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

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-02-04

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

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. 

Capitalize on Touchco, Be Yourself

5. Capitalize on Touchco

Speaking of Touchco's technology, Amazon needs to capitalize on it as quickly as possible. Once the iPad hits store shelves, the Kindle's touch display will look obsolete. Touchco's touch screen can change all that. By leveraging its latest reported acquisition, Amazon can update the Kindle to compete on the same level as the iPad. At this point, it's not an option, it's a requirement.

6. Be Amazon

If Amazon wants to be successful, it needs to stay true to its roots. The online retailer is known for offering a product that people want and getting it to them quickly with the help of a distribution channel that is second to none. It brought that to the Kindle byway of its WhisperNet, but it needs to keep it up in any future iteration of the device. Consumers expect an Amazon-like experience in every product it offers. It must deliver that.

7. Books Aren't Everything

E-books might be the way that Kindle made a name for itself in the tech industry, but digitized books can't be all that the device offers going forward. Apple's iBooks service looks to be a fine alternative to Amazon's Kindle store. But the iPad also boasts music, movies, Web browsing, a productivity suite and much more. It's a full-featured device that combines the functionality of the Kindle with the value of the iPod Touch. If Amazon wants the Kindle to stay relevant, it must deliver color, a Web browser and a productivity suite at a minimum.

8. Remember the App Store

Amazon will also want to work hard at growing its upcoming application store. One of the main reasons for Apple's success is its App Store. Folks who want to expand the functionality of the iPhone beyond its native software can do so with over 140,000 programs. If the Kindle is to be successful after the iPad is released, Amazon needs to work hard to build an app store as quickly as possible. Apple will continue to tout its App Store figures to entice consumers. If Amazon can't keep up, it won't have much to say in response.

9. Work on Price

Apple's iPad will be offered for as little as $499. But a more thorough analysis of the device's many versions reveals the best value is priced a few hundred dollars more than that. Realizing that, Amazon needs to find a way to keep its costs down and deliver a competitive Kindle at a reduced price. Buying Touchco is a good first start, since it can control the manufacturing process. But Amazon needs to find other avenues where it can reduce its costs and deliver a product that's on par with the iPad and costs less.

10. Entertainment Is Key

Building entertainment value into the Kindle is an extremely important step for Amazon. Luckily, it should be able to do that without much trouble. Right now, users can download music from Amazon's MP3 store. They can also pick up movies and television shows from its Unbox service. If Amazon can bring those services to the Kindle, it can offer a product that boasts the same offerings as Apple's iPad running iTunes. The obvious answer is to combine all those entertainment product outlets together with a new applications service in a single, integrated Website that looks more like iTunes.

Consumers want more than books from tablet vendors. Amazon will need to accept that sooner, rather than later.

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