Amazon's Android Tablet Could Revive Interest in 7-Inch Form Factor

Amazon's Android tablet, which TechCrunch previewed over the weekend, could revive interest in the 7-inch form factor currently used by RIM's PlayBook.

Could Amazon's Android tablet revive interest in the 7-inch form factor?

TechCrunch's MG Siegler recently had the opportunity to play with a version of Amazon's full-color tablet for an hour, and did his best to describe its capabilities; it has a custom Android user interface and deeply integrates content from Amazon, including the Cloud Player and Kindle software. It will cost $250, and offer 6GB of internal storage for books and applications-in essence, forcing users to rely on the cloud for the majority of their media content.

Amazon's tablet will measure 7 inches. If it sells well, apparently, the retailer could decide to launch a 10-inch edition sometime next year. Siegler compares it to Research In Motion's BlackBerry-themed PlayBook tablet: "The back of the device is rubbery-again, it's very similar to the PlayBook (it's black as well)."

At that size, Amazon's tablet would buck the trend in tablets toward screens in the 9- to 10-inch range. So far, only two prominent tablet models have embraced a 7-inch form factor: the aforementioned PlayBook, which RIM released earlier in 2011, and Samsung's original Galaxy Tab from 2010.

A 7-inch tablet is far easier to hold in one hand than a 9- or 10-inch tablet, and stores better in tighter spaces. Amazon is familiar with manufacturing devices that size, as its Kindle e-reader offers a 6-inch display. As others have pointed out, the Amazon tablet's $250 sticker price (according to Siegler, and thus subject to change) would place it head-to-head against rival Barnes & Noble's Android-powered Nook Color e-reader, which retails for the same price.

In offering a 7-inch tablet, Amazon would neatly avoid the pressure placed on every new 9- or 10-inch tablet, namely that it prove to be an "iPad killer" capable of ending Apple's dominance of the tablet industry. The emphasis on integrated Amazon services could make the device appear more of a "Kindle Plus," especially if the retailer decides to market the device as the logical successor to its current offerings. At the same time, access to Amazon's Android applications storefront and a full collection of multimedia offerings could make it a robust competitor in the tablet sphere, enough to pose a substantial competitive threat to other Android tablet manufacturers.

After Hewlett-Packard announced it would shut down production of its TouchPad tablet, and slashed the retail cost to a mere $99, customers turned out in droves to purchase a respectable touch-screen device at a steal. If Amazon does something similar, offering a quality Android tablet with robust features at a low price, will it spark similar consumer interest?

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