Android-based Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab slates, Research in Motion's Blackberry PlayBook, as well as the HP TouchPad, will feature LCD screens, support Adobe Flash and run Nvidia's Tegra quad-core chip.
Bajarin's report is the latest in a pile of evidence that has been steadily mounting since Amazon launched its Amazon Appstore for Android in March.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stoked the fire 10 days ago when he told Consumer Reports to "stay tuned" on the topic of an Amazon tablet. One week before that, Taipei-based DigiTimes said Quanta has received tablet orders from Amazon.
One month ago, Engadget and gdgt Co-founder Peter Rojas said he's almost certain Amazon is having Samsung build a tablet that could run a custom version of Android rather than the Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablet OS. Rojas said such a device could launch as soon as this summer.
Now Bajarin said a tablet device will use a display similar to the one in the Nook and the Galaxy Tab, though Amazon originally wanted a screen that could switch between the black and white E Ink-like display consumers are accustomed to using on Amazon's Kindle and a color LCD.
However, such a screen will not be ready for the market until at least 2012 or early 2013, the analyst said. In the meantime, he expects the 7-inch tablet to be priced at $349, with a 10-inch model offered for $449. Such aggressive prices undercut the $499 pricing for the 7-inch Galaxy Tab on Verizon Wireless and undercut the entry-level iPad by $50.
Bajarin is intrigued that Amazon is entering such a competitive tablet market, with tens of devices following the hype cycle Apple started with its iPad in April 2010. The iPad and iPad 2 combined to sell over 20 million units to date.
By contrast, the much younger Xoom and Blackberry PlayBook may have sold 500,000 units combined over the last two months.
While many experts like to gauge new tablet offerings as possible iPad slayers, Bajarin believes Amazon is trying to whip the Xoom, the Galaxy Tab family (Tab 7, Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9) and other Android tablets suffering from a more fragmented user experience.
Consider that tablets are media consumption systems. It behooves tablet makers to provide a simple ramp to media services, similar to the way Apple has done with its iPad. With its Android application store, Web-based music and movies, and books, Amazon can provide an efficient ramp to its own media services.
"I believe Amazon looked at the Android market and saw that it was becoming fragmented and that it would be quite difficult for any of these players to create their own fully integrated app store, media cloud and storage solution. As I stated earlier, any Android competitor can only do this in a piece meal fashion, not in a highly integrated manner," Bajarin said.
"This is why I believe Amazon is quite confident about entering the crowded tablet market. It knows that combining its own app store with its content and storage would allow it to compete extremely well with Motorola, Samsung, RIM and all of the other tablet vendors, since its offering would be pretty close to what Apple has," he said.
If Amazon can do this effectively, it may easily become the iPad's toughest competitor to date.